Mermaid of Warsaw

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The coat of arms of Old Warsaw is located on the cover of the book "Regestrum proventuum et expensorum civitatis antiq [ue] varsaviae" from 1652
The mermaid in the centre of Warsaw's Old Town
The mermaid on the Vistula river
The mermaid at the Stanisław Markiewicz viaduct
The mermaid by Wojciech Czerwosz
The mermaid by Jerzy Chojnacki

The Mermaid of Warsaw (Polish: Syrenka Warszawska) is a symbol of Warsaw, represented on the city's coat of arms and well as in a number of statues and other imagery.

Etymology[edit]

Polish syrenka is cognate with siren, but she is more properly a fresh-water mermaid called melusina. The common English translation, in any case, is neither siren nor melusina but mermaid.

Origin[edit]

Exactly when the mermaid was added to Warsaw's coat of arms is not known but it was already in place in 1390 with a shape very different from today's. It presented the animal with a bird's legs and a torso covered with dragon scales. On the seal of 1459, it already had feminine characteristics, the torso of a bird, human hands, the tail of a fish and bird legs with claws. The first presentation of the traditional mermaid dates from 1622.

The adoption of such a coat of arms was thought to be a medieval fashion, which recommended the adoption of the symbols of the newly established town's mythology. The presentation of the coat of arms was probably derived directly from the 2nd century book Physiologus.

The legend of the Warsaw mermaid[edit]

There are various legends about the Warsaw mermaid. The main one used in the City's literature and by tour guides says that the mermaid was swimming in the river when she stopped on a riverbank near the Old Town to rest. Liking it, she decided to stay. Local fishermen noticed that something was creating waves, tangling nets, and releasing their fish. They planned to trap the offender, but fell in love with her upon hearing her singing. Later, a rich merchant trapped the mermaid and imprisoned her. Hearing her cries, the fishermen rescued her, and ever since, the mermaid, armed with a sword and a shield, has been ready to help protect the city and its residents.[1]

Sometimes this legend is expanded to say that the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is the Warsaw mermaid's sister and they went their separate ways from the Baltic Sea.

Another legend states that she assisted a prince when he got lost hunting and he founded the city in her honour.[2]

Monuments and carvings of the Warsaw mermaid[edit]

Examples include:

The Old Town Market Place[edit]

The sculpture in Warsaw's Old Town Square was designed by Varsovian sculptor Konstanty Hegel.

Originally (1855-1928) and now (since 2000) it stands in the marketplace. At other times, it was moved to different places in Warsaw. In 2008, the original sculpture made of bronzed zinc was taken from the market for maintenance work. The sculpture was in a very poor condition due to mechanical damage and numerous acts of vandalism. The repaired original was transferred to the Museum of Warsaw, and replaced with a copy of made by the Jacka Guzery foundry in Dąbrowie near Kielce.

Powiśle[edit]

This statue, made of gunmetal, was erected in April 1939 in Powiśle near the Vistula river. The sculpture is by Ludwika Nitschowa and posed by poet Krystyna Krahelska.

In autumn of 2006, a silver plaque of the Virtuti Militari was added to the monument for General Sikorski who was awarded it in recognition of his defense of Warsaw in September 1939.

The Markiewicz viaduct[edit]

A mermaid sculpted by Jan Woydygi was erected on the Stanislaw Markiewicz viaduct in Karowej Street in 1905.

The Sejm[edit]

A mermaid designed by Alexander Żurakowski in 1947 was engraved onto the shield on the breast of a statue of an eagle located in the main meeting hall of the Polish parliament, the Sejm.

Inżynierski Street[edit]

This mermaid is over the entrance to the former tram depot on 6 Inżynierski Street.

Katowice Street[edit]

Located on the building of School No. 77 on the corner of Katowice and Zwycięzców streets in Saska Kępa, the bas-relief is by Wojciech Czerwosz.

Grochowski Street[edit]

This mermaid is in front of the district office of the Warsaw borough of Praga-Południe at 274 Grochowski Street, and was made by Jerzy Chojnacki. It originally stood in Saska Kepa, in front of the Sawa theater.

Lindley's Filters[edit]

A bas-relief of the mermaid by Jan Goliński is on the building of Warsaw Water Filters (Filtry Lindleya) in the Ochota district.

Outside Warsaw[edit]

A memorial fountain of the Warsaw mermaid with a similar shape to the monument in Powiśle is located in the central square of Bielsko-Biała. It was created in 1954 by Ryszard Sroczyński.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Warsaw legends". Warsaw Tour/Fall in love with Warsaw. Warsaw Tourist Office. Retrieved 2014-10-02. Ever since, the Mermaid, armed with sword and shield, has been ready to help protect the city and its residents 
  2. ^ "The Story of Syrenka - Symbol of Warsaw". In Your Pocket. In Your Pocket. Retrieved 2014-10-02. Miraculously, a mermaid emerged and guided the prince to safety by firing burning arrows into the sky. Warsaw was founded out of gratitude, and the mermaid adopted as its emblem.