GEORGE OF POLENTZ: Bishop of Samland in Prussia, the first bishop who avowed the Evangelical faith; b. in Saxony 1478; d. in Balga (24 m. s.w. of Königsberg, on the Frische Haff) Oct. 1, 1549. He descended from one of the most prominent and ancient families of the Saxon nobility, studied law in Italy, was for some time private secretary of Pope Julius II., then entered the service of Emperor Maximilian I. He became acquainted with Margrave Albert of Brandenburg (see Albert of Prussia), a later grand master of the Teutonic Order, and subsequently joined the Order. By the faithful and able execution of several important commissions in the affairs of the Order he won the confidence of Albert, through whose influence he became bishop of Samland (1519). When he assumed in 1522 the regency of the Order in the absence of the grand master, his mind had already been turned toward the Evangelical cause by the writings of Luther. In 1523 he tolerated the preaching of the pure Gospel in the cathedral church of Königsberg and put no obstacle in the way of the Reformatory movement. After 1524 he advocated the nullifiation of the papal constitution and the secularization of the Order. On the recommendation of Luther, Johannes Briessmann became cathedral preacher at Königsberg, and introduced the bishop to a deeper knowledge of the Evangelical doctrine of salvation. In the summer of 1523 the bishop publicly avowed the cause of the Reformation. In a mandate of 1524 he admonished his subjects to accept the new doctrine, and, instigated by the ignorance of his people, advocated in another mandate the preaching of the Gospel in the vernacular. As early as 1524 he sent Evangelical preachers from place to place, as many as he could gather. While he himself received instruction from Briessmann in Greek and Hebrew to study the Bible in the original text, he inculcated upon his preachers the diligent use of the Bible and of Luther's translation and his most important writings. After the transformation of the Order into a secular duchy (see Teutonic Order), Albert on his return to Königsberg in 1525 immediately entrusted George of Polentz and his second bishop, Erhard von Queiss in Pomerania, with the j organization of Evangelical church life. The first church orders and visitations were prepared by Bishop Polentz in connection with Briessmann and Paulus Speratus, the new preacher of Königsberg. The first Prussian church order was issued in 1525 under the title, Artikel der Cerenwnien and anderer Kirchenordnung, and thus the Prussian State Church was organized before that of electoral Saxony. Bishop Polentz considered it an essential part of


his official activity to hold church visitations, being convinced of the great importance of the personal influence of the bishop upon the preachers and their congregations. The chief interest of his activity lay in the organization of the Church, on the basis of the Gospel and the confessional doctrine. He was also prominently active in the foundation and development of the University of Königsberg (1544). His marriage in 1525 was of the most farreaching influence, as he gave by it a practical testimony for the Evangelical truth and an example for the foundation of the Evangelical parsonage.

(David Erdmann†.)

Bibliography: P. Tschackert, Georg van Polentz, Leipsic, 1888; idem, Urkundenbuch der Reformations-Geschichte in Preussen, vol. i. ib. 1890; Vita Georgii a Polentiis, Königsberg, 1829; 1 R. Gebser and E. Hagen, Der Dom zu Königsberg, pp . 242-243, ib. 1835; J. Voigt, Geschichte Preussens, ix. 685-686, ib. 1839; Georg von Polentz, der erste evangelische Bischof, Halle, 1858; J. Köstlin, Martin Luther, ed. G. Kawerau, i. 622, 720, Berlin, 1903; Cam bridge Modern History, vol. ii., The Reformat, pp. 160-162, New York, 1904; Schaff, Christian Church, vi. 593 sqq.


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