Cathedral guards

Wawel stuard at the grave of Queen Jadwiga, around 1910. Stanisław Synowiec is sitting in the middle. Courtesy of Marcin Mikuła Locksmithing Museum in Świątniki Górne.

Who were the Wawel saints? What was their task, and what does this have to do with the place near Kraków?
Well, in the 11th century, the then Górki, and today’s Świątniki Górne, became a servant village for Kraków cathedral, next to the nearby Szczytniki, Trąbki, and Świątniki Dolne. This was connected with the obligation, or rather the privilege, of serving chosen inhabitants in Wawel cathedral. Apart from assistance during the services, their tasks included guarding the valuable cathedral treasury, as well as closing the cathedral doors at night and opening them in the morning. Therefore, they were known under two titles: “Wawel stewards” and “Wawel sextons”.
Only a citizen of unblemished reputation could become a sexton, and therefore those who received this honour were given great respect. Over time, the occupation of sexton became a profession passed down from generation to generation. This is how the families of the Wawel sextons came into being. Stanisław Synowiec, presented by Leon Wyczółkowski belonged to one of such families.
The cathedral service of the chosen people brought independence for all the inhabitants of the village. They were a subject only to the court of the custodians of the Wawel cathedral, also in secular matters, and were exempt from all feudal duties except for the annual tax paid to the custodian. This freedom meant that they could wander around the world to the farthest corners of Europe, which they eagerly did. In their journeys, they even reached parts of northern Europe, as illustrated on the map with the marked routes of the Świątniki’s inhabitants, located in the Museum of Locksmiting.
In our collection, you can also see the outfit of the Wawel sextons, also presented in the picture, which was introduced in 1596, by the Kraków bishop Jerzy Radziwiłł. The cathedral’s guards wore it during their service until the 1950s.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums),
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Painting Portrait of Stanisław Synowiec, an old steward of Wawel Cathedral by Leon Wyczółkowski

Outfit of a Wawel steward