Szlachta in costumes of the Voivodeships of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th and 18th century.
Journey of a Polish Lord During the Times of King Augustus III of Poland, by Jan Chełmiński, 1880.
Michał Kazimierz Ogiński, a nobleman from 18th century Poland and the Enlightenment
Szlachcic sejmik representative Tadeusz Rejtan (lower right), with szlachta republican right of ending any Senate (Sejm) session and nullifying any legislation passed (Liberum veto), defying Russian, Prussian, and Austrian autocratic might to cease legalization of the First Partition of Poland, by halting the Partition Sejm's exit from the Senate chamber on 30 September 1773, in effect proclaiming, "Murder me, not Poland." Painting by Jan Matejko, 1866
A Polish peasant in stocks in a 16th-century Polish woodcut
Lech I
Polish Armor
Bolesław I the Tall (1127-1201) with heraldic shield, by Jan Matejko
Jogaila (Władysław II)
Epitaph of szlachcic John of Ujazd sealed with the Srzeniawa coat of arms by unknown artist. It is located at the church of Czchów, Kraków Voivodeship, Lesser Poland province, Crown of the Kingdom of Poland; 1450.
Szlachta 1228-1333
Polish coats of arms in the Gelre Armorial (compiled before 1396), among them Leliwa coat of arms, Ogończyk coat of arms, Ostoja coat of arms (Ostoja knights' clan), Nałęcz coat of arms.
Ennoblement of the Odrowąż family in the 12th century by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire with Odrowąż coat of arms received by Prandota the Old, probable founder of Saint John the Baptist church in Prandocin village, Duchy of Kraków, Kingdom of Poland. From Liber Genesos illustris Familiae Shidlovicae (Book of the Genesis of the Illustrious Family Szydłowiecki). Painting by Stanisław Samostrzelnik
Election of Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1764
Franciszek Salezy Potocki, wearing the Order of the White Eagle.
The Commonwealth's Power at Its Zenith, Golden Liberty, the Election of 1573. Painting by Jan Matejko
Henry of Valois, first elected monarch of Poland-Lithuania
Magnates of Poland and Lithuania. Drawing by Jan Matejko, circa 1893
The Peasant Uprising of 1846, the largest peasant uprising against szlachta rulership on Polish lands in the 19th century.
Coat of arms of the Order of Malta
Barbara Sanguszko, philanthropist, writer and salon hostess at Poddębice. Oil by Marcello Bacciarelli
Dożynki by Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski, 1910
Ogar Polski
Elżbieta Potocka by Wojciech Kossak
"Brach", Polish Hunting Dog
Prince Konstanty Ostrogski on a Lithuanian commemorative stamp
Elżbieta Czartoryska as Bacciarelli's Blue Marquise
Polish Nobleman with a Parrot, by Józef Simmler, 1859.
Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, the richest noble of his time.
Prot Potocki, banker and industrialist who turned Odessa from a sleepy fishing village into an international trade centre
Magnate palace: Branicki family palace
Middle nobility manor house (dwór): Żądło-Dąbrowski family manor
"In Front of the Manor House" by Wojciech Gerson; Year: 1856 - painting of a lesser szlachta/nobility homestead (dwór)

The szlachta ( Polish:, exonym) were the noble estate of the realm in the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth who, as a class, had the dominating position in the state, exercising extensive political rights and power.

- Szlachta

500 related topics


Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Country and federation of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch in real union, who was both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (green) with vassal states (light green) at their peak in 1619
The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1526.
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (green) with vassal states (light green) at their peak in 1619
The Union of Lublin joined the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1569.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its greatest extent in 1619.
Sigismund III Vasa was a religious zealot and an enlightened despot who presided over an era of prosperity and achievement. His reign also marked the Commonwealth's largest territorial expansion.
Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (parliment) in the early 17th century
John III Sobieski, victor over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
Augustus II the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, wearing the Order of the White Eagle which he established in 1705.
Partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795.
Royal Castle in Warsaw was the formal residence of Polish kings after the capital was moved from Kraków in 1596
Crown Tribunal in Lublin was the highest court of appeals in the Kingdom of Poland
Palace of the Lithuanian Tribunal in Vilnius, which exclusively was the highest appeal court for the Lithuanian nobility in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Republic at the Zenith of Its Power, the Royal Election of 1573
The Constitution of 3 May adopted in 1791 was the first modern constitution in Europe.
Cereals exports in the years 1619–1799. Agriculture, once extremely profitable to the nobility, became much less so after the mid-17th century.
A historical re-enactor dressed in the Polish Winged Hussars armour
Multi-stage rocket from Artis Magnæ Artilleriæ pars prima by Kazimierz Siemienowicz
Krasiczyn Castle was built between 1580-1631 in the mannerist style.
Wilanów Palace, completed in 1696, exemplifies the opulence of royal and noble residences in the Commonwealth.
Nieborów Palace designed by Dutch architect Tylman van Gameren and built in 1697
Social strata in the Commonwealth's society in 1655. From left: Jew, barber surgeon, painter, butcher, musician, tailor, barmaid, pharmacist, shoemaker, goldsmith, merchant and Armenian
Population density of the Commonwealth per each voivodeship in 1650
Saints Peter and Paul Church in Kraków was built between 1597-1619 by the Jesuit order
Original act of the Warsaw Confederation in 1573, the first act of religious freedom in Europe
First anniversary anthem of the Constitution of 3 May 1791 (1792) in Hebrew, Polish, German and French
Topographical map of the Commonwealth in 1764
Statuta Regni Poloniae in ordinem alphabeti digesta (Statutes of the Polish Kingdom, Arranged in Alphabetical Order), 1563
Grand Marshal of the Crown Łukasz Opaliński portraited with the insignium of his power in the parliament - the Marshal's cane, 1640
Rococo iconostasis in the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, designed by Johann Christoph Glaubitz, 1753–1756
18th century amber casket. Gdańsk patronized by the Polish court flourished as the center for amber working in the 17th century.<ref name="gordon_campbell">{{cite book |author=Gordon Campbell |title=The Grove encyclopedia of decorative arts |year=2006 |page=13 |publisher=Oxford University Press US |isbn=01-95189-48-5}}</ref>
Stanisław Poniatowski, Commander of the Royal Guards and Grand Treasurer. Painted by Angelika Kauffmann in 1786.
Equestrian portrait of King Sigismund III of Poland, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1624
Tapestry with the arms of Michał Kazimierz Pac, Jan Leyniers, Brussels, 1667–1669
Silver tankard by Józef Ceypler, Kraków, 1739–1745
Example of the merchant architecture: Konopnica's tenement house in Lublin, 1575
Hussars' armours, first half of the 17th century
De republica emendanda (1554) by Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, proposed a deep programme of reforms of the state, society and church.
Merkuriusz Polski Ordynaryjny, the first Polish newspaper published on the orders of Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga in 1661
Title page of Treny (1580) by Jan Kochanowski, a series of elegies upon the death of his beloved daughter, is an acknowledged masterpiece.
A plate from Michał Boym's Flora Sinensis (1656), the first description of an ecosystem of the Far East published in Europe<ref>{{cite book |author1=Gwei-Djen Lu |author2=Joseph Needham |author3=Vivienne Lo |title=Celestial lancets: a history and rationale of acupuncture and moxa |year=2002 |page=284 |publisher=Routledge |isbn=07-00714-58-8}}</ref>
Taurus Poniatovii, constellation originated by Marcin Poczobutt in 1777 to honor the king Stanisław II Augustus<ref>{{cite web |author=Ian Ridpath |url= |title=Taurus Poniatovii - Poniatowski's bull | |access-date=2009-05-18}}</ref>
Branicki Palace in Białystok, designed by Tylman van Gameren, is sometimes referred to as the "Polish Versailles."
Pažaislis Monastery in Kaunas, Pietro Puttini, built 1674–1712
Zamość City Hall, designed by Bernardo Morando, is a unique example of Renaissance architecture in Europe, consistently built in accordance with the Italian theories of an "ideal town."<ref name="">{{cite web |url= |title=Old City of Zamość |publisher=UNESCO World Heritage Centre |date=2009-09-23 |access-date=2011-09-15}}</ref>
Plafond Allegory of Spring, Jerzy Siemiginowski, 1680s, Wilanów Palace
Łańcut Synagogue was established by Stanisław Lubomirski, 1733.<ref>After a fire had destroyed a wooden synagogue in 1733 Stanislaw Lubomirski decided to found a new bricked synagogue building. {{cite web |author=Polin Travel |url= |title=Lancut ||access-date=2010-09-02}}</ref>
Saints Peter and Paul Church in Kraków was built between 1597-1619 by the Jesuit order

These checks were enacted by a legislature (sejm) controlled by the nobility (szlachta).

Golden Liberty

Political system in the Kingdom of Poland and, after the Union of Lublin (1569), in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Republic at the Zenith of Its Power. Golden Liberty. The Royal Election of 1573, by Jan Matejko

Under that system, all nobles (szlachta), regardless of rank, economic status or their ethnic background were considered to have equal legal status and enjoyed extensive legal rights and privileges.


Polish word for a primarily serfdom-based farm and agricultural enterprise , often very large.

Folwark house at castle Frauenstein, Carinthia, Austria

Later they were adopted by both the nobility (szlachta) and rich peasants (singular: sołtys), but the sołtys positions were eventually taken over by the szlachta.

Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The bicameral parliament of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Sejm during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa (1587–1632)
Sejm during the reign of Augustus II the Strong (1694–1733)
A wiec in the reign of King Casimir the Great (14th-century Poland)
The first Polish royal election, of Henry III Valois, took place in 1573
Seating chart of the Senate
Election of Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1764 (detail)
The Constitution of May 3, 1791 is adopted by the Four-Year Sejm and Senate at the Royal Castle, Warsaw

The two chambers of a sejm were the Senate (senat) consisting of high ecclesiastical and secular officials, and the lower house, Chamber of Deputies (I Rzeczpospolita) (izba poselska), the sejm proper, of lower ranking officials and the representatives of all szlachta.

Lithuanian nobility

Historically a legally privileged hereditary elite class in the Kingdom of Lithuania and Grand Duchy of Lithuania consisting of Lithuanians from Lithuania Proper; Samogitians from Duchy of Samogitia; following Lithuania's eastward expansion into what is now Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, many ethnically Ruthenian noble families (boyars); and, later on, predominantly Baltic German families from the Duchy of Livonia and Inflanty Voivodeship.

Columns of Gediminas, symbol of the House of Gediminas
Medieval Coat of Arms of Lithuania was inherited by oldest families
Crossed arrows motive indicates the oldest type of heraldry in Lithuania after formal Christianization, like Kościesza coat of arms

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had one of the largest percentages of nobility in Europe, with szlachta constituting close to 10% of the population, but in some constituent regions, like Duchy of Samogitia, it was closer to 12%.


One of various local parliaments in the history of Poland and history of Lithuania.

Sejmik in a church, by Jean-Pierre Norblin de La Gourdaine (1745–1830)
Nobility fighting at a sejmik, Jean-Pierre Norblin de La Gourdaine

Sejmiks were legally recognized by the 1454 Nieszawa Statutes, in a privilege granted to the szlachta (Polish nobility) by King Casimir IV Jagiellon, when the king agreed to consult with the nobility concerning certain decisions.

Union of Lublin

Signed on 1 July 1569 in Lublin, Poland, and created a single state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest countries in Europe at the time.

Act of the Union of Lublin from 1569
The Union of Lublin, painting by Marcello Bacciarelli. Two knights hold entangled banners with the coats of arms of both states. A ribbon flutters over them with the inscription: IN COMMVNE BONVM - [COMPL]EXV SOCIATA PERENNI ("For the common good - united forever")
The Union of Lublin, painting by Jan Matejko. King Sigismund II Augustus holds the cross at the centre while surrounded by statesmen, diplomats, the clergy and nobles
Poland and Lithuania in 1526, before the Union of Lublin
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569
Religions in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1750: mostly Roman Catholic in the west and Eastern Catholic (Byzantine rite) in the east (orange color)
Coat of arms of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Memory of the union lasted long. Painting commemorating Polish–Lithuanian union; circa 1861. The motto reads "Eternal union."

The Polish nobility (the szlachta), on the other hand, were reluctant to offer more help to Lithuania without receiving anything in exchange (as much as 70% of the taxes collected in Poland in the 1560s went to support Lithuania in its war with Moscow).


Noble or a man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities.

Jan Zamoyski, an important 16th-century Polish magnate
Jovan Oliver (1310–1356), the Serbian magnate, held several prestigious titles such as despot, sevastokrator, veliki vojvoda and veliki čelnik.

In reference to the Middle Ages, the term is often used to distinguish higher territorial landowners and warlords, such as counts, earls, dukes, and territorial-princes from the baronage, and in Poland for the richest szlachta.

Royal elections in Poland

Royal elections in Poland (Polish: wolna elekcja, lit. free election) were the elections of individual kings, rather than dynasties, to the Polish throne.

The first Polish royal election, of Henry III of France in 1573 (1889 Painting by Jan Matejko).
Election of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki (Michael I) as King of Poland at Wola, outside Warsaw (1669).
Plan of the elective camp of Polish Kings in Wola near Warsaw.
Election of August II the Strong at Wola, outside Warsaw (1697). Painting by Jean-Pierre Norblin de La Gourdaine.
Election of Stanisław August Poniatowski (Stanisław II Augustus) in 1764.

On the initiative of nobles from Southern Poland, supported by the future Great Crown Chancellor and hetman Jan Zamoyski, all male szlachta (nobles) who assembled for the purpose would become electors.

Magnates of Poland and Lithuania

Painting, by Jan Matejko, of Polish magnates (1697–1795). For their names, please see image description.
A Polish lord's journey during reign of King August III, by Jan Chełmiński, 1880
Possessions of Polish magnates in 16th–17th centuries

The magnates of Poland and Lithuania (magnateria) were an aristocracy of Polish-Lithuanian nobility (szlachta) that existed in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, from the 1569 Union of Lublin, in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, until the Third Partition of Poland in 1795.