"As a sign of his presence, the presiding devil judge laid his hand on the table and scorched a mark on its surface. Having approved sentence, the devils promptly left the Tribunal."
The Devil’s Trial legend is one of the best-known episodes of Lublin’s Crown Tribunal. In 1637, a poor widow had a dispute with a wealthy nobleman. The judge examining the case passed a sentence to the advantage of the nobleman, unjustly harming the widow. The exasperated woman exclaimed in great despair that even if devils had sentenced her, they would have given a fairer judgment.
That night, the court writer heard carriages arriving in front of the building and in a while strange judges came in, wearing red gowns. They ordered the courtroom to be opened and then sat at the presiding table and called the widow’s case. One of them acted as attorney of the accused widow. The frightened writer noticed that the judges’ pointed features and evil eyes had something devilish about them and their raven-black hair masked hidden horns. Indeed, they were devils sent by God to retry the case.
The case was heard. The prosecutor was favourably describing the nobleman’s claims. False words were flowing like a waterfall. When their tempting sounds died away, the jury left to consider the verdict. When they came back, the writer quailed, as he heard a sentence to the widow’s advantage. Tthen Jesus Christ of the Tribunal shed tears of blood over human evil being worse than Satan’s, and turned his head away. As proof of his presence, the presiding devil judge laid his hand on the table and scorched its trace on the surface. Having approved the judgment, the devils swiftly left the Tribunal.
Next day, the news of the night visit to the Tribunal spread quickly, and frightened crowds gathered in the Market Square. The unfair judges rushing in for the next trial fell and broke their legs on the court stairs in front of the cursing crowd. Considering this a sign of divine retribution, those present called priests and the Miraculous Crucifix was moved by a procession to a chapel in the Collegiate Church where a propitiatory service was celebrated.
When St. Michael Collegiate Church was scheduled for demolition two hundred years later, the famous Crucifix was moved to the Cathedral where it has been kept safely in a quiet Blessed Sacrament chapel, surrounded by a multitude of grateful human hearts from all times, reminding believers of the old miracle in the Tribunal courtroom. The historic table with a scorched trace of the devil’s hand has been preserved and can be sometimes seen by visitors to the Lublin Castle Museum.
One of Lublin’s curiosities is the stone of misfortune which the subject of a gruesome legend. Today, the stone – a true persecutor of the humankind – still rests on the corner of a quiet Jezuicka Street, grinning as if wanted all by-passers to see a scar left on its face by the executioner’s axe.
It is said to have come from Sławinek near Lublin. In the early 15th century, it "held duty" on Bernardyński Square, once an execution square, as a support to an oak trunk dripping with blood of condemned men.
On one occasion, the executioner sheared off an innocent man’s head so ferociously that the trunk broke into two and the axe left a deep chip in the stone.
Then someone rolled it over to the square on Rybna Street. One day, a woman was passing by with a double pot, carrying a good dinner for her husband working on a building site. Next to the stone, she tripped and fell, the pots breaking into pieces on top of the stone. The smell of the soup seasoned with fat attracted a few stray dogs which attacked the food ravenously, licked the stone thorougly and all dropped dead. The sight of the dead animals stirred a great sensation and the square was named Psia Górka (Dog's Hill).
With the passing of time, people found out that by touching the stone with one’s hand or bare foot, a contact was established between the stone and the man, bringing bad luck on him. A baker could not resist having the stone and used it in the stove of his new bakery. Soon the man got burnt in the stove, locked in by his own wife and his journeyman who was making advances towards her.
The evil stone returned to Psia Górka and blinded a bricklayer who had struck it fiercely with a hammer. Soon afterwards, construction of the Trinitarian Church started, funded by Mikołaj Łoś of Grodków. After the walls were erected, people had an idea to roll the stone into the church and use it in the construction of the altar. It soon turned out that although the church building and the bell tower had been erected, the church would never be completed because of a shortage of funds to finish the interior. The church walls were bought several decades later by one Pawęczkowski who, having removed the stone, converted the building into a palace for himself which still stands on Psia Górka.
After the Orthodox Cathedral had been erected on Litewski Square, the stone of misfortune was placed next to and caused the death of a soldier who fell from the bell tower, crashing his skull on the surface of the malicious thing. Concerned about the integrity of the Cathedral in such a neighbourhood, the Russian authorities had the stone removed outside the town. When a power magazine was being built, it was somehow put in the foundations. As is well known, in 1919 the powder magazine blew up.
The stone remained in place for twenty years without any effect. Finally, it was put on the corner of Jezuicka Street, facing the Trinitarian Gate. When the war came, German pilots were flying over Lublin dropping bombs. And again the stone proved to be a curse, because most human casualties were reported in Jezuicka Street where it lay and around the Cathedral which it overlooked through the Trinitarian Gate. While the squadron was doing large circles, bombs were falling mainly within the operating radius of the stone of misfortune.
Today the stone, a true persecutor of the humankind, still rests on the corner of a quiet Jezuicka Street, grinning as if wanted all by-passers to see a scar left on its face by the executioner’s axe.
"Filipowiczowa, as well as other sorcerers shall be beaten and lashed with rods in the middle of the village and then expelled ten miles away from the village, and should they appear they shall be beheaded or go to the stake in punishment ".
Old books of the Lublin court contain descriptions of a dozen or so witchcraft trials. The heroine of one of them was Zofia Filipowiczowa – a wench servant with Mr. Jan Podlodowski in Kozice.
Zofia was an extremely caring and diligent servant, so she quickly won her master’s favours. Despite a big difference of age, he cherished affection for her. The poor servant was running and ruling his household like her own home. Over time, old Mr. Podlodowski’s affection cooled, but Zofia decided to prevent this by all means. She kept asking sorcerers in the surrounding villages what she should do. One of them advised Zofia to put a few drops of blood from her ring finger into a vesselwith a drink and serve it to the elderly gentleman. Another one advised her to dry a dove’s heart, grind it and eat it together. The advice worked. The landlord was always gladly coming back home to his Zofia and she was trying new practices to keep the affair going on as long as possible. Regretfully, Mr. Podlodowski was failing in health. Concerned with the situation, Zofia was fervently looking for help from sorcerers. They told her to bake bread with three ears of rye inside. Unfortunately, burnt rye ears unerringly indicated the man’s near death. And this was what actually happened.
The new owner of Kozice was the deceased man’s son Paweł. The encouraged servant decided to use her tricks to attach the young master to herself. However, her efforts failed. Other servants informed him about Zofia’s practices. As young Podlodowski was not a very caring landholder, his farm was doing very badly. Animals were dying, hail was destroying crops. The young landlord understood that the cunning servant and the sorcerers were behind his father's death and all other misfortunes. He ordered that all witches be caught and taken, together with Zofia, to court in Lublin. The matter proved to be very complicated. The court decided to submit the accused to a triple trial by torture. Luckily, this idea was opposed by clergy and noble citizens of Lublin. Therefore, the town court sentence of 1640 read as follows: "Filipowiczowa, as well as other sorcerers shall be beaten and lashed with rods in the middle of the village and then expelled ten miles away from the village, and should they appear they shall be beheaded or go to the stake in punishment ".
The largest piece of the Holy Cross Tree in the Catholic world, kept at the Dominican Church in Lublin triggered many extraordinary events linked together by golden links to form a precious chain.
First of all, it is important to know about a strange act of Providence associated with its arrival.
Willing to make Lublin the seat of the relic, Grand Princess Anna (10th c.), having married Vladimir, the Grand Prince of Kiev, refused to leave Constantinople until she weedled the Holy Cross Tree out of the royal treasury. Several centuries later, as compensation for a Catholic cathedral burnt by the Tatars, Prince of Kiev Ivan offered the relic resting in the treasury since Princess Anna’s times to Bishop Andrzej of Cracow. Therefore, on his way to Cracow, Bishop Andrzej stopped for a rest at the Dominicans in Lublin.
Yet God manifested his will in a clear way: the horses refused to go any further until the box with the relic was taken off the cart. And when the bishop, having understood the supernatural sense of that event, decided to leave the Holy Cross Tree in Lublin chipping off only a little piece for another church, the chisel pierced his hand when he was doing this. He then completely gave up and promised God that the relics would become forever Lublin Dominicans’ indivisible property and consolation.
Soon after that, a Gdańsk merchant, Henryk, gave in to the temptation and stole the relic from the church, but he only reached the place where the KUL building is situated today. Something happened to the horses, they did not move any further. Many a time has God’s will been expressed through those most noble of animals.
The repentant merchant returned to the town, delivered the Holy Cross Tree to the prior and, at the place of his reflection, he built a wooden St. Cross church.
Wonders started happening at the Dominicans, commemorated in church paintings. A severely ill Eufemia Walicka, having entrusted herself to the relic’s care, suddenly recovered. Jan Gryza who had limp legs, having said prayers at the miraculous chapel, threw away his crutches and came back home healthy. Notarial records contain a number of proven healings and other wonders.
When Bohdan Chmielnicki arrived at Lublin with his army in 1649, the frightened residents prayed at the foot of the altar in the Dominican Church. The prior of the community ordered a procession with the Holy Cross Tree in the Town Hall. When the procession was coming to an end, a mighty, menacing sword appeared in the suddenly darkened skies, surrounded with strange brightness, and started floating over the town, casting rays of light like lightnings. And each of them formed a new sword until the whole sky was covered in signs of fighting, as if legions of angels had rushed against an enemy of peace.
Chmielnicki saw the signs in the skies and, overwhelmed by superstitious fear, he ordered a retreat and withdrew in panic.
In 1651, when Colonel Daniel Neczaj and his Cossacs moved against the Polish army, pious and lucky King John Casimir entrusted the fate of the battle to the care of the Holy Cross Tree. After his grand victory at Vinnytsia, Krzysztof Tyszkiewicz, the Chernihiv Voivode acting on the order of the King, deposited Neczaj’s baton and seven trophy standards with the Dominicans as votive offering .
In 1719, the great fire of Lublin* turned back and went out under the miraculous force of the Holy Spirit emanated by the relic carried by a procession within the radius of the raging fire. That event was commemorated by a painter on the sacristy wall in the Dominican Church, and in the contemporary times a copy of the painting has been made.
In September 1939, during a ferocious German air raid on the Old Town, a procession of believers with the Holy Cross Tree also poured out and, having encircled the Tribunal, they went back to the church. The facts prove that this part of the Old Town was undamaged by the raid.
The holy relics adored by King John Casimir, King Stanislas August and by uncountable numbers of pilgrims, in the olden days and today, have been taking care of Lublin.**[RGR_21]
–- This must be a dating error. I mean the 1719 fire: that event is depicted in the oil painting handing in the Dominican Church, titled "The Fire of Lublin in 1719".
–*- In 1991, the relics were stolen from the Dominican Basilica and have not been recovered to this day.
It is summer of the year of our Lord 1282. Lithuanians and Yotvingians tyrannize the Lublin region. Leszek the Black, Duke of Cracow, hastens to the relief of our town. The road from Cracow is long. When the troops finally reach the Bystrzyca, the enemy is no longer there, having left in face of challenge from the mighty ruler. A tired Leszek falls asleep under an oak tree.
In a dream, St. Michael Archangel comes to him. He **hands him a royal sword and says: Leszek, son of Kazimierz, follow the enemy.
Leszek and his troops immediately followed the invader. The Duke defeats the Lithuanians and the Yotvingians. As token of gratitude for the victory, Leszek the Black fells the oak tree under which he had his dream, and turns its trunk into an altar base. The altar becomes part of a church funded by the Duke, which then serves Lublin’s burghers for six centuries.
Today, the St. Michael parish church is no longer there, but we know exactly where the tree once grew, under which Leszek the Black had a dream.
The night was pitch-black and a rainstorm was rolling over Lublin. When yet another lightning struck, illuminating the market square with a deathly glare, it also cast light on a cart standing in front of the town hall. This surprised everyone who had sought shelter from the storm in the town hall, because the town gates had been closed long ago and no cart could have driven in. What surprised them even more was that the cart, drawn by two Ukrainian oxen, was without a coachman. There was a box on the cart.
When servants brought the box inside, panting heavily, and broke the staple off, they jumped back in shock. It was all filled with gold and jewels. On top, there was a letter addressed to Jakub Kwanta, the man who, together with Mikołaj son of Krystyn and Maciej Kuminoga had donated land to the Friars Minor of the Observance for the erection of a brick church. One of the burghers immediately ran out in front of the Town Hall to see if there was something else left on the cart. He saw neither the cart nor the oxen. And the town gates remained closed.
“I bestow this treasure to complete the construction of the church,” read Mikołaj to whom the servants had handed the letter. And so, thanks to the mysterious box, the construction of the church and the monastery was finished. They are there to this day, on Wolności Square.
At the turn of the 14th century, Lublin burghers were seeking borough rights. However, there was no way they could reach Prince Ladislaus Elbow-High who was then preoccupied with suppressing a mutiny of Cracow and Sandomierz burghers. Finally, an opportunity arose because the Prince was looking for allies and a delegation of several envoys was sent to Cracow.
Prince Ladislaus received them warmly and listened to their stories about the town. He was told how a she-goat survived a Tatar invasion and even managed to feed a pack of her offspring in a ravine, and promised the envoys to grant town privileges to their home town. The only thing remaining was to confer a coat of arms on the new town. The Prince agreed with one of the envoys, a Dominican friar, that the coat of arms should depict the she-goat as a memento of the Tartar invasion, and a vineyard. The coat of arms was to be designed and painted by Cracow heraldic artist Mikołaj. But Mikołaj, an old drunk, got lost somewhere and when the Lublin envoys eventually reached his home to collect the work, they were given a wrapped painting. When they unwrapped it on their way back home, they were terrified they would bring dishonour on the town, as they saw an old, long-haired billy-goat gorging himself on grapes. They were wrong – the burghers were so happy with the rights conferred on them that they did not pay any attention to the coat of arms.
Her name was Helenka. Or maybe Tereska? She got up very late because she went to bed very late. But when she was opening her window on the first floor of the house at number 4 on Złota Street, all traffic was put to a halt in the street. Passers-by stopped and watched for her fair head to appear or a piece of underwear to flash in the window.
Tereska! Tereska! Voices were resounding in Złota Street. Little boys chasing about were calling her name jokingly. They too wanted to have a glimpse of the goldsmith’s pretty daughter. Her father had a shop on the ground floor and, like most of the craftsmen running their shops in the area, he was making fine gold rings, earrings and hairclips.
Tereska was stretching lazily on her down-filled bed, laughing brightly. The sweetie was the apple of her father’s eye. He was deaf to matrons coming into his shop and griping. “If I see my husband behave funny when we’re passing by your house, I will tear all hair out of your gal’s head,” they were shouting at the poor goldsmith. “If I see my son running out of your house at dawn, I will knock your bonny Tereska into the middle of next week!,” added others.
It appeared that only daddy was unaware that older and younger gents were sneaking into his house to meet the pretty miss. The young lady had so many admirers because each and every one of them could be sure she would be completely discreet. They went in through one door and left through another, never having a chance to meet. The only witness of the night trysts on the first floor of the Goldsmith’s House was the gold rooster on Trinitarian Tower. To this day, the rooster crows only when a faithful husband crosses the gate.
The summer theatre building was willingly hired for circus performances. The audience was always fully packed. Józio – this was probably the young gentleman’s name – often visited the place with his friends. All his life he would remember the night when a troupe of travelling acrobats performed at the theatre. The light of oil lamps was reflected by sequined costumes of beautiful girls swinging on trapezes under the theatre dome. And suddenly Józio saw something more glittering than sequins and stars.
He saw the eyes of one of the acrobats, a raven-haired beauty using the stage name of Inez. The youngster fell in love with the circus artist. They went for walks in the light of the moon. Józio ardently assured the girl of his lifelong affection. And the heart of beautiful Inez reciprocated his feeling. Every morning, after she parted with her beloved one, the girl counted those few days left to the end of her contract. “I’ll leave and he will forget about me,” she worried. In the end, she took a decision. On the night before the last performance, she said to her lover: “I’ve made up my mind, you must introduce me to your Mom, I’m staying.”
The boy was on the verge of fainting, yet it was not because of his overwhelming affection but because he faced the prospect of telling his mother that her pampered only child had chosen a gadabout with no property or reputation. So he explained to his sweet Inez that she did not have to sacrifice herself so much for him and break her stage career. “I’ll be suffering terribly,” he said, drawing his words out in a sweet tone, “but I’ll be brave”. Inez gave him a terrifying look and disappeared. And during her last performance, when she was flying just under the theatre roof, instead of catching the trapeze, she fell down.
The soul of the unfortunate suicide turned into a water nymph (rusałka) and the whole district was named after the event. To this day, gibbering, moaning and sighing can be heard in the local corners. Especially in summer, husbands tend to disappear here for whole nights and weekends.
When the night is moonless and windy, you’d better not take Bernardyńska Street. It is especially advisable you should walk well clear of the Sobieski Palace. Not only can hymns and sounds church bells be heard from the nearby brewery – obviously empty at this ungodly hour - but there is also something strange, mysterious and terrifying going on in the palace itself...
Stairs are creaking, doors are slamming, windows are opening all of a sudden, and footsteps can be heard in the dark corridors... “See, Boczarski’s back,” say the oldest residents of Bernardyńska Street, nodding knowingly.
Who was Boczarski? When the Radziwiłłs brought the palace to ruin after years of using the place taken over from the Sobieski family, they sold the buildings to a Lublin lawyer, Dominik Boczarski. Boczarski decided to have a windmill built within the walls of the building. A tower was erected and windmill wings were placed on top of it. But they were fixed horizontally. No wind could propel wings positioned this way and Boczarski went bankrupt.
The desolated palace was bought at an auction by the Brzeziński brothers who established a steam mill there. But Boczarski did not forget about his palace, and when he died, he started appearing there at night. And for many years, anyone who went bust in a spectacular way was said to have "made a deal like Boczarski with his mill".
The sunshine was beautiful, it was May or maybe July. The surrounds of our town, which was yet unnamed, were covered in greenery. The pure river Bystrzyca was swiftly rushing amongst hills. “Hey, you, fishermen, what town is it?,”, asked a prince who stopped by the river with his companions. He jumped off his horse, passed the reins to his squire and approached the men standing by their boats. They were standing in awe because such mighty lords had never been seen stopping their horses on the Bystrzyca.
“We don’t know, my lord,” stammered the bravest one. “Why, are you also travelling?” asked the prince. “No, my lord, we live in the town but it has no name,” explained the fishermen, admiring the travellers’ rich garments and horse harness.
Then the prince decided the place would be called after the fish the locals catch in the Bystrzyca. He told them to cast nets. The knights were standing on the bank, watching. When the seine was pulled out, there were two fish caught – a pike and a tench (called lin in Polish). And the prince said, stopping a dispute which started right away on the bank: “the pike is a river wolf, I don’t want the people living here to be like this, and the lin is a gentle fish, so let’s choose one of the two ... wait a moment ... pike or tench (szczupak lub lin...) let your town be called lub-lin. And the prince left Lublin satisfied.
The Ziemia Lubelska daily of 20 March 1906 posted a disturbing note in its “City Chronicle” column, titled "Murder on a Train". The author reported: "The news reaching the residents of the city of Lublin has it that the daughter of a former Lieutenant-Colonel of the Ryazan Infantry Regiment Mr. Mensen, Mrs. Kondratievova, who settled in our city quite a long time ago, was murdered while on a railway journey in a Western country, and her body was found near a park”.
The rumours that reached Lublin’s citizens were true. Mrs. Tamara Kondratievova, wife of a Russian banker and industrialist, was murdered in rather mysterious circumstances. She was probably knifed on the train and her body was then dumped on a square by the station in Cracow.
Was she headed for Cracow? Or maybe she was going for the waters, to one of the-then fashionable spas, maybe to Baden-Baden, or maybe to Krynica? This the people did not know. Tamara’s body was brought to Lublin and buried in the cemetery on Lipowa Street. A sandstone column was erected on her grave, representing a broken tree trunk. Attached to the column was a small, oval photograph of a woman with a shapely head on a slender, uncovered neck, a round face with big, mysterious eyes and hair tied in a large bun in line with fashion.
No doubt she was a beautiful and intriguing person. Not only those who knew her stopped by her grave for many years thereafter , but also all inhabitants of Lublin who were moved by her mysterious death. Speculations about the murder over Tamara’s grave could be compiled into a great novel of manners about people of those times entangled in politics, passion, hazard, financial and honorary matters.
Tamara, a young married woman, an extremely temperamental person with unpredictable whims and ignoring the proprieties, cheating on her husband with an ambitious young officer desirous of a rapid career, became a burden to both those men at a certain point in time. Her husband was unable to control her fancies, and for the ambitious officer his protracting and well-known affair with a capricious and eccentric married woman was becoming an obstacle to his career. In Lublin, in the inter-war years, two versions of her death were known to the public. Some people believed she fell victim to a knifer hired by her lover, while others suspected she was killed by a thug commissioned by her jealous and humiliated husband.
She could not have travelled alone. Ladies of her station were nornally accompanied by servants. However, the knifer somehow found her alone in a railway compartment, killed her and managed take her body out of the train. Did he have an accomplice? Also this question remains unanswered. Gossips pointed at Lublin’s thug, Marian Marczyk, who – as many Lubliners believed – had been allegedly hired to kill Tamara. A few years later, in the turmoil of war, Marczyk himself was killed. An unknown perpetrator shot him three times. The photograph of the pretty woman was still to be seen on the grave column in the 1960s, and on the sixtieth anniversary of Tamara Kondratievova’s death bells were ringing in the Lublin Orthodox church.
Source: Zbigniew Włodzimierz Fronczek, Romans w Lublinie (Encyklopedia lubelskich legend, sensacji i anegdot), Polihymnia 2007