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Portius Memorial in Krosno

In the city
Contact ul. Piłsudskiego
38-400 Krosno

Description

It is the latest addition to the town’s attractions, worth visiting mainly because of the person it commemorates and the pleasant atmosphere which has already began to develop here.

It is the latest addition to the town’s attractions, worth visiting mainly because of the person it commemorates and the pleasant atmosphere which has already began to develop here. Wojciech Portius, born around the year 1600 as Robert Gilbert Porteous Lanxeth, arrived in Krosno around 1620 as a rich merchant’s helper. This merchant also came from Scotland and was called John Laurenstein. When he died as a result of pestilence in 1623, Robert Porteous decided to integrate into his new homeland. He converted to Catholicism, took the name of Wojciech, and it is thought that he took over his benefactor’s business as already in 1626 he was able to buy one of the biggest houses on the town square, today known as the Portius House (no. 27). He bought it from a young doctor Paweł Mamrowicz, and he used this opportunity to charm his mother, Anna, Bartłomiej Mamrowicz’s widow and daughter of one of the richest families in Krosno – the Hesners. Marrying one of the richest women in Krosno immediately made Wojciech Portius part of the town’s high society. Already in 1629, he was mentioned as one of the richest merchants in Krosno, even though he was only thirty. 

He conducted trade in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Silesia, duchies of the German Reich, Prussia, Gdańsk, and, of course, Scotland. However, his most important ware – wine – came from Hungary. Thanks to his excellent contacts in Hungary, he secured the best contract of his life and became the supplier of Hungarian wines for King Sigismund III Vasa. He must have been an excellent supplier as in April of 1632 the Sejm, at the request of the dying king, granted him the servitoratus privilege, which excluded him from any town’s jurisdiction as a direct servant of the king. This included the town courts, customs duties, taxes and other payments imposed by towns. What is more, this wonderful state of affairs lasted for Portius also during the following king’s reign, Władysław IV, who also made him the personal royal factor. The third Vasa on the Polish throne, John II Casimir, also supported the royal supplier of Hungarian wines and soon after his coronation renewed all of Portius’ privileges.

Krosno owes much to Portius’ links to the royal court. When the Parish Church was destroyed in a fire in 1638, King Władysław IV, in return for his factor’s services, put the royal painter, Tommaso Dolabella from Venice, at his disposal. The painting in the main altar is probably his work, and his collaborators created the unique decorative paintings inside the church. Good fortune in business does not necessarily go together with happiness. Portius had three children with Anna – a son Stanisław and two daughters, Wiktoria and Agnieszka, who both died very young, probably around 1640. In 1648, Anna died and Portius became a different person – harsher and indifferent to other people’s opinions. Even the nobility complained about him, saying that they were greatly oppressed by the rising prices of wine. The townspeople, ruled with an iron fist, blamed him for Krosno’s downfall as through his riches he took over the entire trade in Krosno and held the town’s grounds. Trusting in the king’s support and excluded from the jurisdiction of towns and nobility, Portius ruled Krosno relentlessly and even became its army commandant.

Only when in 1660 he hit a boy in anger, and the boy died after several days, were the days of his impunity over and he had to reflect on his actions. He was locked in a tower, but only served half of his sentence as the king pardoned him from the other half. He died suddenly, in January of 1661, during a feast. One of the contemporary sources claims that the cause of his death was poison. His funeral took place on 10 February 1661. It was a grand ceremony, by order of the bishop of Przemyśl Stanisław Sarnowski celebrated by over a hundred priests. 

Portius was of course buried in his beloved Parish Church. He was an extraordinary, truly Baroque personality – both devoted and ruthless – and Krosno is rich in his legacy. His house mark can be found in many places around Krosno, notably in the Holy Trinity Parish Church, next to which stands his statue. It is over 2.5 m. tall, weighs around 300 kg and is made of bronze according to Kamil Słowik’s design. It is surrounded by arcades with tables and benches. 

 

 

Source: City Office of Krosno http://visitkrosno.pl/en/ .

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Location

Krosno, Podkarpackie
Piłsudskiego, 38-400 Krosno
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