The Cemetery of Convicts (6)

 

The area of today's Planty Park, along św. Gertrudy Street – from the Wawel Castle to Dominikańska Street - was once a cemetery for convicts (photo 6). It was here that people buried the unfortunate who ended their lives in prison dungeons or were sent to the scaffold or sentenced to the gallows.

No wonder that the place had a rather bad reputation. The cottages - nearby were inhabited by people who earned their living as helpers of the hangman, supplied ropes for the gallows, or even ... secretly sold the corpses of convicts to the superstitious, who used them for a variety of magical practices.

In the fifteenth century, Kraków’s town councillor Mikołaj Wierzynek erected a little wooden church there, dedicated to Saint Gertrude – the patron saint of convicts. Thus, he honoured the memory of another Kraków councillor, his father Andrzej, who in 1406 was accused of embezzling municipal funds, beheaded on the Main Market Square, and then buried in the cemetery. Many years later, the son led to his father’s exoneration.

For hundreds of years, masses for the souls of councillor Andrzej and all who rested in this area were celebrated in the Church of St. Gertrude. The church, heavily damaged in the Swedish invasion, was finally demolished in 1810. Then, when the Planty Park was created, grass was seeded and trees planted in the place of the graves. Now, only a small stone chapel reminds us of the convicts from the past.

 

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