Wawel Royal Castle is undoubtedly the most valuable monument in Kraków - the historic home of Polish rulers. It was behind its walls that Kings made decisions that had an impact on the fate of the state. No wonder that many legends have appeared in this place, eagerly told by the inhabitants of Kraków and written down by chroniclers.
The legend of The Wawel Dragon
The most famous legend associated with Wawel is, of course, the one about the dragon who lived in the cave under the castle hill. He did what dragons usually do: he bothered the peasants by burning their farmlands, eating their cattle or, occasionally, a virgin.
The legendary King Krak, who would not allow for such offences, especially under his own house, decided to get rid of the problem. The king offered a generous reward for slaying the dragon. As usual - a sack of gold, a share of the kingdom and the princess’ hand (of course with the entire princess) in marriage. When the news spread, the bravest knights began arriving in Kraków. However, none of them was able to kill the beast. The King was beginning to lose hope but suddenly, an unexpected candidate for a dragon slayer appeared in the castle - the local shoemaker Skuba. Skuba did not look like a fighter. He was an ordinary boy; He had neither armour nor weapons.
However, instead of steel and muscles, he had something more valuable - cleverness and intelligence. He had an idea how to defeat the Wawel Dragon by trickery. He filled a sheepskin with sulfur and put it under the dragon's den at night. When the dragon woke up and saw his potential breakfast, took the opportunity and ate the sheep. The sulfur started to burn him from the inside. The beast rushed to the bank of the Vistula River. The dragon drank, drank and drank until… he exploded, and that was how his life came to anend. In memory of this legend, in front of the real cave under the Wawel Castle a fire-breathing dragon statue was erected.
Find out more about the Wawel dragon legend here.
There was a dragon - there are bones. At the entrance to the Wawel Cathedral, there are huge bones hanging on a chain. Legend has it that they belonged to the Wawel Dragon, and if they fall, the Wawel hill will collapse into the ground and the end of the world will begin. Fortunately, conservators in the Wawel Cathedral pay special attention to taking care of the chains, so nothing like this should happen soon.
The legend about a talking head
One of the most impressive rooms of Wawel Royal Castle is the Envoys' Room, due to its interesting ceiling with the sculptures of tiny heads. These are portraits of nobility and burghers. Sculptures symbolise the openness of Polish Kings to the daily problems of all people.
It is no coincidence because in the Envoys' Room, audiences and trials took place. However, one of the heads does not match the others, because its mouth is gaged. The legend dated back to King Sigismund August’s times says: one of the merchants in the Krakow Cloth Hall sold beautifully decorated belts. Unfortunately, a thief showed up and stole one of them. He was noticed, and people in the crowd started to scream: "catch the thief!". The villain, feeling that he would not run away, decided to stealthily throw away the item. A poor widow noticed the belt on the ground. No sooner had she picked it up, and started to look for the owner than she was caught and accused of theft. The explanations were useless, and the woman was brought to the King. That day, the Monarch was extremely tired. He listened only to the crowd, and he did not even allow the woman to speak - she had been caught with a stolen item, so the fault seemed to be obvious.
She got a prison sentence. The desperate woman shouted: "If no one wants to stand up for me, let those wooden heads speak at least!". Suddenly, silence fell over the room. One of the heads came to life and said: “Rex Auguste, iudica iuste” (Latin: judge fairly, King Augustus) then fell silent again. Although the King was offended by the questioning of his sentence, he sent his people to the market to investigate the matter. The king's envoys quickly found many witnesses who testified that they saw the man throw the belt away. The case was discontinued, but the king ordered to gag the talking head so that no one would ever interfere with his judgement again.
Ghosts of the Cathedral and the White Lady of the castle
The Wawel Cathedral is also haunted by three ghosts. The first of them is bishop Jan Grot buried in the chapel of St. John the Evangelist. He keeps order in the church, he even haunts the King for stepping on his grave. Sometimes he scares tourists who behave improperly in the temple. The other two ghosts are the spirit of bishop Paweł from Przemanek and the spirit of bishop Zawisza from Kurozwęki. These two are harmless, they do penance in the Wawel Cathedral for their dissolute lives. It happens that they ask visitors for a prayer.
In the Wawel Royal Castle, at night you can run into the spirit of the beautiful Barbara Radziwiłłówna. She was the beloved wife of King Sigismund August, who died shortly after their wedding. Sigismund August loved his wife so much that he wanted to see her again. This task was undertaken by the famous master Twardowski, the hero of many Krakow legends. When he was casting a spell, he ordered the King to not move when Barbara's ghost appears. However, when he saw the ghost of his wife, King wanted to throw himself into her embrace. Twardowski stopped him, but Barbara disappeared. Since then, the Queen's soul has been suspended between the world of the living and the dead. So she spends her eternity strolling the Wawel hill at night.
The Sigismund Bell
The most famous Polish bell. Sigismund tolls only during the most important holidays and celebrations. Its beating also accompanies the most distinguished Poles on their last journey. There are several legends associated with the bell. According to one of them, Sigismund I the Old, after victory over the Muscovites, decided to melt down all the seized weapons into a large bell as a token of gratitude to God for the success in the battle. Bell founders were making their work more pleasant with music. One musician accidentally dropped his lute into the mould. Apparently, thanks to this, Sigismund has a beautiful, unique sound.
Another legend tells about a 13-year-old boy, Staś, who lived at the foot of the Wawel Castle. One day, while playing with his friends, he decided to climb the church towers to see the famous bell. On the top, Staś pulled the rope and rocked the clapper of the bell. The fun did not last long because the boys were quickly stopped by angry monks. They brought the kids downstairs where the bishop was already waiting. Staś admitted that it was his idea to ring the bell. He wanted to hear it ring for him. “Sigismund beats only for men of honour” - the bishop rebuked him. Then Staś says that someday he would become such an outstanding man. Years later it turned out that he really kept his word because the boy was Stanisław Wyspiański - a prominent Polish artist. When he died in 1907, according to his wishes, no speeches were given at the funeral. The only thing that said goodbye to him was the sound of the Sigismund bell.
According to the beliefs, as long as the Sigismund bell hangs on the Wawel Cathedral's tower, Kraków will not be in danger, its sound disperses the clouds. Touching the clapper of the bell brings good luck.
Christmas Eve deliberations
On Christmas Eve, the ghosts of former Kings have a meeting in the basement of Wawel Castle. They sit for hours and debate on the fate of Poland. They are chaired by Bolesław Chrobry (the first crowned King of Poland). After a while, an unnaturally big knight shows up in the chamber.
"Is it time, my lord?" the knight asks
“No, not yet,” says Chrobry.
Then everything disappears.
The knight's question is related to another Polish legend, according to which, an enchanted army sleeps in the Tatra Mountains in Giewont mountain. They will awake and fight at a critical moment for the country.
This legend is a theory popular among fans of esoterics. According to them, a magic stone is hidden under the Wawel Castle. The story is connected with the beliefs concerning the Hindu god Shiva, who threw seven magic stones in seven directions of the world.
The chakra legend is very young, it was created during the Second Polish Republic, and had a renaissance in the 1980’s - thanks to the New Age movement. People who believe in the Wawel chakra claim that they can absorb life energy and wisdom from a magic stone. They believe that even a short stay in the chakra area allows you to sink into relaxation.
Does the stone really exist? Nobody knows, but it must be admitted that a visit to the Wawel Hill is really relaxing, and contact with history, which seems to come alive in this place, can be an almost magical experience. So, even if you do not believe in chakras, ghosts and dragons, it is worth visiting the Wawel castle walking in the footsteps of legends.
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Learn the history and functions of individual buildings of the Wawel Castle and the surrounding area during a pleasant walk with a professionally prepared audio guide.