Poland's plan to gift Orban precious document draws scorn

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A unique 15th century ornamented manuscript on parchment is seen in a library in Torun, Poland, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. Local authorities and officials in central Poland are protesting government plans to offer Hungary a unique 15th century ornamented manuscript that is the most precious item of a library in Torun. A lawmaker with Poland's right-wing ruling party has proposed legislation that would allow the government to take possession of the manuscript and offer it to the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (AP Photo/Andrzej Goinski)

WARSAW – Local authorities and officials in central Poland on Monday protested government plans to gift Hungary one of the country's most precious manuscripts that dates back 500 years in order to highlight the two nations' close ties.

Torun city leaders and church authorities signed a petition urging lawmakers to abandon the plan to give away the 15th century document authored by Naldus Naldius, a writer and painter from Florence.

“We have the opinion of experts who say that this move would be against the constitution,” said Regional Governor Piotr Całbecki. “I think we should appeal to the hearts of the lawmakers and to their conscience. There is no room for politics here.”

A historian and lawmaker with Poland’s right-wing ruling party, Piotr Babinetz, has proposed legislation that would enable the government to take possession of the manuscript for sum of 25 million zlotys ($6.2 million) and give it to the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The gesture would aim to underscore the close relations between the two nations and governments as well as to reciprocate for Hungary’s decision to hand over last year a gilded suit of armor of the 16th century Polish king Sigismund II Augustus.

Naldus Naldius crafted the elaborately decorated manuscript while serving at the court of Hungary's King Matthias Corvinus. The book, which describes the Hungarian king's library, was sold by a merchant to the city of Torun in the mid 16th century and it has remained there ever since.

Danetta Ryszkowska-Mirowska, head of the Torun public library, described the manuscript as “unique and priceless” and said that no amount of money could compensate its loss for Poland's cultural heritage.

She joined other library officials to protest the plan she called “bizarre” and contrary to Poland's national heritage protection laws.

Poland lost much of its cultural heritage - particularly from its art and book collections - throughout its history, but especially during the bombings and plunder of World War II.