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A Polish Legend of Bravery and Heroism

the trumpeter of Kraków

Continuing with our series on Myths and Legends, here is one of the most popular legends in Poland: The Legend of the Trumpeter of Kraków.

There is beautiful Gothic church in the middle of the city of Kraków, the former capital of Poland. Everyday a trumpeter plays a fanfare four times consecutively each hour from the tallest of its towers. But the fanfare always ends on a broken note. This is not due to a lack of good trumpeters in Krakow. Behind the broken note there is an awesome story of bravery and heroism.

Back in the 13th century, an old watchman standing over the church tower saw one day a huge army approaching. It was the fearful Tartar warriors galloping towards Kraków. They had come before and had pillaged and burned the city as well as looted and murdered the people of Kraków. So there was only one thing the watchman could do alert the city: play “the Heynal” (St. Mary’s dawn hymn) over and over.

the trumpeter of Kraków

The churh in Kraków where the trumpeter played.

At the sound of the Heynal being played over and over the people of Kraków were at first puzzled, maybe even annoyed, but they eventually realized what was going on. The Polish archers quickly took their positions. They shot their arrows wave after wave until the invaders suffered great losses, all under the tune of the Heynal. In the end the Tartars retreated and the city was saved.

While the people of Krakow were celebrating their victory, they realized that they couldn’t see the watchman  in the tower anymore. They looked for him until one of his friends found him. The watchman was still in the tower, lying dead as a Tartar arrow had pierced his throat. Yet he had not let go of his trumpet, and in fact his body was ready to blast out one final note.  The brave trumpeter had died saving Kraków, but he had not finished playing.

From that day, it was decreed that the Heynal be played every hour in memory of the trumpeter of Kraków. And up to this day, the Heynal has been played from the church’s tower. You can still go today and hear this awesome tune in Kraków during one of your free weekends of our service programs in Poland.

the trumpeter of Kraków

A view of one of the many churches and historical sites in Kraków.

the trumpeter of Kraków

The streets of Krakow as of today.

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