In Krakow’s Market Square there is a Church of St Mary. It is a Gothic monument built of brick, with a richly adorned interior. It had two tall towers, one of which is higher than the other and more ornate. From the taller tower a bugle-call is played by a trumpeter, every hour on the hour. It is repeated four times, but always ends unexpectedly. Here is the explanation of this.
In the 13th century, a guard, keeping watch over the city of Cracow saw an army of Tatars galloping towards the city. These invaders from the east had more than once advanced to Krakow and even farther, and they had pillaged and burned, looted and murdered and carried off the people to be slaves.
There was only one thing the trumpeter could do. He must play the Hejnal, over and over. That would surely arouse the citizens, they would certainly be aware of approaching danger. So he played, again and again. At first the people of Krakow were puzzled. But eventually they realised that an enemy was coming.
Away on the far meadows the Tartar warriors were mounting their horses and drawing their swords. But already the watchman could see the Polish archers arriving. The archers took up their positions along the battlements as the Tartars galloped towards the city. But by now the Polish arrows were flying. They rained down on the Tartar invaders, wave after wave. Eventually the Tartars were forced to retreat, and Cracow was saved from the Mongols.
When the joy over the victory died down they realised that the trumpeter who had warned them was dead. A single Tartar arrow had pierced the old watchman’ s throat and he had died. The trumpet was still clasped in his hands ready to blast out a final note.
The citizens of Krakow would never forget the act of the old trumpeter and it was decreed that a bugle call should be played each day in memory of the hero. And so for hundreds of years the ‘hejnal’ has rung out over Cracow’s rooftops for the noble watchman who saved the city.
Bugle call from the tower of St Mary Church in Krakow is Poland’s best known music and Krakow’s major attraction. You can download it to your mobile!