Baptismal fonts in Poland

Baptismal fonts belonged to the most important elements of church accessories. That is why their history dates back to the beginning of Christianity on Polish land. The oldest Romanesque fonts survived in the greatest numbers within the territory of the former State of the Teutonic Order as well as in Silesia as those lands were best developed in terms of economy and culture, whereas within the territory of today’s Małopolska the most frequent ones are late-Gothic fonts. In the remaining regions in Poland, the most common material for making fonts was wood. There are sources confirming that until the end of the 16th century they were in common usage, which unfortunately caused them not to survive to this day as they were made of undurable material. Years later, in wealthier parishes in bigger cities or towns, they were replaced by new ones, most often made of bronze, while the old fonts were destroyed.

The presented stone font dates back to the period when their greatest development took place and the goblet form of fonts was common. However, depending on the region, various decorations of fonts were used. Figural representations of Czech provenience were predominant in Silesia as there were numerous groups of stonemasons of Czech origin operating within this territory. Our font comes from the area of the Kingdom and is ornamented with a heraldic decoration. It is connected with the rising significance of nobility and their active participation in the life of parishes in the 2nd half of the 15th century. The coats of arms sometimes appeared as decorations in neighbouring countries, as well as in England, but they did not form such well-defined programmes and they never were the main element of the decoration of fonts.
The fonts were also covered by a multicoloured polychromy, which unfortunately survived only in fragments and in only a few cases; on the font presented in the museum in Biecz not even a single fragment had survived.
It is also interesting that the majority of fonts had a cover which was supposed to protect water against impurities but also against profanation and magic power. Unfortunately, not many examples survived, the only exception is the medieval cover in Tum near Łęczyca (where – as we all know – there is the Boruta devil living in the nearby castle).

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
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 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See babtismal font from the Museum of the Biecz Land in the collection from Małopolska’s Virtual Museums.