Sack of Kraków (1241)

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Sack of Krakow
Part of the First Mongol invasion of Poland
DateMarch 22 or 28, 1241
Location
Result Capture and destruction of most of the city
Belligerents
Mongol Empire Alex K Kingdom of Poland-flag.svg Kingdom of Poland
Commanders and leaders
Subutai Klement of Ruszcza
Strength
unknown unknown
Casualties and losses
unknown estimated very high

The sack of Krakow during the first Mongol invasion of Poland took place either on March 22 or on March 28, 1241. It ended in the victory of the Mongol forces, who captured the city and burned it, massacring most of its residents.

Background[edit]

In early February 1241, some ten thousand Mongol warriors concentrated near Wlodzimierz Wolynski, and entered Lesser Poland. The invaders captured Lublin and Zawichost, on February 13 reaching Sandomierz. The Polish army under voivode Włodzimierz Gryf was defeated in the Battle of Tursk and the Battle of Chmielnik. The latter victory meant that the way to Krakow was opened. When news of Polish losses reached the city, its residents fled in panic to Silesia, Bohemia and Germany. Also, local peasants abandoned the villages, hiding in forests, swamps and other places.

The sack[edit]

The Mongols probably entered Krakow on March 22, 1241. The city itself was not defended. Those residents who had not fled, decided to hide in churches and on the fortified Wawel Hill. According to a popular-20th century legend, a Polish sentry on a tower of St. Mary's Church sounded the alarm by playing the Hejnał, and the city gates were closed before the Mongols could ambush. The trumpeter, however, was shot in the throat by a Tartar marksman and did not complete the anthem.

The invaders stayed in the city for ten days, and their stay resulted in the almost complete destruction of Krakow. The Mongols failed to capture the Wawel Hill or St. Andrew’s Church, the only church in Kraków to withstand the attack. On March 31, 1241, the Mongols set Krakow on fire, and on the next day, they left the city, heading towards Silesia.

Sources[edit]

  • Tomislaw Giergiel, Tatarzy w Sandomierzu
  • Piastowie. Leksykon biograficzny, wyd. 1999, str. 397
  • Wielka Historia Polski cz. do 1320, wyd. Pinexx 1999, s. 187-188
  • Stanislaw Krakowski, Polska w walce z najazdami tatarskimi w XIII wieku, wyd. MON 1956, str.136-137