There is possibly no city, town or village in Poland that would not have its own legend, fable or tale, and also Elbląg has many legends concerning the city and its surroundings.
The year was 1521. For several years then a war was on between Albert, the Great Master of the Teutonic Order and the Polish king Sigismund the Old. At that time Elbląg was a border town, that since the Second Peace of Thorn belonged to Poland. During the war fate favored one part on one occasion, only to turn in favor of the other one later on. The troops of the Order occupied Braniewo, while Poles took the castle of Pasłęk.
Elbląg, a wealthy center at the border was a major strategic point for the Teutonic Order. The Great Master decided to conquer the town. That is why two thousands of armed men left Królewiec on March 2nd, 1521 and headed towards Elbląg, under the command of Kasper von Schwalbach and Moritz von Knebel.
Although warned in advance, the town was weakly guarded. The guards, usually alert, were fast asleep after the town festivities of the previous night. At dawn, on March 8th, when the fog begun to cover the surrounding fields, bribed traitors ran over the guards, lowered the drawbridge and opened the heavy gates. Almost like an avalanche the Teutonic Knights stormed the town. The Knights of the Order were first spotted by the town blacksmith – Antoni Boran. He gathered people, who tried together to raise the drawbridge.
Fighting started. The bridge collapsed in the moat. But it did not stop the charging knights. Moreover, a large group of armoured was already in the Town. Crowd gathered in the Old Market. Fast, loud steps of running people closed in from the town. It was the small force of the town running for the rescue. Several townspeople manned the tower, using it to throw down stones, boards, hot tar and ash on the attackers, managing to stop their attack. Still a large column of remaining Teutonic forces appeared several hundreds of meters from the gate.
It was exactly then that a baker’s apprentice, unknown to others, appeared among the fighters. When the charging column was just tens of meters from the gate, he begun to cut the thick ropes used to suspend the heavy oak grating of the gate with use of his baker’s shovel. He hit them with his shovel time after time, until the ropes begun to break. Finally the heavy, studded grating moved and rushed down, crushing the first lines of the knights, who managed to enter the gate. The Teutonic Order left the town. Whoever managed to get inside, was forced to surrender after a short fight.
The bravery of the young baker was celebrated with a song, and the shovel that he used to cut the ropes, was hanged inside the gate. Its remains were hanging there for over 250 years. As a sign of victory the shovel was also engraved in the construction of the tower, and each Martch 8th – up to 1772, was celebrated in Elbląg as town holiday.
The memory of older citizens of Elbląg keeps, up to date, the image of the “funfair” that was conveyed between the generations and formerly located within the town walls of the Medieval Elbląg. This small town paradise was located in the Old Town between the Market (Targowa) and Smith’s (Kowalska) Gates.
It was a large garden with different fruit trees. The borders of the garden were made of rare species of bushes. A huge linden tree grew in the middle of the park and its branches were casting shadow on the tables set underneath it. A fish-shaped water fountain was located in vicinity. The water from the fountain gathered in a small basin in which the children of Elbląg played. And swans were swimming in the nearby moat. A beer-house was constructed at the entrance to the garden, selling Elbląg beer and tasty gingerbread. During holidays the garden green saw dancing youths. There were also archery brotherhoods, attracting the fans of arching. As the years passed the beautiful garden was turned into defensive embankments, and the memory of it survived only in tales.
The wizard of Elbląg
A long, long time ago, where wizards, alchemists and mages were roaming the world, in Elbląg, near the Market Gate a wizard once lived, by the name of Kiliar, or as some say – Kilian.
Kiliar was known in the town for his extreme parsimony and greed. He only ate the fish brought to the town by the fisherman. Townsfolk of Elbląg thought he was mad, because instead of finding proper work at home, he was brewing gold in his cellars. And indeed – Kiliar wanted to produce the precious metal, still the mixing of different components and mixtures brought no results to date.
Against all chances and the mockery of people the wizard decided to produce gold at all cost. He learned that next to the town, in the forest currently known as Bażantarnia, at the old mill, near the stream, the devil himself could be spotted at midnight. The will to posses gold pushed Kiliar to action. He drew a pact, executed it with his own blood and on a stormy night departed to meet his destiny.
The devil appeared at the mill in form of a bear. He sat on an oak and waited for the wizard. Once he was there, the bear crowed of joy, almost like a cockerel, and then, using a human voice ordered Kiliar to place the pact under the mill wheel. Once this order was completed the soul of the wizard actually belonged to the devil, the bear shouted: And now catch the gold! Catch the gold! Catch the gold! Catch …! And golden Thalers started to rain on him, almost as if it was a hailstorm. But once even a single coin touched the greedy wizard, the place it touched in was immediately covered by a purulent ulcer.
Due to huge pain and fear Kiliar lost his mind and fell to the ground. The next morning, under the old oak, Kiliar was found lying down dead, clenching his fists on several strange stones.
The Bravery of Women of Elbląg
It was very long ago. The Teutonic Order was attempting to convert the Old Prussians with crosses and swords. The ruler of Pomerania back then was prince Świętopełk, known for his cleverness and artfulness. The prince was a declared friend of the Teutonic Order on one occasion, and on other – their biggest foe.
Some day Świętopełk decided to attack Elbląg. This perverse idea might have appeared during his stay in the forest. That could be this way, or another, what we do know is that some night…
The leather cover, pulled by a strong hand revealed the whole interior of the tent for a moment, the tent the prince rested in.
- What news do you bring me? – asked Świętopełk Wojsław- his trusted scout and friend.
- Important news my Lord. The town of Elbląg is deserted. All men left in a crusade against the Old Prussians. That is the sole chance to attack and conquer the town. And it is a wealthy town.
It was not long that loud sounds of a horn announced the raid against Elbląg. Columns of enemy troops marched on several roads to reach the town. The soldiers of Świętopełk were marching willingly. They all knew that the town is defenseless. Only women and children were left.
- Hey! There will be spoils in the town! Prince Świętopełk knows what he is doing! – they thought so on their way. The red walls of the city, dotted with defensive towers and entrance gates were shining like gold in the sun. Just a few more moments and the enemy will reach the walls.
But what is that? What happens? Along the defensive walls, on the decks of towers, armors and colorful clothes of Elbląg townsfolk are clearly visible. A forest of pikes and huge helberds grew behind the walls… The attackers are in scare. Shall we besiege the town? The forces are not strong enough for that. The prince also can’t opt for a storm. Świętopełk left the town without a fight. Was the information of Wojsław false? Did the Elbląg citizens not leave the town?
They did! But let me take a moment to reach that.
The leaving forces of the prince left the citizens of Elbląg laughing themselves to tears. Women strangely clothed in man clothes and armors were leaving the walls and towers. It was their smartness that saved the town. It was not knights who manned the walls. Brave and smart wives of knights took the place of their husbands, deceiving the prince.
About a knight in silver armor
It was at the time of the great uprising against the Teutonic Order of 1260. At that time the town and the castle were besieged by the Old Prussians. Although outnumbered, the citizens of Elbląg defended themselves with bravery. Bishop of Warmia Anzelm, who at that time stayed in Elbląg, was the spiritual leader of the defenders. He prayed to the Holy Mother of God – the patron of the Order - for mercy. The inhabitants of Elbląg sought different ways to drive away the besieging attackers. One night a small unit of Teutonic Knights managed to escape the encirclement in such a way, that attracted the attention of Old Prussians. The deceit worked, the pagans closed their camp at the town walls and followed the escaping party. Although this saved the town and the castle, it also put the Teutonic unit in grave danger.
The Prussians caught the unit from Elbląg at the village of Ogrodniki in Wysoczyzna area. The vast forest clearing was to stage the decisive battle. It seemed that the unit of Elbląg, outnumbered ten to one, was doomed. Before first blows were exchanged, something unusual happened. The front rows of pagans fell down, almost as hit by a lightning bolt, and the remaining forces fled in panic. The troops of Elbląg were stunned, they could not understand what just happened. It was so, until an Old Prussian who was taken captive, told them what just happened.
- It was a miracle – the prisoner explained.
- When we were ordered to attack, a knight in silver armor descended from heavens, striking our ranks with a sword of fire.
The legends presented below were compiled on basis of collections published by misters Roman Sulim-Gillow, Janusz Hochleitner and Janusz Charytoniuk. If you are further interested in those legends, please refer to the books that they were collected and compiled from.
Roman Sulima-Gillow, "Na szlaku legend Ziemi Elbląskiej", Nowel, Elbląg 1997,
Janusz Charytoniuk Janusz Hochleitner, "Elbląg nasza mała ojczyzna", Klub Myśli Obywatelskiej "Wspólnota Elbląska", Elbląg 1998,
Janusz Charytoniuk, "Jeszcze o legendach", Wiadomości Elbląskie, no. 2, 1987, p. 11,
Janusz Hochleitner, "Piekarczyk i Kiliar", Kurier Elbląski, no. 9-10, 1996, p. 6
Legend about Miller and His Wife
Napoleonic Army came to Elbląg in 1807. The Town inhabitants were forced to deliver food for the armed forces. Once a French patrol came to the Bushy Mill (now Hotel Młyn***). Soldiers ordered Miller and his Wife to serve square meals and drinks. They heard about excellent baked goods and delicious wine produced there. Miller got in panic. He realized what could happen: his empty pantries and cellars, robbed mill, empty granary on attic. But he did not that he was a lucky husband. He had his prudent wife – underestimated by him before. She started serving breads and cakes for unwelcome gusts. Part of baked goods was made of spoiled flour and another one of excellent quality. Some Frenchmen frowned their disapproval and even spat but others were fully satisfied. Then Miller had quick wits at last: he served thin and tart wine for those who enjoyed their meals and the best wine for those who was complaining about their food. Tipsy and totally confused soldiers started to quarrel and fight. Finally and luckily for the Millers a quartermaster of French garrison decided not to requisition the Mill. The mill survived as one of few such utilities in Elblag. In remembrance of these events, the successor Laid the stone heads of the ingenious miller's wife and the frightened miller. Years later, they found their place at the entrance to the Stone Mill (now the Hotel Restaurant Młyn Aqua SPA).