Reviving a Renaissance Spirit at VILLA DECIUS
In a beautiful park a few kilometers west of the center of Krakow stands the Villa Decius – a wonderful witness to the values which dominated cultural, social, and political life in Poland in the Golden Age of the Renaissance, that is, the 16th century. At the time, the country was at the height of its economic power. People came from many other countries to enjoy the tolerance Poland displayed for people of different religious beliefs. Among them was the Alsatian Jost Louis Dietz, who in a short time began to be known as Justus Ludwik Decjusz. After a meteoric rise, he became secretary to the Polish king Zygmunt the Old in 1520, and then became manager of the burgeoning business associated with the national salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia. It was he who in 1535 erected the Villa.
The Alsatian proved himself to be a capable diplomat and talented financier. He was a meticulously trained and multi-talented man who travelled extensively. He knew Martin Luther and Erasmus of Rotterdam. At the Villa he arranged meetings among representatives of various cultures and nationalities. There, they found occasion to exchange views and creatively challenge each other with contrary convictions. The Villa, however, in subsequent centuries went through a complicated series of fortunes. After the municipal government of Krakow financed a meticulous renovation in 1996, a new life began for the edifice. Since that time, the building has been cared for by the Villa Decius Association, which brings together celebrities from the Krakovian world of culture and science.
Dominika Kasprowicz, the Director of the Association explains: “At the time it was obvious that this beautiful building should serve the ideal of meetings for representatives of various fields of science and culture, nations and nationalities, and exchanges of ideas and encouragement to creative works. We turn these ideas into programs which allow the continuation of Justus Decius’ thoughts almost 500 years after the construction of this Villa”.
One of the most important spheres in which the Association fulfills its mission is the development and propagation of literary creativity. It implements this task i.a. through artist in residence programs in which several hundred authors from around the world have so far taken part and which invariably provoke extensive interest. The Association also conducts an innovative program called “Write the Game”, in which literarily creative youth gain knowledge in the area of writing scenarios for video games, along with the competencies necessary to permit them to get along successfully in a business environment.
Małgorzata Różańska, who is the Head of the Association’s Literary Office believes that, “Write the Game is a project that succeeds in uniting the literary world with the computer game industry. It suits the profile of activities the Association has undertaken up to now, and takes advantage of the potential offered by the experience gained, while at the same time embracing new fields of activity, this way contributing to the development of the entire institution”.
Another key topic in the Association’s activities is the promotion and protection of human rights. The Villa hosts a residential program for persecuted writers within the framework of the ICORN network. Krakow was invited to the network in 2011 as the first city in Central-Eastern Europe. Since 2003, the Association also awards the Polish Sergio Vieira de Mello Award – named for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who died in a bomb attack in Bagdad. The award goes to persons or non-governmental organizations for their activities on behalf of peaceful co-existence and social, religious, and cultural cooperation. Among others, Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Szewach Weiss have been laureates of the award.
The atmosphere at Villa Decius is unusually conducive to artistic activities, which take on a wide variety of forms. For example, during artistic meetings organized within the framework of the Villa Artis program, the public, as well as the artists have the opportunity to interact with various works from repertoires of both Polish and international composers in the setting of one of the most beautiful historic buildings of the Renaissance, and the unconventional surroundings inspire the creation of new arrangements, which fit in with the historic character of the building. The Association conducts a popular program called “reactivation of the Renaissance”, which serves the protection and interpretation of the heritage, creation, and management of thematic trails engaging the local society to care for and creatively use this historic place.
Katarzyna Trojanowska, Head of the Associations Office of Culture explains: “Through direct participation in events such as educational workshops on the topic of Renaissance heritage, we are constantly stimulating the enhancement of the knowledge and cultural competence of society on the issue of the history of this place, as well as the culture of the entire region. We manage this through lectures, speaker series, visits to significant sites, study trips, and open cultural events. Conveying appropriate tools in a wide and at the same time professional manner, we enable individual and personal engagement in getting to know cultural heritage as well as development of attendees’ unique and unrepeatable interpretations of historic places such as Villa Decius”.
It’s also worthwhile to know that the Villa Decius proved its value as a meeting place for the worlds of culture and business. Its spacious and well equipped conference rooms have afforded many companies the possibility to implement projects in the scope of corporate social responsibility. Director Dominika Kasprowicz emphasizes that: “Persons and institutions which avail themselves of the expanses of the palace-park complex support our mission and programs directly, and at the same time become patrons of this extraordinary place”.
STOWARZYSZENIE WILLA DECJUSZA
28 Lipca 1943 17A, 30-233 Kraków
+48 12 425 36 38 www.villa.org.pl