he oldest traces of human presence on the largest of the five islands of post-glacial lake Lednica date back to the Stone Age and are probably related to the existence of a settlement inhabited by Neolithic hunters and shepherds. In Bronze Age, this land was populated by a community linked to the Lusatian culture, while from the Roman times there are traces of old blast furnaces and bloomerys used by the local people to make iron. The first Slavs appeared in Ostrów in the 6th or 7th century. However, the turn of 9th and 10th centuries, when a small fortress was erected in the south-western part of the island, is more interesting to us. Two baptismal pools, discovered in the palace chapel, allow us to assume that this is where Mieszko (d. 992), his family and the court could take their first sacrament in 966. However, while the place of the prince's baptism still remains a matter of conjecture and speculation, the conclusion that during the times of first Piasts the island served as one of the most important princely residences no longer evokes such emotions and is considered to be a historical fact based on the results of archaeological research. The huge, as for those times, complex with a stone chapel, palace and two bridges connecting the island with the mainland, was an administrative headquarters of the so-called Ostrów castellany. This stronghold, located near the routes connecting Poznań with Gniezno, Kruszwica and Płock, may have also been the residence of Mieszko's wife, Doubravka (d. 977). Her son, Duke Bolesław Chrobry (d. 1025), could also be born here. In the year 1000, he probably hosted in Ostrów the Emperor
Otto III, who made a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Adalbert.
THE MOST IMPORTANT FORTIFIED SETTLEMENTS IN EARLY MEDIEVAL POLAND
FIRST POLISH RULERS FROM OSTRÓW LEDNICKI
Mieszko I (ca. 920~945-992) - the first ruler of Poland, was the son of Siemomysł. He is considered to be the founder of the Polish statehood. Using alliances or by force he subjugated Kujawy and probably Eastern Pomerania and Mazovia, he also fought for Western Pomerania, occupying it as far as the Odra River. In the last years of his life he joined the war with Bohemia, conquering Silesia and perhaps Małopolska. In 965, he dismissed seven pagan wives and then married the Czech princess Doubravka. And a year later, by receiving the first sacrament, he incorporated his country into the Christian culture world. In the early 90s of the 10th century, together with his second wife Oda Dytrykówna, he issued a document called Dagome iudex, in which he defined borders of the Polan's State, described as civitas Schinesghe, and gave it under the Pope's care. This document is the basis for a discussion about the name the prince may have chosen at baptism. There is a hypothesis according to which Mieszko was supposed to call himself Dagobert. In Dagome iudex this name could be deformed while copying or combined with Mieszko's name (Dagome = Dagobert + Mesco).
Bolesław I Chrobry (967-1025) - first king of Poland, in 1003-1004 prince of Bohemia, son of Mieszko I and the Czech princess Doubravka. An ally of Emperor Otto III, whom he hosted in 1000 in Gniezno on a ceremonial synod organized as part of Otto's pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Adalbert. This event resulted in the confirmation by the Emperor that the Polish state and its ruler were independent (Chrobry was symbolically crowned). During this visit the Archbishopric of Gniezno and its subordinate bishoprics in Kraków, Kołobrzeg and Wrocław were established. After Otto's death, Chrobry argued with his successor Henry II the Holy, waging long-lasting wars with him, which ended with the Polish occupation of Milsko, Lusatia and Moravia. In 1018 he invaded Kiev and placed on its throne his son-in-law, Świętopełk the Cursed. During this expedition, he raped and then abducted the Russian princess Predislava Vladimirovna , who had not previously agreed to become his wife. Bolesław was crowned in 1025, a few months before his death. His rule was cruel and ruthless - he abandoned his wives, blinded his opponents and carried out aggressive international policies in order to achieve his goals. Because of his overweight and rude manners, he was called a hog by his enemies.
Mieszko II Lambert (990-1034) - king of Poland in 1025-1031, son of Bolesław Chrobry and Emnilda, Slavic princess. After his father's death, he took power and probably expelled his two brothers from the country. He organized two destructive raids on Saxony and waged defensive wars against Germany, Bohemia and the Russian princes. Mieszko fled in 1031 after the invasion of Poland by Jarosław the Wise, who put his brother Bezprym on the Polish throne. He settled in Bohemia, where he was captured and castrated, which was to be a punishment for the sins of his father, who ordered to blind the Czech prince Boleslav III Ryšavý. Although Mieszko returned to Poland in 1032 nut, as Gall Anonim wrote, he had no more wife. He died in 1034 leaving the state weakened by numerous war conflicts and a bloody pagan reaction, territorially significantly reduced compared to the beginning of his reign. It was written about him (free translation): Mieszko, the Duke of Poland, died prematurely, and the Christian faith, started there by his predecessors and strengthened by him, has misfortunately fallen.
PLAN OF RYBITWA VILLAGE WITH A PART OF LEDNICKIE LAKE AND OSTRÓW ISLAND, 1835
he period of Ostrów's prosperity as a center of state power probably came during the reign of Bolesław Chrobry, and was ended due to the invasion of the Czech prince Břetislav (d. 1055), who in 1038 burned down the stronghold and bridges leading to it. Archaeological findings discovered on the bottom of the lake prove that the island did not give up without a fight, and the battle was already taking place on bridges and perhaps also in the water. Although after these tragic events the settlement was rebuilt and surrounded by a new rampart, but it was not decided to repair even one of the crossings, so from now on the only way to get to the island was by boat or raft. Thus, it did not regain its former function and rank and finally collapsed after the Teutonic invasion in 1331. Later, Ostrów Lednicki became a kind of an island of the dead, serving only as a cemetery, while the status of the main center of power was taken over by Pobiedziska, where one of the princely seats was located. The last known castellan of Ostrów was Wawrzyniec (1397), who at that time administered on the neighboring island of Ledniczka, where a small stronghold with a wooden tower operated.
'BUILDINGS AT OSTRÓW LEDNICKI', DRAWING BY WŁADYSŁAW ŁUSZCZKIEWICZ FROM 1874
or the next few centuries no one was interested in remains of the mysterious castle - and certainly not in the historical sense. In the early 1840s, the then owner of the island treated the ruins of the palace as a source of cheap building material, taking away from here four hundred carts of stone and a large amount of limestone architectural details. Only in the period of fading Romanticism, when Wielkopolska was under Prussian occupation for more than half a century, the public started to be more interested in Lednica and its history. In 1842 the island was visited by Count
Edward Raczyński, the aristocrat of Wielkopolska, patron of science and art, who in his book Wspomnienia Wielkopolski (Memories of Wielkopolska) placed the first Polish description of the ruins, recognizing it as the castle of Bolesław Chrobry. Three years later, on the initiative of Gniezno landrat, pioneering archaeological research of the ruins began, the already fatal condition of which was best illustrated by Franciszek Staszic's commentary (1851): ...everything here is in the greatest disorder, because deadly hand, greedy for other people's treasures, has left traces of vandalism here... In 1856, the area was purchased from the Prussian authorities by Count
Albin Węsierski of Zakrzewo. Shortly afterwards, he began to carry out intensive research here, the results of which he later published at many international archaeological conferences, including those in Bologna, Brussels and Stockholm. In 1873, John Baker Green, an English journalist, visited the island at invitation of the Count, and then described it in the London newspaper The Morning Post. To commemorate this visit, the host gave 11 brakteates found in Głębokie village as a gift to the British Museum. Węsierski also intended to erect statues of Polish patriots Joachim Lelewel and Aleksander Count Przeździecki on this site, but these plans were cancelled by his death in 1875.
'ZWALISKA POD LENNĄ GÓRĄ O PÓŁTOREJ MILI OD GNIEZNA ODLEGŁEJ', EDWARD WALENTY KRAINKO 1842
THE FIGURE SHOWS AN ARCH, DESTROYED BY A GERMAN CLERK NAMED GADDOW
strów Lednicki became the property of his son Zbigniew Zygmunt Węsierski-Kwilecki (d. 1926), and later
Józef (d. 1928) and
Dobiesław (d. 1941) Kwilecki, who were not interested in continuing their father's and grandfather's archeological passion. The former duke's seat became an object of attention again after Poland regained its independence, and the main promoter and advocate of preserving the memory of this place became Father Dr.
Franciszek Wawrzyniak (d. 1941), parish priest of Dziekanowice. In 1930 the ruins on the island were entered into the register of monuments, and two years later extensive archaeological and anthropological research was started, which resulted in discovery an over 1500 human skeletons and skulls that were the remains of a medieval cemetery. Also in the 1930s, a wooden tourist hostel was opened on the grounds of the castle.
Its opening, combined with the celebrations of the 970th anniversary of the baptism of Poland, was attended by the President of Republic of Poland
Ignacy Mościcki and the Primate
August Hlond. During World War II, there was a Hitlerjugend camp on the island. After its completion, archaeological work was resumed, which led to discovery a remains of medieval bridges and uncovering the foundations of the castle church. In 1969 the area of Ostrów Lednicki was given to the Museum of the First Piasts at Lednica. In 1978 a characteristic roofing of the ruins was made.
PARTICIPANTS OF THE 970TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE POLISH STATE VISIT THE RUINS , 1936
THE PICTURE COMES FROM NAC RESOURCES
he duke's seat occupied two gentle hills in the southern part of the island and was surrounded by a wooden-earth rampart about half a kilometer long and allegedly several meters high. Its fortifications were made of wooden structures filled with soil and reinforced with stone. The stronghold was built on the site of another, smaller one, which originally measured about 40, and after the enlargement - over 150 meters in diameter. Within the walls there was a representative palace with a chapel and church, complemented by smaller buildings with a wooden structure of residential and utility character. In the northern part of the island, outside the line of ramparts, a lower town was located. It consisted of dozens of houses, 10 to 40 square meters in size, inhabited by craftsmen and farmers, and probably also by the prince's warriors. These small cottages were built of wood supplemented with clay and stones, many of which were partially buried into the ground. The characteristic feature of these buildings were corridors leading directly to the entrance.
OSTRÓW LEDNICKI PLAN: 1. RAMPARTS, 2. STRONGHOLD, 3. PALATIUM, 4. CASTLE CHURCH,
5. LOWER TOWN, 6. EASTERN BRIDGEHEAD, 7. WESTERN BRIDGEHEAD
A PHOTO PUBLISHED IN 'SPOTKANIA Z ZABYTKAMI' MAGAZINE, 1996
he most important and best preserved building in Ostrów Lednicki was the palace and sacral building complex. This east-west-oriented building originally served as a prince's palace and court chapel as well as a baptistery, as evidenced by the two baptismal pools discovered here. Later, it was rebuilt and served as the seat of the castellan, while the chapel could be used during funerals when a cemetery was established on the island. The western part of the complex was occupied by the palace (palatium), erected on a rectangular plan with sides of about 32x14 meters, made of stone joined with gypsum mortar. It had five rooms,
the largest of which were divided by arcades into two naves and covered with a wooden ceiling. The size of this chamber and the quality of its architectural details makes it possible to assume that it served as a representative prince's hall. The function of the other rooms is unknown. Probably
the narrowest of them, occupying the central part of the building, was used as a staircase.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE PALATIUM AND THE CHAPEL ACCORDING TO T. WĘCŁAWOWICZ AND M. ROSÓŁ
HYPOTHETICAL CROSS-SECTION OF THE PRINCE'S HALL (ORIGINATION: MUZEUM OF THE FIRST PIASTS AT LEDNICA) AND THE PRESENT STATE OF THE PALACE RUINS
n the eastern part of the complex there was a two-storey chapel, built on the plan of the Greek cross, with
four pillars of a quarter circle section. These pillars supported the
central tower, which was probably erected later, perhaps only in the second half of the XI or XII century. In the arms of cross, remains of two
baptismal pools 15-30 cm deep were discovered, which prompted historians to the thesis that this is where Mieszko, Duke of the Piast Dynasty, was baptized. The swimming pools were connected with
chambers: a changing room and a place where rituals preparing for the liturgy took place, i.e., Satan's renunciation and confession of faith. They could have been located in a rectangular annex added to the chapel from the west, and separated from the palace by previously mentioned staircase.
he palace and the chapel were rebuilt at least twice more. In the second half of the XI century or in the XII century, the partition walls of central rooms of the palace were removed, and in its eastern part
three-storey tower was erected, to which straight stairs led. The baptistery was also liquidated, and the interior of the chapel was adapted to other needs (funerals). The further history of the prince's palace is unknown. It is only certain that in the times of Jan Długosz (XV century) it was a ruin.
THE CHAPEL'S CROSS-SECTION (STATUS FROM THE X CENTURY), THE LETTERS A AND B MARK THE BAPTISMAL POOLS
RELICS OF THE CHAPEL
ENTRANCE TO THE CRYPT, WHERE SEVERAL DOZEN HUMAN SKELETONS WERE FOUND DURING EXCAVATIONS
n the northern part of the settlement, near the gate there was a small stone church. It was a single-aisle building, 13.5 meters long, with a
rectangular presbytery and
two modest annexes probably having liturgical and funeral functions. Six graves dating back to 1038 were discovered in its basement, including
two placed in brick chambers in the nave - a space reserved for the deceased of high social status. This leads to the conclusion that people who had a close connection with ruling dynasty, perhaps the sons of Mieszko or Bolesław Chrobry, were buried in these chambers. In the immediate vicinity of the church, a large number of valuable liturgical objects have been discovered, including a Byzantine stauroteka (a reliquary for relics of the Holy Cross), a gold-plated liturgical book fitting and an ivory comb. The remains of glass candelabra were also found, as well as fragments of colored glass (from stained glass windows?). Some historians consider this building to be a former monastery, the seat of a Russian clergyman's dignitary and even Bishop Jordan's Cathedral, as suggested by historical record of Długosz from the 15th century. However, there is no doubt that the preciosis found here proves that in the second half of the 10th century the church served as a treasury for reliquaries and valuable religious objects.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CHURCH ACCORDING TO T. WIĘCKIEWICZ
FOUNDATIONS OF THE CASTLE CHURCH: 1. MAIN NAVE, 2. PRESBYTERY, 3. NORTHERN ANNEXES, 4. BRICK GRAVES OF DIGNITARIES
n the eastern and western part of the island two bridges were erected, which served as a communication link between Ostrów Lednicki and the mainland. The longer of them was the Western bridge (called Poznań bridge), measuring 440 meters long. It was the largest known water engineering construction of the early Piast era. Its supporting structure consisted of two rows of piles driven into bottom of the lake, which held a carriageway about 480 cm wide, i.e. wide enough to allow free continuous movement in both directions. Oak trees were used for building bridges, felled - according to dendrochronological analyses - in the years 963 and 964. The second bridge, called Eastern or Gniezno bridge, measured about 170 meters. At the site of both bridges, rich collection of militaria and tools for soil cultivation was discovered in the 1960s. It is highly probable that these underwater artifacts come from the battle that was fought here in 1038 between defenders of the island and the troops of Bohemian Duke Brzetislav.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE LEDNICA BRIDGE, ORIGIN: MUSEUM OF THE FIRST PIASTS AT LEDNICA
REMNANTS OF PILES OF THE POZNAŃ BRIDGE
In second half of XI century there was a cemetery established on the island, where until XIV century local people were buried. To this day, about 2,300 interments have been discovered in this area, most often arranged according to the Christian rite, i.e. with the head directed westwards. Among others, the skeleton of a giant woman (called Giant from Lednica) 215 cm tall, who died at age of 25-30 years, was found here. Despite her young age, CT scanning showed a large number of degenerations, including bone sclerosis, scoliosis, ligament ossification, and numerous traces of bone fractures. It is worth noting that the average height of a woman at that time was about 155 cm. In 1869, this is how Count Aleksander Przeździecki wrote about this place: Every molehill among the lush grass throws out fragments of urns and remains of human and animal bones; and when we dig deeper, we find bones everywhere in black soil, fractions of ashes, and sometimes various equipment and tools. Also on the walls of the southern part of the ruin, in the middle of the 19th century, human skeletons hanging from window frames were found.
OSTRÓW LEDNICKI - IN THE FOREGROUND WE CAN SEE RELICS OF THE CHURCH, IN THE BACKGROUND - RUINS OF THE PALATIUM
he former Piast stronghold at Ostrów Lednicki, nowadays having the status of a Monument of History, is one of the most important locations associated with the beginning of Poland. It is under the care of Museum of the First Piasts at Lednica and together with Small Open-Air Museum and Ethnographic Park, belongs to the so-called Lednica Landscape Park. The
relics of duke's palace, the foundations of an early medieval church and fragments of defensive ramparts have been preserved on the island. Moreover, the
platform set up at the western bridgehead allows us to see two rows of piles driven into the bottom of the lake, which 1000 years ago supported the road crossing towards Poznań. In the northern part of Ostrów there is a small
peasant homestead, which in its layout refers to the remains of the original buildings discovered here. In one of the cottages its furnishings were partially reconstructed and a
model of the stronghold was placed nearby. On the island we can also find several untypical
statues of warriors and historical figures, made by a local sculptor. We visit Ostrów Lednicki and its attractions individually. Ferry operates only in the tourist season, with a frequency of about 0.5 hour.
IN THE FORMER LOWER TOWN
n the mainland, near the former Eastern Bridge, there is the so-called Little Open-Air Museum, to which leads a
monumental gate inspired by typical architecture of the early Piast Dynasty. Several historic buildings stand here, among them the oldest windmill in Poland - a 16th-century wind mill moved from Gryżyna village, a reconstruction of an 18th-century homestead, as well as a granary dating back to the 18th century, where archaeological discoveries and temporary exhibitions
are presented. In the nearby Dziekanowice, in former farm building, a very interesting exhibition was opened until recently, including findings and results of the latest research at Lednica. One could see here hundreds of artifacts concerning the early Christian cult, jewelry and everyday objects, a rich collection of militaria represented by unique helmets, swords and spears, and an original dugout canoe, as old as our state, because it was probably made in 966. When I write these words (winter 2021), the building of a new museum pavilion is underway, so it is hoped that the exhibition will soon be open to the public again.
OPEN-AIR EXHIBITION ON THE MAINLAND
Admission fee. One admission ticket to the open-air museum, the island and the ferry.
Photos taken for personal use - free of charge.
Probably no way to enter with a dog.
Museum of First Piasts at Lednica
Dziekanowice 32, 62-261 Lednogóra
tel: 61 427 50 10
Archaeological research carried out on the grounds of settlement revealed a number of valuable liturgical objects, which can be seen today as part of the exhibition Ostrów Lednicki - return to the past. The most valuable items in this collection are: a fragment of a reliquary box lining, a gilded fitting of the liturgical book, a bronze cross, an ivory comb, a thurible, as well as a unique object - stauroteka, a byzantine reliquary made of gilded copper sheet and decorated with black amber. It was used to preserve the relics of the Holy Cross, which could be seen through a small cross-shaped opening. According to one of the hypotheses, stauroteka was given to Bolesław Chrobry by Emperor Otto III himself during his visit in Gniezno in the year 1000.
IN THE WESTERN PART OF THE ISLAND WE COME ACROSS SUGGESTIVE SCULPTURES OF WARRIORS
o reach the Museum of First Piasts at Lednica you have to take the road no. 194 (Poznań-Gniezno), and next (13 km before Gniezno)
turn north into the local road to Dziekanowice. Continue driving straight ahead - this route is well signposted and you have to really try to avoid reaching your destination. The buses only get to the crossroads of the road no. 194 and the local road (Dziekanowice Skrzyżowanie stop, 2.5 km from the destination). The nearest railway station is located in Lednogóra, 6 kilometers away. There is a paid parking lot near the museum.
1. D. Banaszak, A. Tabaka: Ostrów Lednicki - informator, MPPNL 2008
2. D. Kamiński: O wskrzesaniu historycznej pamięci, Kultura Wsi 10/2016
3. M. Kara, J. Wrzesiński: Kościół nr II na Ostrowie Lednickim – kamienny czy drewniany?, Gniezno 2004
4. Z. Kurnatowska, A. M. Wyrwa: Ostrów Lednicki. Rezydencjonalno – stołeczny ośrodek..., 2016
5. A. M. Wyrwa: Ad futuram rei memoriam on the fi ftieth anniversary..., Studia Lednickie t. XVIII
6. K. Żurowska: Topografia Ostrowa Lednickiego, Biblioteka Studiów Lednickich 1993
7. Morfologiczne i radiologiczne badania szkieletu olbrzymki..., Studia Lednickie VI 2000
8. Ostrów Lednicki - u progu chrześcijaństwa, Gutenberg 1993
9. Museum information boards and charts
ON A FERRY...
...AND AT OSTRÓW
Castles nearby: Poznań - royal castle from the 13th century, reconstructed, 37 km Kórnik - knight' s castle from the 14th century, 48 km Chojnica - 'fake castle' from the 20th century, 52 km Jezioro Góreckie - ruin of neo-Gothic 'castle' from the 19th century, 57 km Pyzdry - relics of royal castle from the 14th century, 57 km
ALSO WORTH SEEING:
Wielkopolski Ethnographic Park in Dziekanowice, closed on the area of 20 ha in a spatial arrangement with characteristic features of a village, in which homesteads are situated close to the central square. It consists of several dozen residential, farm and sacral buildings, moved here from different parts of Wielkopolska, the oldest of which is dated to the beginning of the 17th century. The manorial architecture is represented by a
copy of the Baroque manor house from Studzieniec and
copies of the outbuildings from Łomnica. The open-air museum village is made up of fully equipped homesteads, which illustrate the old conditions and way of life of families not only living on the farm, but also craftsmen: shoemaker, wheelwright, potter. This scenery is complemented by a wooden Baroque church from 1719,
three windmills standing on the hill and the
surrounding fields, vegetable gardens and orchards. The park staff dressed in folk costumes, colorful pots hanging on fences and farm animals add authenticity to this place.