City Sights

The Legends of the Stare Miasto: Part 1

Wroclaw Stare Miasto

A couple of months ago, I shared with you some of the many great folk legends that can be found on Ostrów Tumski, Wroclaw’s cathedral island. Today, we’re taking it one step further by looking at some of the local legends from Wroclaw’s city centre, the so-called Stare Miasto (old town).

For those of you interested in locating some of these things for yourself, there is a map at the end of the article. Check it out!

The Gambling Priest​

St Elizabeth's towerThere’s no denying that Saint Elizabeth’s church is one of the most beautiful buildings on the Rynek. It was built back in the 14th century as a place for Catholics to worship, but for most of its history (from 1525 – 1947) it was firmly under the control of the Lutheran church. What was the reason for this change?

Well, it all goes back to a man named Scultetus, the priest who was in charge of the church back in 1525. Scultetus was a good man, but unfortunately he had something of a gambling problem.

One day, Scultetus challenged the local Lutheran priest Henry Rybisz to a game of dice. At first, luck was on his side and he won a lot of money, but then he got greedy. Extremely confident, he placed all of his winnings on a single throw of the dice and, inevitably, lost.

Henry Rybisz was a shrewd man, however, and he allowed Scultetus to remain in the game provided he could offer up something of value. Eager to continue playing and regain the money he had lost, Scultetus decided to gamble the most valuable thing in his possession: ownership of Saint Elizabeth’s church itself.

Needless to say, he lost, the church passed into Lutheran hands and Scultetus spent the rest of his life in shame. 

Lightning on the Bell Tower

bell tower wroclawIn 1529, four years after winning the church in a game of chance, a huge storm hit the city of Wroclaw. Saint Elizabeth’s church was pelted on all sides by hail the likes of which it had never seen and for many hours the sky above the church was filled with lightning.

One bolt of lightning hit the bell tower at the top of the church, knocking it clean off and causing it to smash into pieces on the courtyard below.

When the storm finally passed, the Catholic worshipers were quick to point out that it must have been a sign from God that He was greatly displeased the church was no longer theirs.

However, the Lutherans pointed out that no one had been hurt during the storm – a miracle considering how badly the church had been damaged! They claimed that God must have been on their side after all, and that he must have sent his angels to protect the worshipers hiding inside the church.

In fact, the only casualty of the storm was a single black cat, which had been crushed to death by the falling bell tower. Since black cats are often associated with witchcraft, this was further proof to the Lutherans that their church was literally a weapon against the forces of evil.

To this day, you can see a plaque commemorating this event on the side of the church. In this image, you can see several angels gently lowering the bell tower to the ground so that no one will be hurt by its fall. 

The Bridge of Penitents 

On the other side of the Rynek sits the Church of Mary Magdalene with its distinctive bridge-linked towers.

Many years ago, Wroclawians were convinced that every night at around dusk, they could see white figures with brooms in hand walking along the bridge between the towers.

These figures were said to be the souls of girls who had tried to escape domestic duty during life, now condemned forever to walk the bridge at night, cleaning it in their wake.

Legend says that if an unmarried couple walks the length of the bridge while holding hands, their love for one another will never fade.

To read the next installment of Robert's Legend's of Stare Miasto, visit wroclawuncut.com next week!

Interactive Google Map:

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Robert Burgess

Rob Burgess hails from that sunny island in the heart of Europe known only as Britain. Despite living in Poland for the last five years, he still feels like a complete newcomer and is constantly being surprised by everything the city throws at him.

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