Let’s go to the tower of St Mary's!

31 March 2017

The bugle call (called hejnał in Polish ) is as inseparably linked with St Mary’s Church as with Kraków itself. Played every hour on the hour from the taller church tower (81 metres) by duty guards, it marks the time, and in the past it served as a warning of fires or enemy attacks. It’s also the subject of a legend of a mediaeval bugle player who sounded the alarm on spotting approaching Tatar hordes. He was able to warn the city, although before he could finish playing, his throat was pierced by an arrow fired by one of the invaders. Ever since then the melody stops abruptly in the same place when the brave guard was killed playing it…

The higher tower of St Mary’s (known also as hejnalica) is open to visitors from spring to autumn. The viewing platform is accessible by almost 300 steps. Count for yourselves exactly how many! While you’re taking the long climb, why not ponder the following:

  • According to Cracovian legend, the architect of the tower was murdered by his resentful brother who wasn’t able to build as fast and as high.
  • The first written mention of the hejnał dates back to 1392!
  • The first named bugle player was Iwan Mikulski, listed on a payroll from 1629.
  • Since 1927, Polish Radio has been transmitings the hejnał live at noon every day, making it the longest-running regular radio broadcast in the world.
  • The bugle duty has been dominated by men; the only exception was Anna Kula, student at the Academy of Music in Kraków who played the hejnał on New Year’s Eve in 1993.
  • The hejnał is played in the four directions of the compass: towards Wawel Castle for the king, towards the Town Hall tower for the mayor and city officials, towards the Saint Florian’s Gate and the Barbican to welcome visitors, and towards the Small Market Square for the merchants and traders.
  • By the entrance to the tower, a plaque commemorates the bugle caller Antoni Dołęga who died while on duty in 1901 (he managed to play the hejnał three times, but silence spread instead of the fourth call…).
  • Although the hejnał legend is beautiful and moving, it’s actually relatively recent: it first appeared in the 1920s in a book by an American author!

 You can visit the taller tower of St Mary’s between 1 April and 31 October between Tuesday and Sunday (excluding religious festivals):
--> Tue-Sat 9:10am-5:30pm (every 30 minutes; closed between 11:30am and 1:10pm)
--> Sun 1:10pm-5:30pm (every 30 minutes)

From 1 November to 30 December and bewteen 1 and 31 March
(excluding religious festivals):
--> Thu-Sat 9:10am-5:30pm (every 30 minutes; closed between 11:30am and 1:10pm)

Entrance from Floriańska Street in ten-person groups every 30 minutes.
Tickets:
standard PLN 15, concessions (7-18yo) PLN 10; ticket office at 7 Mariacki Square
Please note that children aged seven and under aren’t permitted in the tower for safety reasons!

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