Krakus Mound was built on the highest elevation of the limestone Krzemionki complex
– Lasota Hill – which has belonged to the noble Awdaniec family for centuries. The
mound itself is approximately 16 metres high.
Although there are several other mounds in Krakow, this is the one that is shrouded
in the most mystery. A lot of key information about it remains unknown, such as the
date it was built, and even the purpose it served, which has led historians and local
enthusiasts throughout the centuries to come up with all manner of intriguing
theories to fill in the gaps.


Jan Długosz was a famous chronicler, heraldist and diplomat who lived in the 15th
century; he was also a tutor to the sons of the then king, Casimir Jagiellon. He is
best-known for his life’s work, titled Annales seu cronicae incliti Regni Poloniae
(Annals, or Chronicles of the Famous Kingdom of Poland), in which he put forward
his own theory about the mound. According to Długosz, it was erected as a tomb for
the legendary King Krak (hence the name) by his sons. He’s the king who is believed
to have been the founder of Krakow. According to legend, it was his sons who killed
the Wawel dragon; while his daughter Wanda threw herself into the Vistula River
after her rejected admirer, a German prince, invaded the Polish lands out of revenge.


The first research was conducted between 1934 and 1937 under the patronage of
the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was funded by the editor-in-chief of
the first nationwide daily Polish newspaper at the time. The work consisted of
examining the area on and around the mound and digging a funnel-shaped opening
that narrowed to the base. In total, about 60% of the mound’s base area was
exposed. The most important finds were the traces of so-called Lusatian culture – an
archaeological culture from the Middle and Early Bronze Ages and the Early Iron
Age that occurred mainly in central Europe. Thanks to these finds, it can be
assumed that the mound was built around 500 BC. Various everyday objects were
discovered there, as well as the skeleton of a child. It was also found that the mound
was based on a pole to which partitions entwined with wicker were attached. The
space between these partitions was filled with stones and ground. The remains of a
300-year-old oak were also found – which presumably used to grow on top of the
mound. The oak is known to have been regarded as a sacred tree by the Celts, but
few people know that it had the same meaning for the ancient Slavs as well. This
tree was assigned to Perun, the god of thunder and ruler of all gods and people.

People would place their offerings to him of bread, honey and meat under an oak
tree. The presence of an oak tree may therefore testify to the religious nature of the
mound. The most important element that influenced the dating of the mound was the
bronze Avaric clasp – a belt element – which was found at that time, dating back to
the 7th or 8th century AD. As a result, taking into account the age of the felled tree,
the fact that it was most likely cut down during the Christianisation of the region
(around the 9th/10th century AD) as a symbol of pagan beliefs, and also the age of
the clasp that was discovered, scientists have determined that the mound was built
sometime in the period from the end of the 6th century to the end of the 7th century.


Another theory was based on the possible presence of Celts in the Krakow region
and their influence on the culture and beliefs of the inhabitants. Apart from Krak,
there are several other mounds in the city, with indications that there used to be
even more of them at one time. The equally mysterious Wanda Mound is closely
associated by many people with Krakus Mound. Assumed to have been built in the 7th
or 8th century, legend has it that it’s the grave of Krak’s daughter, Wanda, who was
the queen of Krakow at the time of her death. It is believed that after she committed
suicide, having been threatened by a cruel German prince, her body was fished out
of the Vistula River in that area. Despite these old tales with a strictly Slavic origin,
however, there is also an interesting theory connecting the mounds to the Celtic
system of astronomical indicators. And they suggest that the location of the Krak and
Wanda mounds may not be accidental. They are aligned so perfectly that if you
stand on top of Krakus Mound on 2nd May or 10th August, you will see the setting sun
right over Wanda Mound. And the reverse happens if you stand on Wanda Mound
on 4th November or 6th February. These dates are close to the Celtic holidays called
Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh, and this has led some archaeologists to
say that they don’t exclude the possibility that the mounds, along with others that
either still remain to this day or have now vanished, are part of a system of
astronomical indicators; in other words, a form of calendar. According to historians,
there is also a chance that it was used as a cemetery, and that Krakus Mound was the
tomb of an unknown ruler and the rest of the area was filled with other mounds. The
city plans of Krakow drawn up by Swedish soldiers in 1702 and the Austrians in 1792
are considered to be evidence supporting this theory, as many other hills of a similar
size surrounding Krakus Mound are marked on them – as many as 46 of them! This
fact proves that not only was it a site of great importance, but also that Krakow was a
very influential city at the time. It’s worth noting that cemeteries performed a very
important role for cults; so if any existed, it was also probably a religious centre.


Over the past hundred years, many theories about the mound’s origin, age and
function have arisen. Although history can involve a degree of speculation, there are
some theories that are more evidence-based. Among these, the most popular one recognises the possibility that Krakus Mound may have had some form of
Scandinavian origins. The main evidence for this would be the existence of similar
kurgans in the areas inhabited by the Vandals (who also inhabited the territory
making up today’s Poland). Another aspect in favour of this theory is the
Scandinavian origins of the Awdaniec family, the owners of Lasota Hill. According to
some of the less popular hypotheses, the mound may also be of Viking, Scythian or
Hunnic origin.


During the Partitions of Poland, Krakow and its surroundings were ruled by the
Austrians. They began to include the city in a system of fortifications, which is why
Krakow is surrounded by so many forts (and a great idea for an interesting trip). In
1854, they started to build one on Krak Mound. It was surrounded by a rampart
made from earth and a wall, and there were also barracks within the walls. This
fortification survived both world wars but was eventually demolished in 1954, with the
only remnant being the serpentine-shaped access road.
Every first Tuesday after Easter there is a huge celebration called “Rękawka”. This is
a very old Polish tradition, derived from the Slavic tradition of the spring holiday
Dziady. The name was taken from the belief that after King Krak’s death his subjects
carried soil to build his tomb in their own sleeves (rękawy). However, there is also a
second possible origin, one more rooted in reality – many proto-Slavic languages
​have the word rakva or raka, meaning grave or tomb. This fact also supports the
theory about the mound having a funeral function, as the celebration itself is
probably over 1,000 years old and the construction of the Church of St. Benedict in
the 11th century was the Christian Church’s response to pagan practices.
Nowadays, it is a very interesting and lively festival with people participating in
historical reconstructions, and plenty of traditional food and demonstrations of old
craftsmanship to enjoy. On other days, the mound is available for visitors to walk up
at any time for free, making it a popular spot for a stroll as it provides a great view of
the city skyline.

If you want to know more about Krakow mysteries, check out our article about Wawel Castle

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