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Jan Długosz

Illustration from the digital collections of the National Library’s Polona website

Jan Długosz

Annals or Chronicles of the Famous Kingdom of Poland

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Read by Wojciech Barczyński, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Hubert Małecki
[1455, 26th May]

A large part of the City of Kraków stands ablaze

Shortly the next day, a fire began at the house of Tomasz the armourer, at the time a member of the city council, next to Saint Peter’s Church. As it was not put out forthwith, due to inattentive and feeble quenching efforts (for most artisans were engaged in shooting practice, and the rest went outside the city to spectate from the usual spot), the fire started to spread rapidly, and the strong wind, which at this very hour came blowing in from the north, rushed carrying the flames in all directions. What is more, when powder got ignited in some of the burning houses, the fire exploded with such ferocity that none could approach it for the dreadful swelter. Thence, all quenching attempts were forsaken, and people only tended to their own belongings, as to preserve them and carry away to safety. Over a hundred houses were reduced to ashes in Grodzka and Kanonicza streets, together with four churches, of SS Peter, Andrew, Martin and Saint Mary Magdalene, as well as the magnificent Collegium Iuridicum. Only two canons’ houses barely escaped the conflagration, one belonging to the cantor Mikołaj Spiciner, and the other to Jan Długosz, the canon of Kraków. The fire was reaching the Royal Castle, for the wind carried burning embers its way, but it was put down with great effort. Scores of men and women died in the fire, either attempting to seize their properties from the flames, or seeking shelter with them in basements. A sorrowful sight to behold, one which would move even our foes! Many people piously believed this terrible fire was a punishment for offending God by granting privileges to the Jews. For the Jewish merchants of Kraków had worthful wares stored at Tomasz’s house, where the fire had first begun. Wise men understood these incidents to be omens of forthcoming adversity and persecution for the Church and her priests, which befell the city canons and prelates subsequently to the death of Tomasz Strzempiński, chosen for the see of Kraków.
English translation: Hubert Małecki
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Jan Długosz

(Ioannes Longinus, 1415–1480) was the most important mediaeval Polish historian. Connected to Krakow throughout his lifetime, he was a student of the Academy of Krakow, subsequently a secretary to the Bishop of Krakow Zbigniew Oleśnicki, and a Canon of Wawel Cathedral. His house stands to this day at the foot of Wawel Hill, at the mouth of Kanonicza Street. The house was plundered by the knights of King Casimir the Jagiellonian when the chronicler got involved in a conflict with the monarch. Długosz sheltered the son of Castellan Jędrzej Tęczyński in his house after fleeing a crowd of baying Krakow burghers. This is also where he wrote his works. The most important of these are theRoczniki czyli Kroniki sławnego Królestwa Polskiego(Annals or Chronicles of the Famous Kingdom of Poland), completed in 1480. Written in perfect Latin, this history of Poland describes plenty of events that took place in Krakow and were witnessed by the chronicler.

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