The General Charter of Jewish Liberties known as the Statute of Kalisz was issued by the Duke of Greater Poland Boleslaus the Pious on September 8, 1264 in Kalisz. The statute led to creation of a Yiddish-speaking autonomous Jewish "nation within a nation".
The statute granted Jews unprecedented legal rights in Europe, including exclusive jurisdiction over Jewish matters to Jewish courts, and established a separate tribunal for other criminal matters involving Christians and Jews. The statute was ratified by subsequent Polish Kings: Casimir III of Poland in 1334, Casimir IV of Poland in 1453, and Sigismund I of Poland in 1539.
Following are abridged and translated excerpts from the forty-six chapters of the Statute of Kalisz:
- 1. ...Should a Jew be taken to court, not only a Christian must testify against him, but also a Jew, in order for the case to be considered valid.
- 2. ... If any Christian shall sue a Jew, asserting that he has pawned securities with him, and the Jew denies it, then if the Christian refuses to accept the simple word of the Jew, the Jew by taking oath must be free of the Christian.
- 10. ... As punishment for killing a Jew, a suitable punishment and confiscation of property is necessary.
- 11. ... For striking a Jew, the usual punishment in the country shall apply.
- 13. ... Jews shall not pay for the transport of their dead.
- 17. ...Any Jew may freely and securely walk or ride without any let or hindrance in our realm. They shall pay customary tolls just as other Christians do, and nothing else.
- 22. ... If any of the Christians rashly and presumptuously jeers at their synagogues, such a Christian shall be required to pay and must pay to our palatine their guardian two talents of pepper as punishment.
- 30. ... No Christian may summon any Jew into the ecclesiastical court in any way whatsoever, or for whatever property or summons he be summoned, nor shall the Jew make answer before the judge in the ecclesiastical court, but the Jew shall appear before his palatine appointed for that term, and furthermore the aforesaid palatine, along with our governor for that term, shall be required to defend and protect that Jew, and prohibit his responding to the summons of the ecclesiastical court. No Christian is to accuse a Jew of blood libel.
- 36. ... Jews are allowed to purchase any items, as well as to touch bread and other food.
- 39. ... If any Jew is to be prosecuted by any Christian alleging that the Jews of necessity annual use the blood of Christians or the sacraments of the Church of the Christians, concerning which the statues and constitutions of Pope Innocent teach us that in such matters they are not culpable, since this is against their own law; and if despite this any Christian... accuses any Jew of such things, then... he must prove it with three good propertied Jews in our realm... and... four Christians... If by such testimony the Christian proves (his case) against the Jew, then the Jew shall be deserving of death and must be punished with it; and whenever the Christian does not adduce such testimony, and is not able to prevail against the Jew, then he alone is to be condemned...
In the 1920s, Polish-Jewish artist and activist Arthur Szyk (1894–1951) illuminated the Statute of Kalisz in a cycle of 45 watercolor and gouache miniature paintings. In addition to the original Latin, Szyk translated the text of the Statute into Polish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Italian, German, English, and Spanish. In 1929, Szyk's Statute miniatures were exhibited throughout Poland, namely in Lodz, Warsaw, Kraków, and Kalisz. With support from the Polish government, selections of the Statute miniatures were exhibited in Geneva in 1931, once again in Poland as part of a 14-city tour in 1932, in London in 1933, in Toronto in 1940, and in New York in 1941 and then, without government patronage, in New York in 1944, 1952, and 1974-75. In 1932, the Statute of Kalisz was published by Éditions de la Table Rode de Paris as a collector's luxury limited edition of 500. Szyk's original miniatures are now in the holdings of the Jewish Museum (New York).
- Ivo Cyprian Pogonowski, Jews in Poland. A Documentary History, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1998, ISBN 0-7818-0604-6.
- "The Statute of Kalish of Bolesław the Pious for Jews in 1264"
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk"
- Ansell, Joseph P. Arthur Szyk: Artist, Jew, Pole. Portland: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2004. 62.
- Ansell 71.
- Ansell 74.
- Ansell 77.
- Ansell 118.
- Ansell 121, 126, 234, 237.
- Ansell 59-60.
- Widmann, Katja and Johannes Zechner. Arthur Szyk - Drawing Against National Socialism and Terror. Berlin: Deutsches Historisches Museum, 2008.