Adam Stefan Sapieha

Adam Stefan Sapieha (1867-1951)

Noble Family Sapieha
Coat of Arms
Herb Sapiehów


Parents Adam Stanisław Sapieha-Kodenski
Jadwiga Klementyna Sanguszko-Lubartowicza
Consorts none
Children none
Date of Birth 14 May 1867
Place of Birth Krasiczyn
Date of Death 23 July 1951, age 84
Place of Death Kraków

Prince Adam Stefan Stanisław Bonfatiusz Józef Sapieha (14 May 1867 – 23 July 1951) was a Polish cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Kraków. Between 1922 – 1923 he was a senator of the Second Rzeczpospolita. In 1946, Pope Pius XII created him Cardinal.

Early life

Sapieha was born in 1867 in the Castle of Krasiczyn. His family were members of the Polish nobility. He was the youngest of the seven children of Prince Adam Stanisław Sapieha-Kodenski and Princess Jadwiga Klementyna Sanguszko-Lubartowicza.


After graduating from gymnasium in Lwow in 1886, he enrolled in the Law Department at the University of Vienna, starting simultaneously law studies at Institut Catholique in Lille. In 1887 on the basis of his certificate from The University of Vienna Sapieha continued studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. After two years he passed the examination and returned to Vienna for further studies, where he remained until 1890, obtaining the certificate of completion. In the same year he began theological studies at the University of Innsbruck, and in 1892 signed up for the third year of seminary studies in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv.

Early vocation

After returning to the home country in 1897, he was designated vice-rector of the diocesan seminary in Lwow, where he worked until 1901. He resigned because he was discouraged by the imposed rules of education of young priests. After a half-year trip across the United States of America, he was designated a vicar of the St. Nicholas congregation in Lwow in October 1902. In 1905 Sapieha was appointed a papal chamberlain, and sent to Rome where he was a consultant on matters concerning the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, in the annexed territories, the realization of an idea by Lwow Armenian Catholic Archbishop Józef Teodorowicz (who was the Sapieha's long-term friend)[1] to have a representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland at the Roman Curia.

He was educated at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he was also ordained as priest on 1 October 1893 by Bishop Jan Puzyna de Kosielsko (later Bishop of Kraków and Cardinal). Father Sapieha did pastoral work in the Diocese of Lemberg, in whose seminary he served as a faculty member for four years until becoming its rector. In October 1895 he started further studies in Rome, where he obtained a doctorate of civil and canon law at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. At the same time he studied diplomacy at the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastical Nobles.


Appointed bishop of the Diocese of Kraków on 24 November 1911, Sapieha was consecrated by Pope Pius X in the Sistine Chapel on 7 December of the same year. In 1915 he established a life-saving committee for war-stricken people.

After the World War I he was one of the main representatives of Polish episcopacy objecting to the concordat between the Polish Church and State. He reckoned that Polish church should be utterly independent and its primate should be the Archbishop of Warsaw. This attitude led to conflict with Cardinal Achille Ratti e.g. during the first post-war congress of Polish bishops in Gniezno (26-30 August 1919): Sapieha, thinking that the Polish church should decide its affairs without outside influence, asked Ratti to leave the conference room. Sapieha was not elevated to cardinalate by Ratti after he became Pope Pius XI in 1922.

In 1922, Sapieha was elected as a senator from the Christian Union of National Unity party. He ordered a memorial service and issued a proclamation about the assassination of Gabriel Narutowicz. It was the only speech he delivered as a senator because he had to submit to the papal mandate against clergy holding public office. He resigned as senator on 9 March 1923.

Sapieha was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop in 1925, when the Diocese of Kraków was elevated to the rank of Archdiocese. He received a degree honoris causa from the Jagiellonian University in 1926. In September 1930, after opposition leaders were arrested and placed in confinement at Brest Fortress, Archbishops Sapieha and Teodorowicz denounced the government. Sapieha was awarded the White Eagle Order in 1936.

In 1937, Sapieha, who had opposed the Pilsudski regime (sanacja), made the controversial decision to move Piłsudski's body, within Wawel's Cathedral, from St. Leonard's Crypt to the crypt under the Silver Bells.[2][3]

In 1939 he asked Pope Pius XI to accept his resignation due to age and failing health but it was declined. After the death of Pius XI, he repeated his request to the new pope, Pius XII on 19 June 1939. In anticipation of the upcoming war and at Józef Beck’s instigation he withdrew his resignation.

Activities during the Second World War

During World War II, while Primate August Hlond was in France, Sapieha was de facto head of the Polish church and one of the main leaders of the nation. One of the most important organisations of which he was part was the National Council of Welfare, created on the model of Caritas. From the outset of the Nazi occupation, he was an independence activist, collaborating with Polish government-in-exile.

In August 1944, Sapieha was forced to operate the Polish seminary in secret due the Nazi invasion of Kraków. He moved his seminarians (including the future Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyła) into his episcopal residence to finish their training.

Sapieha's biographer, Jacek Czajkowski describes the circumstances of the cardinal having been invited by Governor Hans Frank to Hitler's birthday party in April 1942. He told a German official: No! They are not going to change anything, but they will take a photograph of me and write that a Polish bishop arrived at Hitler's birthday party with best wishes. Tell him I will not come. Another such anecdote recalls when governor Hans Frank ordered the cardinal to hand him the keys to the Wawel Castle. Sapieha replied: But don't you forget to give them back to me when you will be leaving Wawel.

Józef Dużyk, in his article "The Prince of the Church" recalls probably the most significant moments of life under the occupation when Cardinal Sapieha served his guest, Governor Frank, brown bread with marmalade on silver plates, saying that the bishops in Kraków have always had silver plates, but for what they eat on those plates, they thank the occupants. A different version of this story is that he told Frank, that a bishops eats what his people eat.


In March 1945, he initiated the publishing of Tygodnik Powszechny. He was nominated a Cardinal Priest, of the title of Santa Maria Nuova, on 18 February 1946. Later the same year he conferred priestly ordination on Karol Wojtyła in the chapel of his episcopal residence.

After the Kielce pogrom he implied that the Jews had brought a pogrom on themselves.[4]

Sapieha knew Wojtyła (later John Paul II) was destined to become a priest when a young Karol delivered a welcoming speech during the archbishop's visit to his school. Some people consider him a mentor of Pope John Paul II[5]. In 1950, he inspired and took part in writing the letters of protest of Poland's episcopacy to president Bolesław Bierut, that condemned repression and persecution of the church in Poland. In 1949, he proposed that Stefan Wyszyński, Metropolitan Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw since 12 November 1948, should be termed Primate of Poland. Sapieha died on 23 July 1951, and his funeral on 28 July turned into a demonstration. He was buried in the Wawel Cathedral, in a crypt under the confession of St. Stanislas.


  1. Wielki Zapomniany, ks.Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski. ks. abp Józef Teodorowicz (1864-1938).
  2. Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966-1945. Jerzy Jan Lerski, 1996.Google Print, page 525.
  3. Annual Register, edited by Edmund Burke. Google Print, page 202.
  4. Peter C. Kent (2002). The Lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII: The Roman Catholic Church and the Division of Europe. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 128. 
  5. The Independent, Pope John Paul II. Kołakowski Leszek, 2005. The Independent, article on JP II


  • Stępień, Stanisław. "Kardynał Adam Stefan Sapieha Środowisko Rodzinne, Życie i Dzieło". [Przymyśl, 1995]

External links

Preceded by
Jan Maurycy Paweł Cardinal Puzyna de Kosielsko
Bishop of Kraków
24 November 1911–1925
Succeeded by
as Archbishop of Kraków
Preceded by
as Bishop of Kraków
Archbishop of Kraków
1925–23 July 1951
Succeeded by
Eugeniusz Baziak
be:Адам Стафан Сапегаno:Adam Stefan Sapiehasimple:Adam Stefan Sapieha

fi:Adam Stefan Sapieha war:Adam Stefan Sapieha

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