Erazm Ciolek

Erazm Ciolek (Erasmus Vitellius, 1474-1522) - bishop of Plock, canon of Krakow, distinquised Polish humanist and diplomat. Ciolek, also called Vitellius, was the son of Stanislaw and Agnieszka, burghers of Krakow and owners of a wine-shop. From 1485 Ciolek studied at the University of Krakow, obtaining his BA in 1487 and his MA in 1491. During the years 1491-1493 he lectured at the University of Cracow. From 1495 he worked in the chancery of Alexander, the grand duke of Lithuania, in Vilno and saw his ability and industriousness rewarded by his master's confidence. In 1499 he was appointed canon of Vilno; later he was made dean and finally provost. He was appointed to the Cracow cathedral chapter after securing legal recognition of his status as a member of the gentry on 14 April 1502. Alexander, who had become king of Poland in 1501, nominated him to the bishopric of Plock on 29 November 1503. In 1501 Ciolek undertook his first embassy to Rome, to be followed by a second in 1505 that brought wide recognition of his diplomatic and rhetorical talents, of which this oration, directed to Pope Julius II on behalf of the Polish king Alexander Ingellon to ask for the Pope's help. 

'The liberality of Pope Julius II, who granted Alexander much-needed financial help, enabled the Polish king to restrain somewhat the arrogance of the Teutonic Knights in the Prussian provinces' (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

In 1518 Alexander's successor, king Sigismund I, sent Ciolek on an important mission to the German diet at Augsburg and then to Rome. In Augsburg he delivered on 20 August a harangue in support of a crusade against the Turks which was well received and was published by Jakob Spiegel with a dedication to Erasmus. From Augsburg Ciolek travelled to Rome, where he remained for almost two years as a representative of Sigismund I, living in great state. He died in Rome and was buried in the choir of Santa Maria del Popolo.

Besides being highly cultivated himself, Ciolek was a patron of scholars, artists and writers. He also collected an impressive library, especially acclaimed for its illuminated manuscripts, and enlarged his episcopal palace in Plock and his house in Cracow. Parts of Ciolek's library, including the famous illuminated manuscripts, are preserved in the chapter library of Plock.