St Benedict’s Church
This small church can be seen from within only once a year, and its interior conceals a groin vault and the secret of the so-called black princess. The fort standing nearby is a relic of the days when Kraków was under Austrian rule.
The charming little Church of St Benedict, built in the 15th/16th century, is the oldest surviving masonry structure in Podgórze (a district of Kraków, until 1915 an autonomous city), built on Lasota Hill. Its foundations in turn conceal traces of a much older structure, from before 1000 AD. The interior of the church can only be visited once a year: on the first Tuesday following Easter, when the area comes alive thanks to Rękawka: a religious festivity that has its roots in the ancient Slavic cult of the dead.
The church conceals an uncanny mystery. An evil black princess is rumoured to live under the few steps leading to it. She is the guardian of innumerable treasures. Only he who falls in love with her and marries her can free the hapless girl from the curse. To meet your future beloved, you need, however, to climb the hill at midnight, when the witching hour looms. They say there was such a brave soul once. The black princess presented him with a fair sum of money and told him to spend it in three days, but he was forbidden from giving anything away. The young man ate, drank, and cavorted to his heart’s content. On the third day, once he has exchanged nearly all the ducats he had received for booze, he went back to Podgórze to meet his future wife. Crossing a bridge on the Vistula, he saw an ancient beggar. Pity gripped his heart and he gave the man the last pennies that were still jangling in his pocket. However, pity was not what the black princess showed: she tore the young man’s head from his shoulders, as she had promised. This is why she is still waiting around the Church of St Benedict for another daredevil to appear.
Standing beside the Church of St Benedict is the Fort “St Benedict”, which was raised in the mid-19th-century by the Austrians, who ruled over the city at the time. A part of the Fortress of Kraków, it is one of few surviving cases of military engineering of this type, the so-called Maximilian tower, unique in Europe. Currently it can only be observed from outside.
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