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Exhibition: The Token of a Magnificent Victory
15 July – 30 September 2010
concert: 15 July 2010
Tue-Fri 9:30am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-6pm
During the two decades of Polish independence between the wars, the Polish national holidays on the 3 and 11 November were established. Who knows that for centuries, before the loss of independence, this role was fulfilled by 15 July? The tradition, extraordinarily important in the history of the Polish nation, of celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald is recalled by the The Token of a Magnificent Victory. On the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald exhibition – the culminating point of the “Grunwald 2010” project organised this year by the Royal Wawel Castle.
In May 1410, Władysław Jagiełlo left Wawel in order to achieve, on 15 July at Grunwald, his greatest victory – over the Teutonic Order. In November of the following year the standards captured from the Teutonic Knights were laid before the tomb of Saint Stanislaus. In 1434 the monarch was laid to rest in Wawel Cathedral. For many centuries the annual celebrations of the anniversary of the triumph were concentrated around Wawel Hill. The standards survived in the cathedral for almost 250 years. Probably destroyed during the Swedish deluge, they were later reconstructed many times “for the eternal memory of the Grunwald victory”. This was possible thanks to Jan Długosz’s work Banderia Prutenorum, which contained descriptions and illustrations of almost all the captured standards. On account of the current exhibition, it has been decided to reconstruct the missing elements in the collection, which originally numbered 56 pieces. We’ll be able to see selected reconstructions in the central exhibition hall next to the image of St Stanislaus and the text of the Polish knights’ hymn – Bogurodzica. Other trophies, distributed by Jagiełło as votive offerings to the most important churches in the Republic, have also been brought back to Wawel. Of particular interest will be a mediaeval copy of St Bridget’s famous Revelations, which foretold the defeat of the Teutonic Knights.
In the following centuries, in accordance with Jagiełło’s wishes, the anniversary of the battle, which coincided with Dispersion of the Apostles Day, was formally celebrated. The significance of the holiday is attested to by the book containing the liturgical texts from the Gospel left to Kraków’s cathedral in Bishop Piotr Tomicki’s will in 1542 – on the pages of the manuscript containing the readings for 15 July a painter has placed Poland’s coat of arms and a likeness of Jagiełło, as well as information about the Grunwald victory. To mark the occasion of the exhibition, the manuscript will be emerging from the archives for the first time in 10 years. The prints and works of art on display will show how the event was received by successive generations of Poles. This part of the exposition will also remember the ceremonial processions once organised every year from the cathedral to the Church of St Jadwiga at Stradom, which no longer exits. This tradition went on uninterrupted until the partitioning of Poland.
The celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Grunwald in 1910 had a special character which spilled over into a three-day patriotic demonstration. One of the most important attractions was supposed to be the display of Jan Matejko’s Battle of Grunwald. When the Varsovian Society for the Appreciation of the Fine Arts refused to make the work available, the organisers turned to Tadeusz Popiel and Zygmunt Rozwadowski with a commission. This is how the monumental diorama, which was presented in a pavilion on św. Ducha Square, came into being. After the exhibition the painting was lost and it was not until 1989 that it was discovered by chance in the storehouses of the Lviv History Museum. At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, Cracovian specialists undertook a meticulous restoration of the great painting, which we can now see in its full glory. Photographs, mementos and relevant publications will also recall the events of 15-17 July 1910. One important exhibit is a preserved fragment from the Grunwald memorial – destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War – representing the head of Prince Vitold. The exhibition concludes with Jan Matejko’s Prussian Homage, which presents the feudal tribute paid in 1525 to King Zygmunt the Old by the Order’s last great champion. The presentations will be accompanied by a rich educational programme: tours with curators, interactive activities for children taking place in the exhibition space and lectures.
Ceremonial Concert on the Anniversary of the Battle
Many educational programmes and competitions have been realised this year within the framework of the “Grunwald 2010” project. The introductory stage of the first all-Poland Wawel: Musica Festiva has also been adjudicated on – we’ll be able to hear the three pieces nominated for the main prize by a jury chaired by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki on 15 July – the day the exhibition is opened to the public – on the castle’s arcaded courtyard: this is when the final victor will be chosen. The programme for the concert, which will be conducted by Stanisław Krawczyński, will be rounded off with Górecki’s Symphony No. 2 (the “Copernican”). (dd)
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