Court of Arms of Grand Duchy of Lithuania

1. STATUTE OF 1529

The Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania underwent three editions. The first edition was written in 1529 and approved by King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Zhygimont. Grand Duke Zhygimont announced on the Sojm (a congress of aristocracy - main ruling body of Grand Duchy of Lithuania) decision in Vilnia in 1522 that because of many inconsistencies in courts he was planning to write a general law to prevent further legal uncertainaty. The Sojm approved this decision. The Statute was written and approved by Zhygimont in 1529. It came into force throughout all Grand Duke of Lithuania on January 1, 1530.

The first Statute (1529) included the public and civil laws. It consisted of 13 Chapters n (12 - 37 Articles each) and was divided into 282 Articles. The public law was based on already existing laws, acts and privileges of Grand Dukes of Lithuania, and "Russkaya Pravda" - the ancient code of laws in Kievan Rus, and Vislicki Statut.

    Chapter 1. It is stated that nobody could be judged without appearance in court of law

        and that all citizens of Grand Duchy of Lithuania regardless of their title should be judged by the same court. The next articles outline sanctions and punishments for state treachery.

    Chapter 2. The rules of civil defense.

    Chapter 3. The privileges of shlyakhta (gentry).

    Chapter 4. Family law.

    Chapter 5. The laws on trusteeship .

    Chapter 6. The procedural rules of courts of law.

    Chapter 7. On the breaches of law.

    Chapters 8, 9. The border and customs Law.

    Chapter 10. On the mortgages and loans.

    Chapter 11. Criminal law on punishment for murders and other violent crimes against other persons.

    Chapters 12, 13. Criminal law on theft, robbery and other crimes against private property.

The first Statut(1529) was hand written and survived in several copies. The XVII c. manuscript of Statutelocated in Vil'na Academy was reprinted in XIX c. in "Vremennik Moskovsk. Obschestva Istorii i Drevn. Rossii" , Book 18, Moscow, 1854 as:

    "Prava pisanye Starogo Statutu i danye velikomu knyazhestvu Litovskomu, Ruskomu, Zomoitckomu, prez nayasnejshogo Pana Zhikgimonta z Bozhee milosti korolya Pol'skogo, velikogo knyazya Litovskogo Ruskogo Pruskogo Zhomoickogo i inyh mnogih".

The Statuteof 1529 was also reprinted in Poznan' by Dzyalynski in "Zbior praw Litewskih od roku 1389 do roku 1529".


The next two revisions of Statute were done in 1566 and 1588 and were following the path of increasing of gentry privileges and freedoms.

The second revision of Statute has been made in Vil'na and approved by Vil'na Sojm of 1565. According to the book of V. Lastouski (published in 1926) the second revision of the Statute written in 1566 during the rule of Zhygimont August has been preserved in several copies in:

    1. Moscow Rumyantsev Museum, manuscript No 412. This manuscript was later reprinted in " Vremennik Moskovsk. Obschestva Istorii i Drevn. Rossii", book 23, II (materialy), I - 242, Moscow, in 1855.
    2. St. Petersburg Public Library F. II, No 35.
    3. Belarusian Museum in Vil'na etc.

This Statute made the rights of Orthodox Christians and Catholics equal. The second Statute consisted of 14 Chapters (8 - 70 Articles each) and overall contains 367 Articles.

The Statute of 1566 required by law that all court hearings and documentation should be conducted in Belarusian.

The second Statute absorbed in it some of the Polish law codes, few private law codes, it is partially including German Magdeburg Rights of cities, roman law. All of this was creatively adopted to local traditions and laws. This Statute was also accepted by Valyn' Duchy in the south so it is sometimes referred to as "Valyn'ski Statut".


The last second revision of Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania was written in 1580 and printed in 1588 in Mamonich's Printing House, free city of Vil'na. Its first translation to Polish from Belarusian was printed in 1614, and first translation from Belarusian to Russian - in 1811. The Statute of 1588 was reprinted several times but the year of print indicated was always shown as 1588. It has been published in "Vremennik Moskovsk. Obschestva Istorii i Drevn. Rossii", book 19, Moscow, 1854, XII+382+24. It was also reprinted in Republic of Belarus around 1990.

The third revision of Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is a well known European legal code. It has been studied in most European countries as a fine example of legal technique of that time.

The history of the third revision started in 1569 at Lyublin Sojm (council) (on which Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania united into a Commonwealth - "Rzech Pospolita"). It was suggested that the third revision would be based on Statute Polski (Polish Statut) to which all missing articles of Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania would be added. The Lyublin Sojm approved a special commitee for the Statute revision. The committee had representatives of different state institutions, nationalities and religions. It was supported by funds gathered by means of a special tax. Several sojms have considered various revisions until it was finally approved in 1588 by king Zhygimont III, Vice Chancellor of Grand Duchy of Lithuania Leu Sapega and Secretary Gauryl Vojna.

Despite the demands of Polish shlyahta Statute of 1588 has not merged the law codes of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The famous third Article of the Statute establishes that all lands of Grand Duchy of Lithuania will be eternally in Grand Duchy of Lithuania and never enter as a part of other states. It allowed to own the land within Grand Duchy of Lithuania only to families of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. And if someone from outside Grand Duchy of Lithuania would be honored with property within Grand Duchy of Lithuania, he or she can only own it after swearing to Grand Duke of Lithuania. These articles were aimed to defend the rights of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania slyahta against Polish, Mazowish, Prussish and other aristocracy of Rzech Pospolita.

The Vice Chancellor of Grand Duchy of Lithuania Leu Sapega was the soul of the third revision of Statut. He was a highly educated person with sublime view of civilization. Many of the ideas that he placed into Statute well could have been associated with European humanists of XVIII-XIX centuries rather than culture of XVI century. For his work Leu Sapega was awarded the position of the Chancellor of Grand Duchy of Lithuania which was held by Kryshtof Radzivill before. Some politics was involved here since the king was a sincere Catholic believer and he disliked Radzivill for his protestant beliefs.

The Statute of 1588 consisted of fourteen chapters:

    Chapter 1. "O parsune nasshoj gospodarskoj" (on the status of Grand Duke of Grand Duchy of Lithuania).

    Chapter 2. "O oborone zemskoj" (on advocacy).

    Chapter 3. "O volnostyah shlyahetskih i o rozmnozhen'yu Velikogo Knyazstva Litovskogo" (on the slyahta privileges and on the development of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania). Read the full text of Chapter 3 of the 1588 Statute in Belarusian

    Chapter 4. "O sud'yah i sudeh" (On the judges and courts of law).

    Chapter 5. "O oprave posagu i o vene" (on inheritance).

    Chapter 6. "O opekah" (on trustees)

    Chapter 7. "O zapiseh i prodazheh" (on the conduct of business and taxes).

    Chapter 8. "O testamentah"(on testaments).

    Chapter 9. "O podkomoryh v poveteh i o pravah zemlenyh o granicah i mezhah" (on the local government and land ownership).

    Chapter 10. "O puschu, o lovy, o derevo bortnoe, o ozera i senozhaty" (On the use of land resources: hunting, fishing, honey hunting, etc.).

    Chapter 11. "O kgvalteh, o boeh, o golovschinah shlyahetskih" (on violations, fights and punishments of shlyahta)

    Chapter 12. "O golovschineh i o navezkah lyudej prostyh i o takih lyudeh i chelyadi, kotoraya ot panov svoih othodit, takzhe o slugah prikaznyh" (On the rights and punishments of servants and non-aristocracy).

    Chapter 13. "O grabezhah i navezkah" (on theft and robberies).

    Chapter 14. "O zlodejstve vsyakogo stanu" (on various frauds and wrong doings).

The Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is a document of great importance to Belarusian culture. Perhaps one day when Belarus would liberate itself from foreign cultural domination it would be studied in schools by Belarusians filling the blanks in their national identity.

References used in this file:

"Historyja belaruskaj (kryuskaj) knigi. Sproba payasnitel'naj knihapisu ad kanca X da pachatku XIX stagoddzya" [The History of Belarusian (Creeve) Book. An Attempt of Explanational Description From the End of X to the Beginning of XIX Century], Ed. V. Lastouski, Published by the Belarusian Center in Lithuania, Publishing House of Sakalouski and Lan, Kauno 1926.
UCB Library PG 2834.2 A12H51926 Main

This file is a part of the Virtual Guide to Belarus - a collaborative project of Belarusian scientists and professionals  abroad. VG brings you the most extensive compilation of the information about Belarus on the Web.
Please send your comments to the authors of VG to Belarus

History | Statehood | Culture | Law and Politics | Cities | Nature and Geography | Travel | Global Resources | Dictionaries | Chernobyl | Genealogy | Industry | New

1994-04 VG to Belarus