Reformation in Poland: King Alex, a Greek doctor and the invention of science

Now, here comes one of history’s imponderables. Perhaps it was because he wasn’t bright and there was no one on hand to advise him, or perhaps having seen what the doctors were capable of he thought he’d give alternative medicine a try, of which a future Prince of Wales would approve, whatever the reason King Alexander put himself in the hands of a healer caller Balinski. Balinski was a Pole who passed himself off as a Greek, hard you might think with a name like Balinski, but people believed him and paid what he asked, which was a lot. Greek doctors had a cache. Pure snobbery? Not exactly. Since most people believed that Aristotle and the ancient Greeks knew every thing about the world that could be known or needed to be known, especially regarding medicine, Greek doctors had to be the best. It stood to reason, closest to the source, but about as reasonable as expecting an Englishman to know about English grammar. Unluckily for the Greek doctors the invention of science was about to put an end to their infallibility. Science started asking those questions that people had never bothered to think about before.

“Obviously, the earth is the centre of the universe.”


“Because it is, stupid boy!”

That seemed blindingly obvious until people could look at the planets through telescopes, all thanks to the invention of glass and lenses. And of course, it didn’t stop there. Black is black and white is white until the light changes. God is God until. Until? Let’s skip that for the moment. Let’s just say a truth is a truth until you question it and try to prove it not with statement but with argument. Which raises the question about how exams can be set on facts rather than thoughts and ideas since facts are inclined to change. The truth is not written in stone.

But science aside and back to king Alexander.

Dr. Balinski’s cure was novel, one must give him that. “Your Majesty, six hot baths a day and 10 bottles of good French wine. And here is my bill.” Which the king paid gladly. “I did.” And who is to say it didn’t help. “I felt better even though I couldn’t move.” But within a year the king was dead and Chancellor Laski had Balinski locked up. And where was King Alexander buried? You won’t find his body in the Wawel where he wanted to lie beside his father and brothers and near the naughty cardinal, though we don’t know what the king thought about him. The Lithuanian magnates, do you remember the magnets? were so cross with the king because of the laws he’d introduced to curb their behaviour, they kept his body in Wilno and stuck it in the vault of the cathedral where is was lost until 1937. Mind you, burying him in Wilno wasn’t so stupid because that’s where he died. He was fleeing from an army of invading Crimean Tartars. Happily, the last news he heard in this world was of the victory of his general Michal Glinski who, with a cunning trick, had destroyed the invaders entirely, firstly by destroying the main force then by picking off the raiding parties as they returned to their annihilated camp. Genius. A Polish success. A good end to the reign.


8 thoughts on “Reformation in Poland: King Alex, a Greek doctor and the invention of science

  1. But why Reformation? Alexander Baliński was rather devoid of any faith, and Alexander Jagiełło by his wife was closer to Orthodoxy than to the Western church – ??

    • I am giving background. The Reformation in Poland has not yet started. Once I have established the situation in Poland, then we will move to Rome. I’ll introduce Luther, Torun, Gdansk and end up in Pinczow.

    • Yes, and the Reformation in Poland did not begin until 1524…just dont worry….we will get there. since most people have never heard of King Alex, Balinski or anyone else, plerase just let it evolve. Anyway, thanks for reading…

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