For centuries, Lublin was a multicultural town, attractive and enticing entrepreneurs with prospects for quick profits and wealth. The town attracted not only Poles, but also Russians, Jews, Germans, Scots, Italians, the French, Hungarians, and Armenians.
1580 – the Orthodox Fraternity appears in Lublin
1596 – the Orthodox Fraternity is founded in Lublin
1633 – the building of the Transfiguration of Jesus Orthodox Church is completed
A mosaic of cultures
Representatives of other nations and cultures lived in Lublin almost since the beginning of the town. The multiculturalism of Lublin was particularly visible in the age of the town’s prosperity. Representatives of other nations and other faiths merged easily into the community. Citizens of Lublin included Italians, the French, Hungarians, Germans, Jews, the Dutch, the Swiss, Scots. We should also not forget about the English, Greeks, Armenians, Tatars and Turks, who arrived at Lublin in various periods of the town’s history, settled here and enriched the multicultural image of Lublin. Various languages could be heard in the town, not only in the temples of various faiths but also in the streets and at the famous Lublin fairs. In the 15th and 16th c. representatives of other nations were definitely visible in the Town Council. They also became gradually assimilated.
Foreigners settled in Lublin for the same reasons as in other Polish towns. In the east it was easy to get rich even with a limited capital. The town was situated at the crossing of significant trade routes, most importantly on the route from Wroclaw and Poznan to Lviv and further to the Black Sea, and – to a lesser extent – from North to South. This was one of the more significant places of trade in Poland, legitimized by law. Big fairs took place here and the town had the right to store (ius stapulae). Foreign newcomers sometimes reached Lublin as a result of indirect migration, e.g. they first lived in Poznan but later chose Lublin.
Jews were the earliest newcomers to Lublin, as they arrived here at the beginning of the 15th c. They inhabited the district around the Castle Hill. Formally, they were discriminated, could neither live within the borders of the town nor do business there. Since they were economic competition, burghers protested against them. However, this law existed on paper only. Jews conducted business in the town and the Jewish district in Lublin was developing through centuries, sharing the history of the city.
Orthodox Church members
Owing to the geographical location of Lublin and the proximity to the Polish-Russian border, the Orthodox Church community was noticeable in the town as early as in the Middle Ages. Without doubt, there was an Orthodox church in Lublin at the end of the 14th c. near Czwartek Hill, so it must have been frequented by quite numerous community of this faith. In town documents from the 16th c. we can find information about property disputes among the Orthodox church, a parish priest from St. Nicholas church in Czwartek, and Jews living nearby.
Even before the Union of Brest of 1596, a group of Lublin burghers from the Orthodox Church established the Orthodox Fraternity in 1588. The Fraternity, along with performing its religious functions, ran a poorhouse and a school. Representatives of many eminent Russian families, e.g. Ostrogski, Sanguszko and Czartoryski, joined the Fraternity in 1601.
At the beginning of the 17th c., after the fire of the old Orthodox church, building of the new one (this time of brick) was started. The building was not finished until 1633, following numerous lawsuits before the Lublin Court. The new temple was consecrated by Peter Mogila, the metropolitan of Kiev.
Among the citizens of Lublin in the 16th and 17th c. there were also Armenians who traded with the East. There were only a few of them and they did not have their own community: the nearest one was in Zamosc.
Italians and Hungarians
Italians arrived in Poland mainly in 16th and 17th c. These foreigners became assimilated very quickly, leaving only a few mentions in town registers. There were about 130–140 people of Italian origin living in Lublin. The fact that they were all Catholics, and so there were no religious differences, was conducive to Polonization. In Lublin registers from the 17th c. there are such surnames as: Gilberti, Grimaldi, Mureni, Mineto, Negroni, Simi, along with notes informing about the nationality and town of origin of a given person. Italians usually dealt with trade and construction.
Hungarians constituted a small percentage of Lublin citizens. In the first half of the 17th c. there were no more than 50 of them in the town. Similarly to Italians, they became fairly quickly assimilated through mixed marriages.
Germans, Scots and the Dutch
It is not easy to distinguish the German minority – or citizens of German origin – in the community of old Lublin. German migrations to Polish lands were much earlier chronologically. They were connected with spreading of the Magdeburg Law, lasted for several centuries, and were accompanied by the Polonization process of the groups who had arrived before. Polonization was facilitated by the fact that Germans who were granted town privileges had to change their denomination to Catholicism, and frequently were required to get married and buy a property in the town. In the years 1583–1650 there were about 184 people of German origin residing in Lublin. This number should be complemented with 90 people living here temporarily, who had some business or family ties with Lublin. The statistics do not cover people of German origin who were Protestants, and thus there was no mention of them in the register of baptisms and marriages of Lublin collegiate church and they were not granted town privileges. The representation of burghers of German descent was quite significant in the Town Council. In the 17th c. among them were the mayors: Jan Szulc, Dawid Lauerman and Jan Ekier. The councillors were: Piotr Korlans and Zachariasz Ejlich. The same Piotr Korlans and Bartłomiej Helth were borough leaders of Lublin. Thus, in the 16th and 17th c. this community was significant in the town, particularly in the economic sense. The majority were merchants and craftsmen.
At the turn of the 16th and 17th c., following religious persecution, the Scots began coming to Poland. They also arrived in Lublin, which is confirmed by the register of granting town privileges from the year 1635, which covers 32 names. An even earlier note in the town register (from 1607) informs about meetings of Scots in "Kramarczykowska” tenement house (in Dominikańska Street). Furthermore, the Scottish Fraternity was founded in Lublin around 1680, as a form of self-government of the Scottish community. The Fraternity had considerable autonomy, its own jurisdiction and laws. Scots living in Lublin were usually merchants, stallholders and tradesmen. One of the most famous Lublin Scots was Jan Authenlect, who was the borough leader of Lublin in 1659 and the mayor in 1661 and 1664.
Similarly, as a consequence of religious persecution, the Dutch arrived in Lublin in the first half of the 16th c. In the Lublin region they were colloquially called "Olędrzy”. Most of the Dutch became Polonized, but they maintained their Evangelical-Augsburg denomination.
Nowadays, Lublin is not perceived by its citizens as a multicultural city. Even though there are Evangelical, Orthodox and Jewish communities, they are barely noticeable. Actually, today it is hard to call Lublin multicultural, because these communities are small. However, the former multiculturalism of Lublin is of great significance. These were great times in the city’s history. The multiculturalism of Lublin is an immense value contributed to the unifying Europe of many cultures. Multiculturalism does not impoverish, it enriches. We should draw on this tradition and emphasize it.