The Piast Trail part1. – From Wągrowiec to Biskupin
If we talk about the beginnings of the Polish state, the legend of three brothers: Lech, Czech and Rus, each of whom went his own way to ensure the well-being of future generations, immediately comes to mind. As we remember from the message, Lech remained in the area of today’s Greater Poland, and his descendants built beautiful Poland.
Due to the fairly large distances between individual attractions, the Piast Trail is best explored by car, and modern and well-equipped vehicles from PANEK Rent a Car are particularly well suited for this. In a series of several texts you will read about the places where the first Piasts lived, the settlements where Polish was born, as well as multimedia museums where whole families will spend a fantastic time. The trail consists of two routes running through the Wielkopolskie and Kujawsko-Pomorskie voivodeships.
Łekno and Wągrowiec
The Cistercian Order, established in 1098, quickly spread throughout Europe and in 1143 (or 1145) a decision was made to establish an abbey in Łekno. On April 23, 1153, the most important dignitaries of the time (including the Archbishop of Gniezno, Jan, Mieszko III and the Bishop of Poznań, Stefan) arrived in Łekno and signed the founding document of the monastery. The document, created in triplicate, is the oldest in Polish archives. One of them is stored in Poznań, and the other two are in the archdiocese archives in Gniezno. The monks, whose task was to build the monastery, came to Łekno from Altenberg near Cologne in Germany. The stone church they built and the surrounding monastery buildings created one of the richest Cistercian monasteries in Poland. According to the chronicles, in the mid-fourteenth century he owned 59 towns around Łekno and other estates in Greater Poland and Pomerania. Unfortunately, as a result of subsidence, the monastery buildings began to crack and at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, the Cistercians began to move to the newly built monastery in Wągrowiec.
The monastery in Wągrowiec, erected for almost 100 years, was built with the order’s own funds, and the final date of completion is assumed to be 1493. The importance of the abbey and the school for boys from noble families grew from year to year. Its most famous graduate was Jakub Wujek, born in Wągrowiec, later a Jesuit and translator of the Bible into Polish. Uncle’s translation served as the basic Catholic translation of the Bible for over three centuries, and on his monument in front of the parish church in Wągrowiec there is an inscription “He gave the Polish speech the holy scripture”. The present interior of the monastery is very modest. Its rich old furnishings were destroyed in a fire in 1945, but the preserved photos and descriptions allowed for the reconstruction of its main elements. The main altar was reconstructed in 1960, and the most valuable exhibit is a late-gothic statue of the Madonna and Child, made of linden wood, probably from 1510.
Legend has it that the Church in Tarnów Pałucki, whose patron is St. Mikołaj, was brought here by the great water that flooded the village after the spring thaws and heavy downpours. The conducted excavations allowed to state that the first wooden chapel in this place was erected in the 13th century. The present church, practically preserved in its original state, was built at the end of the 14th century, most likely in 1374, when King Casimir the Great granted the town municipal rights. So we are dealing with the oldest wooden church in Poland, and the last renovation and maintenance was carried out in the years 1998-2001. The entire interior of the temple is covered with a breathtaking polychrome, created around 1639, under which there are earlier paintings. Noteworthy is also the richly decorated altar by the Franciscan Adam Swach, known, among others, from frescoes in monasteries in Ląd, Owińska and in the Franciscan church in Poznań.
Znin and Venice
Often called the capital of Paluki Żnin, welcomes tourists with a high town hall tower built in the 15th century, but this Gothic monument is not the only attraction of the city, because the remains of the embankment of a medieval castle, which existed in this place from the 6th to the 8th century AD, have survived. In turn, the famous chronicler Jan Długosz mentions the need to build a fortified fortress for the purposes of wars led by King Bolesław the Wrymouth. The city located on the Amber Route quickly gained in importance, and the privileges granted to its owners by the Duke of Greater Poland Przemysł II (own coins) made Żnin rich. Unfortunately, it also became a tasty morsel for the Teutonic Knights, who plundered and completely destroyed the city in 1331. After the reconstruction and surrounded by a wall, Żnin again became an important point on the Amber Route. Today, the brick tower houses a museum in which the history of money, the history of Jan and Jędrzej Śniadecki and Klemens Janicki are presented.
Not everyone knows, and Poles have their Venice. Ours is located 6.5 km south of Żnin. You can get here by car, but we recommend a trip by narrow-gauge railway, and if the weather permits, by boat on the lakes: Żnińskie, Skarbinskie and Venetian. The castle in Venice was built around 1390, on a small hill on the route connecting Żnin with Gniezno, in a strategic place on the turbulent Polish-Teutonic border. The lord of the castle and the settlement lying at its feet was Mikołaj Nałęcz from Chomiąża, the castellan of Nakło, after whose death his grandson – Mikołaj Nałęcz from the Pomian family with whom several legends are connected, took power. Well, the new owner liked the valuables to such an extent that he robbed all his subjects and kept the treasures in the castle cellars. He quickly became known as the Venetian Devil. How did this legend end? Visit Polish Venice and check it out for yourself. Today, only ruins remain of the medieval castle, but there is a museum of siege machines and medieval artillery worth seeing.
This historic settlement needs no introduction. It is the oldest in Poland and the second in the world archaeological site containing almost intact exhibits from 2700 years ago. The ancient settlement was situated on an island to which a 120-meter-long wooden bridge led. The settlement itself was surrounded by a 460-meter-long embankment and a wooden breakwater, which also played a defensive role. It is estimated that even 700 – 1000 people could live in wooden houses. The original elements of the breakwater can be admired at the entrance to Biskupin, but nearby archaeologists an even older settlement of the first farmers, which functioned here in the Stone Age, i.e. 6,000 years ago! Today, Biskupin pleases tourists not only with physical testimonies of the past. Regular festivities and meetings with history, festivals of medieval music and dance are organized here, and there are workshops on firing ceramics, minting coins, archery and much more.