Tourists gathered on the Main Square look upon the tower of St. Mary’s Church and wait for the bugler who appears in its windows with his trumpet and plays a melody in each of the four cardinal directions, and after that gives a friendly wave to the tourists below. Why at a certain moment does the tune stop short?

Fot. Katarzyna Barnaś

According to a legend, the bugle call was suddenly stopped as a trumpeter was killed by a Tatar’s arrow. During the Tatar invasion, a guard spotted the approaching assailants and began to bugle to raise the alarm to warn the residents of danger. While playing the bugle call he was shot by an arrow and didn’t complete the bugling. In remembrance of this episode, the melody from the St. Mary’s tower is never played to the end.

Cracow is the only city in the world where the medieval tradition of playing from the tower every hour has been preserved until today. Every day, on the hour, the bugle is played from the tower of
St. Mary Church.

During 24-hour duty the bugle call is played by 2 trumpeters (professional firefighters), 48 times by each. At present, the melody of the bugle (hejnał) resounds on all four corners of the world: southwards for a king (Wawel Castle), westwards for the councils (the Cloth Hall and the Main Square), northwards for the guests (the St. Florian Gate), and eastwards, once for the merchants, and now for the commander of the fire department.

There are 239 stairs leading up to the St. Mary’s tower. But when we climb to the top we realise that the view was worth our effort. We can admire a beautiful panoramic view of the whole of Cracow.
We can also see the fireman’s equipment as well as the historical radio tube thanks to which every day – at 12:00 p.m. Polish time on Polish Radio – the most beautiful Cracovian melody has been played since 1927. It is the oldest radio broadcast in the world!

It is not known exactly since when the bugle call has been played. It is also not known since when it has been played in all cardinal directions as a remembrance. However, it is known, that the bugle is one of the most interesting Cracovian traditions, a huge attraction for tourists, and today no-one can imagine Cracow without the bugle melody.

And last but not least: in 2000 the bugle was a hero of the Guinness World Records. On 11 of June, exactly at noon, on the Cracow Main Square, 2000 trumpeters played the bulge. The oldest member was 79 years old, and the youngest was 8.


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