Knight’s Tournament for the Golden Braid of Tarłówna

For those too lazy to read – listen here: Knight’s Tournament for the Golden Braid of Tarłówna.

The late gothic knight’s castle in Dębno near Brzesko was built in the years 1470-1480 by the will of the Grand Chancellor of the Crown, castellan of Kraków Jakub Odrowąż, a native of Dębno. In the same place once stood a timber and earth thirteenth-century stronghold probably belonging to Świętosław from the Griffin family.

The present building is considered to be a pearl of Polish architecture from the late Gothic times and is one of the showcases of the Dębno commune as well as the place of the annual International Knights’ Tournament for the Golden Braid of Tarłówna…

… One of the lords in Dębno, named Tarło, had a beautiful golden-haired daughter with braids reaching the ground. Already as a child in the cradle, Anna was betrothed to a certain Spytek, the future heir from Melsztyn. Teenage Ania Tarłówna, however, fell crazy in love with one of her father’s servants. She confided this feeling to her father. Tarło did not even want to hear about such a relationship and reminded her that she had already been promised to another man.

But since Anna was Anna, she defied her father’s will. So he ordered the courtiers to dress her in a wedding dress, and then wall her up in the castle tower along with all her wedding dowry. He also ordered to kill her unfortunate lover.

When the heir, plagued by remorse for his wicked act towards his only daughter, finally ordered the wall of the tower to be smashed, Anna was already dead.

People say that since then, on moonless nights, the spirit of Tarłówna (the dead daughter), has been walking through the castle chambers as a white lady, dressed in wedding robes. Her unhappy crying freezes the blood. The heavy doors of the chambers open and close then by themselves, and cold wind swooshes through the corridors, despite of all the windows being tightly closed.

The legend was confirmed by the discovery of the skeleton of a young woman, found at the beginning of the twentieth century in the castle tower along with a long golden braid.

Every year, knightly brotherhoods from all over Europe come to Dębno to fight for the Golden Braid of Tarłówna. And what a wonderful spectacle that is! Combined with a fair of crafts and delicious old-style Polish food. Juicy shanks, country-style sausages, beer, marinades, mead…. ah the tables bend under these riches. And the smell of bonfires and barbecues floats in the air for several days after the fights.

Knights and nobles dressed in noble costumes stroll among crowds of onlookers. Children, like hypnotized, absorb every minute of the spectacle with their eyes and mouths wide open, doing everything to be able to even just touch the sword or armor. Amazing fun.

The event ends with concerts and firework displays.

I, due to the fact that I do not live in Poland, have so far managed to participate in only one of these tournaments, the 15th. But in Dębno I have been many o’times and not only at the castle, but also in the beautiful Church of St. Margaret’s, which is only a 10-minute walk from the castle.

In front of the entrance to the church, which is not always open, and in which many renovations are currently being carried out, the famous shell of St. Jacob appears. So what does that mean? It means that Dębno lies on one of the countless Routes to Santiago de Compostela.

Jan Długosz, first Polish chronicler, himself recalled the fourteenth century wooden church dedicated to St. Margaret here. Apparently, local peasants saved Princess Kinga from the attack of the Tatars and the temple was built as a result of this.

The present sandstone temple, was founded in the years 1470-1504 by Jakub Odrowąż, the same who founded the castle, and ended by his heir Jakub called Szczekocki. The church was consecrated to the Holy Trinity, but 100 years later, the original invocation of St. Margaret was restored.

The church is built on a simple plan: one central nave with a rectangular chancel from the east, and a tower from the west. It is the tower that is the only part of the building that is stone in the lower part, but its wooden starling is covered with shingles. At the southern wall of the nave there is a porch (vestibule) with a stone, stepped portal decorated with the Odrowąż coat of arms. Beautiful, characteristic of the Gothic era buttresses are clearly visible.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, a thorough renovation was carried out here under the direction of the Krakow architect Zygmunt Hendel. The church was not in use for part of the nineteenth century due to the poor structural condition of the temple.

Conservator and painter of the Faculty of Conservation of Works of Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, Prof. Dr. Józef Dutkiewicz designed and made a wall polychrome in 1956. It shows scenes of the Passion of the Lord and episodes from the life of St. Margaret and the figures of biblical prophets.

The cross vault covers the chancel, and there is a wooden ceiling in the nave. The most eye-catching is the rainbow beam separating these two parts of the temple, placed in an arch. It is on it that the eighteenth-century baroque crucifix is hung.

The main altar is a triptych with the image of the Holy Trinity in the central part and groups of singing angels on the wings. The central painting depicts the founders of the triptych: Jakub Szczekocki with his wife Barbara and ten of their children. This image is called the Throne of Grace and is an allegory of the Holy Trinity. It is a copy of the seventeenth century painting, the original central part of which is now in the National Museum in Kraków. The copy comes from the mid-nineteenth century and was made by the painter Józef Gucwa.

The patroness of the church – St. Margaret is depicted on a colorful stained glass window brought from Vienna in 1903, located above the altar.

Noteworthy are also the organ, which in the oldest part come from the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The year of completion of their construction is about 1800.

“Originally, this organ was a positive, which was rebuilt in 1877 by organ builders from Stary Sącz: Baranowski (probably Józef) and Jan Grocholski, who, among others, added a pedal section on a cone windbreaker. The organ was renovated in 1957 (Wojciech Grzanka), 1980 and 2008 (Sławomir Piotrowski from Modlnica)”.

Current disposition of the instrument:

Manual partPedal
1. Principal 4′1. Subbas 16′
2. Flute 8′2. Oktavebas 8′
3. Dolce 4′
4. Quartet 2 2/3′
5. Octave 2′
6. Siflet 1′
7. Flet 2′
8. Mixture 2 ch
9. Portunal 4′
10. Bourdon 8′
Maciej Babnis, Jan Grocholski – przyczynek do dziejów organmistrzostwa w Galicji, [w:] Organy i muzyka organowa XI, Gdańsk 2000

I can’t wait to hear them one day. Church music has so much magic in it. And it’s so rare nowadays to hear original live performances. Maybe one day I will find a rectory and ask for a small concert.

Visit Dębno and be sure to go to the Tournament in September next year!



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