Hojski, Gabriel and Roman

Gabriel Hojski (ca.1555-1632) and his son Roman Hojski (ca.1585-1635), nobles from Wolyn (Volhynia) in today’s Ukraine and politicians in 16th and 17th century Poland, were patrons and supporters of Arianism (Socinianism or Unitarianism) in their estates. Gabriel Hojski was one of the most devoted and generous benefactors of Arianism in Poland in his time.

Gabriel was born to a lesser Ruthenian noble family, son of Roman Hojski and his wife Dorota Korczminska (d.1601). His father was Eastern Orthodox. His mother came from a Polish noble family with many Arian connections, though it is not certain if she was a Arian herself. Gabriel was baptized and brought up Eastern Orthodox. He probably received some education, perhaps in a Protestant or even Arian school in Lesser Poland (Malopolska), as he was later in life referred to as “knowledgeable”. Although he sometimes signed his name in Ruthenian, like most of the Wolyn nobility at the end of the 16th century he used mostly Polish in his correspondence.

Hojski started his career fighting in the wars of Polish king Stefan Batory against Gdansk and Russia. He later skirmished with Cossacks and defended his country against Tatar raids. In 1598 the local nobles selected him for a commission to reform local laws, and in 1601 and 1611 appointed him deputy judge to the Polish Supreme Court (Trybunal Koronny). Because he was quite popular with these nobles, they several times elected him as their deputy to the Polish Diet (Sejm).

Like most lesser nobles, Hojski sought the patronage of higher nobles, or magnates. Thanks to the favor of Prince Konstanty Ostrogski (d. 1608), the Voievode of Wolyn, Hojski administered some of the princely estates, which allowed him to increase his own personal territory. Starting with a few small villages, he increased his domain and became himself a true magnate, with numerous holdings in Wolyn and the Ukraine. He sheltered peasants escaping from Poland and other noble estates, settling them in his own estates with generous grants. This population increase raised some of his villages to the status of cities. Under his administration the family seat, Hoszcza, grew from a small village into a town.

It is not clear how and when Hojski first came into contact with Arianism. He was Eastern Orthodox at least until the end of the 16th century. Given that Arian ideas were widespread amongst the Wolyn nobility by the mid-16th century, and that Gabriel’s father was married to a woman with numerous Arian relatives, there are grounds to believe that the elder Roman Hojski might have had some sympathy for that movement. Even if at a Protestant school Gabriel had developed some sympathy for Arians, he returned home and married the Eastern Orthodox noblewoman, Katarzyna Jelowicka, who remained steadfast in her religion all her life.

Together with his patron, Prince Ostrogski, Hojski fought against the Union of Brest, 1596, that formally brought the Eastern Orthodox living in Poland under the obedience of Rome, creating the Uniate Orthodox rite. It is probably at Ostrogski’s court that Hojski became acquainted, or reacquainted, with Arianism. Though a staunch defender of Eastern Orthodoxy and an enemy of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation, Ostrogski showed remarkable religious tolerance. He was married to a Roman Catholic, two of his sons became Uniate Catholics, one son stayed Orthodox, one of his two Catholic daughters married a Arian (Jan Kiszka), and the other wed a Calvinist. He had numerous Arians in his entourage, and he allowed them to build churches on his estates, Stary Konstantynow, Ostrog, and Ostropol.

In 1577 Ostrogski asked his courtier, the Arian Montowil, to refute a Jesuit attack on Eastern Orthodoxy. Montowil injected into the piece a considerable amount of Arian theology. When the Eastern Orthodox Prince, Andrew Kurbski, read it, he wrote Ostrogski, “My beloved Lord, are you not ashamed to befriend and live with such people? Or have you completely stopped listening and repudiated the prophets and apostles, who forbade the faithful to befriend heretics as enemies of God?”

Despite this letter, Ostrogski and other Orthodox nobles not only employed Arians at their courts, but also sent their children to Arian schools. Indeed, Ostrogski, in another letter, pointed out that Arians were educated, intelligent, their clergy well-read in scriptures and devoted to their denomination, which compared well with the backwardness, ignorance, and greed of contemporary Orthodox clergy. In another letter from the 1560s Prince Kurbski admitted that most of the nobility in Wolyn and Podole were either openly Arian or secretly sympathized with the movement.

Though his conversion did not happen until a decade later, by 1600 Hojski had become an open sympathizer with Arians and had established a Arian school and church at Hoszcza. The first known Hoszcza minister, Andrzej Lubieniecki (ca.1551-1623), preached there from before 1600 until ca. 1612. Thanks to Lubieniecki’s work and the support of his patron, Hoszcza became one of the centers of Polish Arianism. Its school attracted sons of the local nobles of all religions, as well as the students from Wolyn, Podole, and the Ukraine, which helped to spread of Arianism in all these areas. It is no coincidence that shortly after the founding of the church and school in Hoszcza, Arianism blossomed in Wolyn and several new congregations were established there.

Shortly after the founding of the school the notorious “False Dymitr I” attended it and converted there to Arianism. Dymitr I (Griszka Otrepjew) claimed to have been a miraculously saved son of the Russian Tsar Ivan IV (“Ivan the Terrible”). When Dymitr seized the Russian throne, the Arian synod of Rakow in 1605, eager to spread Arianism in Russia, delegated two ministers-one from Hoszcza-to “confirm him in the truth”. Their mission failed, as Dymitr was unwilling to jeopardize his throne by allowing Arian propaganda in Russia. The delegates’ return to Poland saved them from the angry Russians who in 1606 massacred False Dymitr and his Polish supporters.

The congregation in Hoszcza steadily grew. By 1605 Lubieniecki had another minister to help him. Given that most of Hojski’s subjects were Ruthenian, it is possible that some Arian evangelism in Hoszcza was done in that language. Before Hojski’s death the majority of the citizens of the city were Arians. He also founded a Arian church in Sokal, another of his estates.

Hojski’s Arianism did not help in his political career. He took part in the rebellion of 1606-1609 (Rokosz Zebrzydowskiego) against the Roman Catholic King Sigismundus III Vasa. Because of this, it was not until 1621 that Sigismundus promoted him to the office of the castellan of Kijow (Kiev), which finally elevated him to the Polish Senate. He was the first Arian to sit in the Senate in two decades. He died in 1632 and was buried in his estate in Hoszcza, probably in the Arian church he founded.

The estates passed to his son Roman Hojski (ca.1585-1635), who though baptized Eastern Orthodox, was brought up Arian. With young Arian nobles, he studied at the Universities of Altdorf and Basel, 1604-05. After returning home, Hojski was chosen part of a 1607 deputation to the king to protest violations of the rights of the Eastern Orthodox church. Later he was twice chosen, in 1613 and 1619, as a deputy to the Polish Diet, and made a deputy judge in the Supreme Court, where he defended Arians from Catholic persecution. He married an ardent Arian, Alexandra Niemiryczowna (d.1639), and became an Arian himself in 1617. Following the death of his father he was chosen the new castellan of Kijow. A patron of the church and school in Hoszcza, he died childless a few years later, the last Arian senator in Poland.

Following Roman Hojski’s death his estates were divided between his widow and his sister Regina, Princess Solomerecka. Although brought up an Arian, Regina had become Eastern Orthodox. The church and school in Hoszcza continued under the patronage of Alexandra, but in 1638 Regina Solomerecka founded in Hoszcza an Orthodox convent of Saint Michael, together with a school, so that “heretical teachings would not triumph over the Orthodox religion”. A year later, following the death of her sister-in-law, Regina closed the Arian school and church, expelled all Arians from Hoszcza, and promised the Orthodox clergy never again to tolerate Arianism in the city. The Arians did briefly return, when Alexandra’s nephew Jerzy Niemirycz seized Hoszcza in 1640, expelling the Orthodox. In 1641 the city was bought by an Eastern Orthodox senator, Adam Kisiel. Although he allowed Arian worship, the heyday of Arianism in Hoszcza was over. The congregation probably fled during the 1648 Cossack rebellion, led by Bogdan Chmielnicki, which dispersed the Arian population of the Ukraine.


Short biographical sketches of both Gabriel and Roman Hojski may be found in vol. 10 of Polski Slownik Biograficzny (1962-64). There is additional family information in H. Polaczkowna, “Orzechowscy z Orzechowa herbu Rogala” in Miesiecznik Heraldyczny, vol. 14 (1935). The issue of Arianism in Wolyn and Podole was dealt with in O. Lewickij, “Socynianie na Rusi” in Reformacja w Polsce, vol. 2 (1922), A. Kossowski, Zarys dziejow protestantyzmu na Wolyniu w XVI-XVII wieku (1933), and J. Tazbir, “Antytrynitaryzm na ziemiach ukrainskich w XVII wieku” in Z Polskich Studiow Slawistycznych (1972). An English translation of the article by Lewickij titled “Socinianism in Poland and South – West Rus” may be found in Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S., vol. 3 (1953). Some information on the history of Hoszcza may be found in J.M. Gizycki Wolyniak, Z przeszlosci Hoszczy na Wolyniu (1909). D. Czerska discusses the involvement of False Dymitr I with Arianism in Dymitr Samozwaniec (2004).

Article by Kazimierz Bem
Posted February 23, 2005