Wednesday, May 27, 2009

HISTORY: Poland's Italian Queen Bona Sforza (1494 –1557)

The Italian Princess Bona, of the Sforza family, became Queen of Poland in 1518 as the second wife of King Zygmunt I.  At that time no one anticipated how significant a role she would play in European history. She was twenty-seven years younger than her husband, and had been raised in her parents' Italian court in Bari, where she was educated in diplomatic skills.

Born into a powerful Italian family, she was a champion of strong royal rule and an able assistant to her Polish king, which predestined her to play a leading role in the politics of the Polish court.  Towards the end of the King’s life, when he began to lose interest in matters of state, she practically took the role of governing Poland.

Królowa Bona was a patron of Renaissance culture, which began to further flourish in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. 

Known as the Culinary Queen, she is considered to have influenced the Polish and Lithuanian cuisines, having introduced many new dishes to the Commonwealth and bringing “włoszczyzna” (Italian vegetables) which were not grown in Poland.

Because of her love of fruits and vegetables, Queen Bona changed not only the Polish palate, but left a lasting influence on the language as well. From Italy she brought with her many foods which had never been seen in Polish kitchens.  Several vegetables, including celery, leeks and lettuce were first eaten in Poland during her reign.  She also brought her own cooks, gardeners and horticulturalists.  In the Polish language many terms for vegetables were assimilated from Italian.

In coming to Poland, Bona opened the door wide to Italian artists. Besides her courtiers, she brought with her builders, architects, artisans and painters.  Noteworthy among the Italian artists who were at the court during Bona's time is Bartolomeo Berrecci. His genius is immortalized in one of the most renowned masterpieces of Renaissance art in Poland, the Zygmunt Chapel Wawel Castle Cathedral in Kraków.

With Italian influences in art and architecture, the Polish architectural vocabulary bears the stamp of the Italian innovators. 

Staś Kmieć