Comenius 2008-2010 Multilateral Project

This site is an outcome of the Comenius 2008-2010 multilateral project "European Journey Through Legends".


"Becoming more European does not mean forgetting our national cultural heritage, but sharing it with other European nation".

Legend about King Popiel

Popiel, (9 cent.). is the first legendary prince of Poland ruling from Gniezno. Single mentioning about him comes from the Chronicles by Gall Anonymous from beg. of 12 cent. (book I, chapter 1-3). The information is a part of Piast story, the protoplast of Piast dynasty reigning in Poland, therefore it is funded on the Polish Court tradition.

The story contains two episodes. The first is related to the cutting of the hair (initiation) of two Popiel's sons ceremony simultaneously with cutting of the hair of Siemowit, son of Piast, poor footman of Popiel; Popiel plays a negative role in that episode since he drove away two strange guests from the feat, what turned to the Piast's advantage for the strangers invited by Piast for a modest treat miraculously increased quantities of food and bear, so that even Popiel with his court and guests invited to share the  meal, satiated themselves.

The second episode announces elevating Siemowit to the throne at the Popiel's disadvantage.  Prince Popiel, ruler of the Polanie tribe in ancient Poland, was married to the ambitious Ryska, in whose hands he was like putty.  She wanted to place her German kinsman at the head of the Polanie, and the naive Popiel agreed to her wily plan, even at the expense of his Uncles' lives. Both Popiel and Ryska invited his uncles to a feast at which the guests were given Miod (honey wine). When the Polanie learned that their Prince and Ryska had committed murder, they vowed vengeance. Taking refuge in a high wooden fortress in Kruszwica, on the edge of lake Goplo, Popiel and Ryska thought they were safe in the impenetrable tower. Legend has it that God sent swarms of rats and mice to gnaw through the solid walls, fell upon the wicked Popiel and Ryska and devoured them.  The tower still exists and is known as the Mouse Tower.


Both episodes belong to classic medieval stories, common to many cultures. They can be reduced to two details: Popiel reigned in Gniezno and lost the crown to Siemowit and Siemowit established new dynasty ruling the tribe of Polanie, being a core of future kingdom of Poland.



Popiel became a character of literature ("Myszeis" I. Kracicki, "Krol Duch" J. Slowacki (rapsod I), dramat "Popiel i Piast" M. Romanowski and "Stara basn" J.I. Kraszewski).




King Popiel

Poem by Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz
Those were not, it is certain, crimes just like ours.
It was all about dugouts carved out of linden trunks
And some beavers' pelts. He ruled over marshes
Where the moose echoes in a moon of acid frosts
And lynxes walk in springtime onto the drying holms.

His palisade, his timber fort, and the tower
Built by the fins of the gods of night
Could be seen beyond the water by the hidden hunter
Who dared not push aside the branches with his bow.
Until one of them returned with the news. Over the deep into the rushes
The wind chased the largest boat, and it was empty.

Mice have eaten Popiel. The diamond-studded crown
He got later. And to him, who vanished forever,
Who kept in his treasury three Gothic coins
And bars of bronze, to him who went away,
No one knows where, with his children and women,
To him lands and seas were left by Galileo,
Newton and Einstein. So that, for long centuries
He might smooth, on his throne, his javelin with a knife.



Mice Tower In Kruszwica (remaints of a castle)



The Mouse Tower in Kruszwica, constructed in 1350, incorrectly associated with Popiel


The castle was a Kruszwica sub-prefect seat. In XIII cent. it was a property of the Calisia prince, Boleslaw, after that it it belonged to the Kujawy princes. Since 1319 it belonged to king Wladyslaw Lokietek. The Teutonic Order knights won the castle in the battle and burned it. King Kazimierz Wielki restored the castle and later he left it by his will to the Slupsk prince Kazko, but the king's will was voided and the castke with the town went to the king Ludwik Wegierski's estate. The castle was once more taken by the Swedes and burned on June 18, 1657. Since then it was just a ruin. Finally it was taken down almost entirelly at the end of XVIII cent. and the brick was sent by barges to Inowroclaw. The 100 feet octogonal tower some of the adjoining walls is all what remains today. The tower was hosting prisoners in the past. Its name comes from the legend on king Popiel who was eaten by mice.

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