Piotr z Grudziądza (Piotr of Grudziądz, actually: Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz, 1392 – after 1452) was a Latin poet and composer. His life was connected to the Teutonic Knights in Prussia (which Grudziądz was a part of), university in Cracow (he became a Master of Liberated Arts in 1430) and the kingdom of the German king and emperor Frederick III Habsburg, with whom Piotr – as a chaplain – travelled a lot. His works were preserved in 53 sources of the Central Europe (e.g. southern Poland, Silesia, Bohemia, Slovakia, Austria, Saxony). They were copied since ca. 1419 until half of 17th century, mostly among the Catholic school and university groups, and by utraquist literary brotherhoods in Bohemia. They got variously transformed and adapted to their current functions; they were also cited by later composers (e.g. Presulem ephebeatum canon which was used as cantus firmus in Heinrich Isaac’s mass of the early 16th century).
Currently, about 40 pieces are applied to Petrus Wilhelmi (two of them without notes). As for lyrics, they can be distinguished by the “Petrus” acrostic (one piece has the full name coded: Petrus Vvilhelmi de Grudencz) while still belonging to the typical poetry of the late Middle Ages school and university groups. Musically, the works belong to various genres, characteristic for the multi-vocal music of 15th-century Central Europe (Latin songs, motets, canons). Some influences of Burgundy style are also visible (e.g. Kyrie fons bonitatis – the only piece without the acrostic). Music of Petrus Wilhelmi are mostly devotional, although they also functioned as liturgical, didactical, and entertaining pieces. They tend to have hidden meanings, or even numerical symbols (Probitate eminentem / Ploditando exarare motet).
Since Petrus Wilhelmi was discovered in 1970s, we have been uncovering new facts about his life and works – thanks to researchers from Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, United Kingdom, and USA. His music was added to repertoires of numerous prestigious early music groups, such as The Hilliard Ensemble (UK), Schola Gregoriana Pragensis (Czech Republic), Ars Cantus (Poland), La Morra (Switzerland). New records (discography of his pieces covers 18 CDs) as well as numerous live performances (including foreign early music festivals) appear. The first edition of the Early Music Festival named after Piotr of Grudziądz took place in May 2015 in Grudziądz.
Currently, Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz is believed to be the most important musician of the 15th-century Central Europe. The subject is interesting for both researchers and fans of the late Middle Ages.
Paweł Gancarczyk PhD – professor in the Art Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences