Battle of Grunwald

You will tremble at my voice:
Grunwald, swords, King Jagiełło!
Cutting through the armor,
as the gale howled and blew;
mounds of corpses, mounds of bodies,
and the blood flowed in a river.
That’s it is! The work of Giants:
Witold, Zawisza, Jagiełło,
there it is! On the battlefield
armor gleams in the trenches,
javelins, and broken spearpoints,
shafts driven through bodies,
a dam of corpses, a dike of corpses,
a mound made up of knights..

Translation: Stanislaw Wyspianski: The Wedding by Gerard T. Kopolka, Ann Arbor, Ardis, p105, (1990)

The Battle of Grunwald, or, according to the Germans, the 1st Battle of Tannenberg, took place on July 15th, 1410. Whilst the battleground was pretty spread out, the final action took place close to Grunwald, circa 200km north of Warsaw on the way to Gdansk.

It is a moment when Polish forces, helped by Lithuanians and others, defeated an enemy (Teutonic Knights) in a great battle, one of the greatest battles of medieval Europe. It goes without saying then that there are not many Poles who do not know some details of Grunwald. I can’t say it is universally seen as a great victory because there is at least one Pole who sees it as a defeat but you’d have to ask him for the explanation.

In the same way that Poles go crazy about Małysz or more recently about Kubica today, the artists and poets of the past went equally crazy about Grunwald, pumping every last gramme of patriotism out of the thing. As examples; Wyspianski’s poem is at the top of the page and below you can see Matejko’s painting of the battle.

At this size, or even the larger version it’s hard to make much of it. That’s because the original painting is a whopping 4.26 m high and 9.87m long! You can find it in the National Museum in Warsaw, it’s worth a look. You can read more about understanding the painting at this site.

So, big battle, loads of dead people, yadda yadda, blah. If you were to visit the battlefield today, this is what you’ll find:

Almost at the parking area you get a short introduction to the scene

There’s a place you can buy imitation shields, dead knights or sword shaped lollipops.

On the way up to the monument is a pile of rubble that is apparently an old Grunwald monument that used to stand in Krakow but was demolished by one or other bad guys and has now been artistically rearranged on the battlefield.

There’s a nice sculpture of knights on the look-out

and a model of the battle. Zosia here is busy taking on the Teutonic’s single-handedly using only the power of her pink raincoat!

There’s a small display area under the mound

Finally, my own nod in the direction of Polish patriotism, the sun shining through the Polish flag

I must say I was surprised not to see the flags of those nations who helped Poland win the battle, Lithuania at the very least. Perhaps that’s what the empty flagpole is for? (The second flag is the EU)

You can see all the Grunwald photos at larger sizes in this gallery.

Enjoy your trip!

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3 thoughts on “Battle of Grunwald

  1. That’s really sad and embarrassing that there’s no Lithuanian flag next to the Polish one. For the record, Polish-Lithuanian army was also supported by Ruthenian, Czech and Moldavian forces, as well as some Tatar riders.

    On the other hand I find it rather amusing that there’s a EU flag. There were approx. 15.000 knights fighting for the Teutonic Order in the battle and only 250 of them were Teutonic Knights. Huge majority were mercenaries and western knights invited by the Order to fight pagans in the East. Mostly from Germany, France, England, Scotland, Italy… wait! Isn’t it the old EU15? ;-)

  2. Pingback: Poland football coach says sorry for ’sick’ Euro 2008 tabloid war « 20 east

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