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Thaler issued by the city during the siege in 1577, with Jesus Christ on obverse instead of King Stefan Batory

The rebellion of the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) was a revolt in the mid 1570s of the city against the outcome of the Royal elections in Poland. The Polish throne was contested by Stephen Báthory and the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II. It began on 12 December 1575 when Emperor Maximillian was chosen as monarch by the Polish Senate, while the majority of the szlachta (nobility) had voted for Bathory. It ended on 16 December 1577.[1] Maximilian's II death in fall of 1576 weakened Danzig's position and made the conflict less about the recognition of the ruler than about Danzig's privileges. With neither side being able to defeat the other militarily, a compromise was reached, with economic as well as religious[2] privileges of the city being restored and recognized, in return for a large reparation and recognition of Bathory as the king.


On 20 July 1570, the Polish-Lithuanian king Sigismund II Augustus introduced Karnkowski Statutes, which partly reduced Danzig's special privileges[3][4] granted by earlier Polish kings after the Prussian Confederation cities recognized their rule in 1454.

In 1572, the throne of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was vacated when King Sigismund Augustus died without an heir and Henry III of France after a brief period as a Polish king returned to France. Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was an elective monarchy and (after the Union of Lublin in 1569) in close union with Lithuania, meaning that Polish nobility (szlachta) could vote on who would become the next king. Cities had no vote; Danzig however was invited by primate of Poland and interrex Jakub Uchański to cast a vote but declined to send a representative.[5] Members of the Senate (including most of the Polish episcopate led by Jakub Uchański) decided to elect Emperor Maximilian II, against the will of majority of nobility, which during the royal election voted for Anna Jagiello (the last representative of the former Polish-Lithuanian Jagiellon dynasty) and Stephen Báthory as her husband and de facto King. This led to a some unrest in Poland.

The town whose economic privileges were reduced by the Karnkowski Statutes, wanted to use the situation to regain its preferential position within the Polish Crown. It also preferred Maximilian,[6] who looked more likely to support the towns' economic privileges, and who could also threaten serious economic repercussions (boycott by the Habsburgs). Thus the city, encouraged by its immense wealth and almost impregnable fortifications, as well as by the secret support of Denmark[7] and Emperor Maximilian himself, had supported the latter's election.

On 1 May 1576 Stefan Bathory married King Anna Jagiello and was crowned by Stanisław Karnkowski as King of Poland. Jakub Uchański and nuncio Wincenty Laureo recognized Maximillian as a King, but soon they and others accepted the will of majority. When Stefan swore in all of existing rights of Royal Prussia and Duchy of Prussia,[8] and was recognized as a rightful ruler,[9] Danzig refused to follow along and still recognized Maximillian as King of Poland.[10]

The tensions grew as rioters looted and burned down an abbey in Oliwa.[6] The abbey belonged to the bishop of Kujawy, Stanisław Karnkowski, who had under his jurisdiction the whole of Polish Pomerania. The Sejm (parliament) of the Commonwealth did not approve higher taxes for the war. It did however approve a banicja (form of political exile and excommunication), confiscation of the city's property, arrest of its citizens, commercial blockade and rerouting of the important trade via the port of Elbląg (which however was immediately blockaded by Denmark's navy).[11][12]


In August 1576 Bathory led 2,000 (Polish soldiers and mercenaries from Transylvania and Wallachia[13]) men to Malbork (Marienburg), from there Polish units took control the area surrounding Gdansk, capturing Grabina and Głowa, two strategically important villages, thereby blockading Daznig's port from the east and the south. The King left the army under the command of Hetman Jan Zborowski and most of the forces were stationed at Tczew (Dirschau). In the west the main base was at Puck (Putzig), where there was a mercenary force led by Ernest Weyher. While some Polish privateer ships fought the Gdansk and Danish fleets, for the most part the control of the Baltic Sea belonged to the Danzigers and their allies.[14] Soon after the fighting begun, Maximilian's II death (12 October 1576) was announced; this weakened Danzig's position and made the conflict less about the recognition of the ruler than about Danzig's privileges.[15]

Map showing the fortifications of Danzig as they were over 100 years later

With the coming of the spring of 1577, the fighting began anew. The Danzig army, led by the German mercenary commander Johannn Winkelbruch (Hans Winckelburg von Kölln), was about 7,000-12,000 strong (including mercenaries, among them a Scottish regiment[16]), but with less than 1,000 cavalry. Winckelburg decided to crush the small army of Zborowski (who had about 2,000 men, half of them cavalry), but the Danzig army was utterly defeated by Zborowski in the battle of Lubiszewo on April 17, 1577.[6][17]

After the battle, the Danzig forces retreated behind the walls, citizens pulled down trees and houses in front of fortifications[18][19] and a siege began. Reinforcement with King Batory arrived only in July.[14] During it King Stefan was using heated cannonballs[20] and turned back the flow of the Radunia river.[8] Bathory had about 11,000 men, and Danzig, about 10,000.[14] A surprise attack by the Danzigers managed to destroy two-thirds of the Polish artillery, vastly slowing the progress of the siege.[14] In September 1577[8] Danzig and Danish fleets started a blockade of Polish trade along Elbing and attacked its suburbs. Their troops that landed were soon pushed back by Bathory's Hungarian infantry under Kacper Bekiesza, and the city council send a note thanking the King.[8][21] However, after a few months, Stephen's army was unable to take the city by force. On 16 December 1577,[1] the siege ended and citizens swore loyalty to Stefan's representatives Eustachy Wołłowicz and Andrzej Firlej.[9][22] (Treaty of Malbork).[6]


The Gdansk merchants had suffered a great deal from the blockade, especially because of lack of trade.[14] In the meantime, Bathory also wanted to end the siege, as Ivan the Terrible of Muscovy broke a three year truce in the same year[23] and Muscovy tried to gain control of the eastern territories of the Commonwealth (Livonian War).[24]

The siege and all economic restrictions that were passed in the past two years were lifted in return for reparations and recognition of Bathory as the sovereign. Stefan forgave the city's rebellion and again turned Polish trade from Elbing to Danzig. The city, in turn, recognized him as ruler of Poland and promised to pay the large sum of 200,000 złotys and an additional 20,000 repatriation to the abbey of Oliwa in five years.[25] On 26 November 1585 the Karnkowski Statutes from 1570 were lifted,[26] and Danzig again became the most privileged city in the Commonwealth.

See also

  • History of Gdańsk


  1. 1.0 1.1 Walter Yust: Encyclopædia Britannica: A New Survey of Universal Knowledge
  2. John Huxtable Elliott: Europe Divided, 1559-1598
  3. John Brown Mason: The Danzig Dilemma; a Study in Peacemaking by Compromise, 1946 [1]
  4. Karin Friedrich: The Other Prussia: Royal Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569-1772
  5. (Polish) Gdańskie Towarzystwo Naukowe: Rocznik gdański
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Norman Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland in Two Volumes, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-19-925339-0, Google Print, p.321
  7. Stewart P. Oakley, War and Peace in the Baltic, 1560-1790, Routledge, 1992, ISBN 0-415-02472-2, Google Print, p.35
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 (Polish) Paweł Jasienica: "Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów" (p.101-107),
  9. 9.0 9.1 (Polish) Jerzy Samuel Bandtkie: Krótkie wyobrażenie dzieiów Królestwa Polskiego
  10. (Polish) Władysław Czapliński: Zarys dziejów Polski do roku 1864
  11. Daniel Stone: The Polish-Lithuanian State, 1386–1795
  12. (Polish) Stanisława Zajchowska, Maria Kiełczewska-Zaleska, Feliks Nowowiejski, Antoniewicz, Jerzy Antoniewicz: Warmia i Mazury
  13. E. Liptai: Magyarország hadtörténete (1), Zrínyi katonai kiadó 1984. ISBN 963-326-320-4; 208. p.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 War with the Gdansk Rebels 1576-78
  15. Besala and Biedrzycka (2005), "Stefan Batory". Polski Słownik Biograficzny. XLIII.p.118
  16. The regiment of six companies numbering about 700 men was hired by Danzig in 1577–8 and won great fame in the city's rebellion against Poland. - Richard Brzezinski: Polish Armies 1569-1696 (2), Osprey Publishing [2]
  17. Radosław Sikora, Lubieszów 17 IV 1577, Zabrze 2005.
  18. Fernand Braudel: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century
  19. Edmund Cieślak, Czesław Biernat: History of Gdańsk
  20. W. Y. Carman: A History of Firearms: From Earliest Times to 1914
  21. (Polish) Wacław Sobieski: Dzieje Polski
  22. (Polish) Irena Fabiani-Madeyska: Odwiedziny Gdańska w XIX wieku
  23. Joseph Slabey Rouček: Slavonic Encyclopaedia
  24. Daniel Stone, The Polish-Lithuanian State, 1386-1795, University of Washington Press, 2001, ISBN 0-295-98093-1, Google Print, p.123
  25. (Polish) Marian Pelczar: Polski Gdańsk
  26. (Polish) Instytut Historii PAN: Odrodzenie i reformacja w polsce

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