Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
In Krakow (south of Poland) there is a bugle call played hourly from one of the towers of St Mary’s church, four times to the four winds. The traditional characteristic tune (that is the Hymn to our Lady – called by the Poles: Hejnal) is connected with an old legend – therefore the melody ends abruptly.
According to the story about the Krakow bugler, this tune was played in the times of danger – such as fire or invasion. The person watching the city and its walls from the tower would play this tune with his trumpet to inform the citizens of Krakow about the upcoming danger. One day, when he spotted the Tatars approaching the city, the bugler decided to warn the people in Krakow and wake them up by playing the hejnal. The citizens were thrilled to hear this sound, especially when they realised what it meant, but managed to save the city. As the trumpeter was playing on the tower of St Mary’s Church, the Tatars noticed him and realised that he was warning the city. In the middle of the tune, the arrow pierced his throat and the melody was ceased abruptly. In honour of the trumpeter, the hejnal is till now played in Krakow and it has been always broken off at the very same note.
Krakow is the city full of legends and traditional stories – some of them are more while the others less probable. Many historians checked how possible it is that the story about Krakow trumpeter is true. The city indeed was many times invaded by the Tatars – and some people try to connect the legend with the most important invasion that took place in 1241. However, there are no mentions about the bugle call in historical records until the end of 14th century. We also know that the melody was forgotten in 17th century and revived again in 1810. In 1927 it was adopted by Polish radio and it is played live every day at midday to be heard in whole Poland. In Krakow it is the firemen who plays nowadays the hejnal that is heard in the whole centre of Krakow.
It does not matter for most of the Poles whether the legend about the trumpeter, saving Krakow from the Tatars, is true. The most important thing here is the tradition that keeps the history and the actual bugle call alive – as the story is passed to younger generations that still, after so many years, may hear the bugle call from the tower of St Mary’s Church in Krakow.