The Piast Trail part 4 – From Inowrocław to Kowal
This is the last part devoted to the largest tourist trail, which is connected with the beginnings of the Polish history. The section from Inowrocław to Kowal is closely related to the last Piast kings – Władysław the Short and Casimir the Great. It was Kujawy that for years was the home of the rulers, before Władysław Łokietek, appointed King of Poland, took the throne at the castle in Krakow. The last Piasts often returned to this direction because of their tense relations with the Teutonic Order. It was near the village of Płowce that Władysław Łokietek fought his hard fight to maintain the Polish state. Just like the other points of the Piast Trail, it is best to get to these in one of the comfortable and safe cars from PANEK Rent a Car.
Inowrocław, one of the capital centers of the Old Polish Kujawy region, is often called “the town on salt”. In ancient times, the amber route ran here, and the natural salt springs in the vicinity attracted the settlers who gave rise to the city. The first reference to Inowrocław, mentioning the princely market “in Novo Wladislaw”, appeared around 1138. It was here that the future king, Władysław Łokietek, was most likely born. Unfortunately, only chronicles are a testimony of the city’s history, because only two fragments of the defensive walls remain from the medieval times. Inowrocław was completely destroyed by the Swedes and razed to the ground in 1656. To this day, only two fragments of the gothic defensive walls (entered in the register of monuments of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship) have survived: at the music school (ul. Kilińskiego) and in the yard of the property at ul. Poznańska and Kasztelańska streets. The latter fragment is displayed in the wall of the Kujawy Cultural Center, in one of the rooms of the permanent archaeological exhibition “Askaukalis Inowrocław”.
Gniewkowo, located between Inowrocław and Toruń, is one of the oldest towns in Kujawy. It was once the seat of the Duchy of Kujawy, which appeared on the arena of history as a result of the division of Poland into districts. A monument that remembers the turbulent times of the principality is the Gothic church, the history of which is closely related to the history of the city. The first mention of the church in Gniewko – then a wooden chapel, belonging to the church of Peter the Apostle in Kruszwica dates back to 1185. The brick church was built much later. The construction of the temple is attributed to the Prince of Kuyavia, Kazimierz Konradowic, son of Konrad Mazowiecki, reigning in the years 1239-1257), and its call is commemorated by St. Konstancja – in honor of the wife of Kazimierz (mother of Leszek Czarny and Siemomysła inowrocławski), who bore the same name. Two stages of the church construction are clearly legible: the eastern part of the chancel is early Gothic; in the second, late gothic phase of construction, the chancel was extended and the nave and two corner porches were added. After the Northern War, in the 18th century, the church was rebuilt, adding a baroque tower topped with a cupola and a turret for a bell. The vault of the temple, covered with polychrome from the time of reconstruction after World War II, which depicts the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, rosary secrets and images of Polish saints. The décor of the church comes from the 17th and 18th centuries in a baroque and rococo style. In the center of the main altar there is a group of the Crucifixion, on the sides there are sculptures depicting St. Nepomuk and St. Nicholas – the patron of the church. Co-patron of the temple – St. Constance is depicted in the triptych of the side altar, accompanied by St. Barbara; the side wings show the companions of St. Konstancja: Saints Ursula and Catherine, martyrs from Cologne at the turn of the third and fourth centuries. In 2018, Gniewkowo will celebrate 750 grants of city rights.
Kruszwica is called the legendary capital of Poland. In Roman times, the amber route ran here. In the early Middle Ages, in the tribal state of Goplan, the strategic role of Kruszwica resulted from its location on the crossing of Lake Gopło, on the route that connected Mazovia and Greater Poland with Pomerania through Kujawy. The Mouse Tower, an unwritten symbol of the city, is a remnant of a gothic castle built in the times of Casimir the Great, which was the seat of the starosts of Kruszwica. After being demolished during the Swedish Deluge, the castle was finally pulled down at the end of the 18th century. Only fragments of the outer defensive walls and an octagonal tower with a height of 32 m, known as the Mouse Tower, have survived to our times. The origin of this name is not fully known. One hypothesis is that the name of the tower comes from the Myszek family, who ruled over the people of Goplan, and the other that the Teutonic Knights may have brought it with them, seeing it resembling the Mouse Tower located in Bingen in the Rhine bend.
We all know the legend about Siemowiec, son of Piast and Rzepicha, and the evil ruler of Popiel, which was first written by Gall Anonym. Well, when Prince Popiel was giving a feast on the occasion of his son’s cut-off, he did not let two unknown travelers who came to him “by the secret will of God”. The wanderers, however, found hospitality in the cottage of Piast and Rzepichy. They named their son Siemowit and predicted a great future for him. The prophecy came true: Siemowit removed Popiel from the Kingdom and proclaimed himself the ruler, the progenitor of the Piast dynasty. The son of Siemowit, in turn, was Leszek, and Leszek was Siemomysł, the father of Prince Mieszko I. The Mouse Tower is located on the picturesque Gopło Lake, one of the largest Polish lakes with a length of 25 km. In 2011, a part of the castle cellars with an exhibition of castle relics was made available to visitors, and a fragment of the drawbridge connecting the castle with the city was also reconstructed. To the east of the Mouse Tower, in the neo-Gothic palace, there is an archaeological exhibition presenting the history of the settlement on the Gopło River.
The village of Płowce lies on the old route between Brześć Kujawski and Radziejów, and most Poles associate it with the battle of the troops led by King Władysław Łokietek with the Teutonic Knights. After the victorious battle, Bishop of Kuyavia, Maciej of Gołańcza, buried the fallen and erected a chapel on the site of the battle, which became the beginning of the Płowce parish. 500 years later, a monument commemorating the king and the event itself was erected in the place of the battle, but it was destroyed after the First World War. A copy of the commemorative plaque is currently in the Kujawy Museum in Włocławek.
In 1961, on the six hundred and thirtieth anniversary of the Battle of Płowce, another 22-meter-high monument designed by Stefan Narębski, an artist from Toruń, was erected on a small mound on the battlefield, and another one located at the local cemetery of knights killed in the battle. Among the more interesting “exhibits” of the cemetery there is also a stone, in the upper part of which there is a large hollow. According to the local tradition, after the battle was over, Władysław Łokietek himself washed his hands and sword in a stone filled with water. For several years now, with the participation of thousands of spectators, a historical spectacle has been held at the foot of the monument – the staging of the memorable battle of Płowce.
Brześć Kujawski, one of the oldest settlements in Kujawy, was a fortified castle in the Middle Ages. The first mention of Brest comes from 1228. In 1236, Konrad Mazowiecki handed over Kujawy to his son Kazimierz, who in 1250 granted B Christian town rights. The development of the city was related to the seat of the Kujawy Piast line, as a son was growing up Casimir, Władysław Łokietek, king of Poland. His coronation ended the period of regional breakdown in Poland. In the town, it is worth visiting the square – Władysław Łokietek Square, on which there is a monument to this ruler, made in 2009 according to the design of Tadeusz Wojtasik. The monument shows the king in field clothes, with his left hand resting on a sword and his right hand on a coat of arms.
From the time of the occupation of the city by the Teutonic Knights, fragments of the city walls are made of brick in the Gothic layout, surrounding the city in a semicircle; today, their fragments are embedded in the buildings, and the largest part of the walls has been preserved in the post-Dominican monastery complex. The monastery and church founded in 1264 by Kazimierz Kondradowic were later destroyed and rebuilt many times.
Włocławek is one of the oldest cities in Poland. This is evidenced, among others, by the equipment of the collective box grave of the Globular Amphora culture from around 2500-2300 BCE. In the first half of the 11th century, a defensive castle was built here, protected by two rivers, a moat and a wooden and earth embankment. In the museum of Kujawska and Dobrzyń, wooden fragments of the embankment as well as medieval products of local crafts are presented. The so-called “Czara Włocławska” – one of the most valuable preserved monuments of pre-Romanesque craftsmanship related to the beginning of Christianity in Poland. This unique find went to the National Museum in Krakow, and in the museum in Włocławek, you can admire its faithful copy. The museum also exhibits elements of the 14th and 15th-century knights’ weapons, the most valuable items include two 14th-century Teutonic swords found in the Koło County. In the 16th century, Włocławek was a large grain trading center, the townspeople had their own fleet, and there was a royal customs house at the port. The end of the former Włocławek brought the Swedish Deluge and the town was completely burnt down. Furniture and handicrafts as well as measures and weights used in the Vistula trade come from the period of his town.
It was in Kowal where the greatest and at the same time the last of the Piast kings – Casimir the Great was born. This fact was noted by the Polish chronicler Jan Długosz in the “Annals, or Chronicles of the Famous Kingdom of Poland” – his multi-volume work describing the history of Poland from the legendary Piast and the founding of the Mieszko state to the contemporary times of the chronicler, in 1480. Our present-day inhabitants of Kowal commemorated the king’s birthplace with a monument, and the royal city of Kowal was included in the newly developed route of the Piast Trail. On the 700th anniversary of the birth of Casimir the Great, a monument to the king was unveiled here. The designer of this granite monument, measuring 7 meters along with the pedestal, is the artist-visual artist Artur Jeziorski from Kowal, and the sculptor Tadeusz Biniewicz from Gostynin is the contractor. On the occasion of the jubilee, a new park was created in the city. King Casimir the Great. Unfortunately, few relics from the city’s past have been preserved in the city. These include: the parish church of St. Ursula with traditions dating back to the end of the 12th century, and the fire station standing on the foundations of the demolished castle.