Meet Kraków’s enigmatic Chicken King
Peter Moore discovers an ancient brotherhood that has protected Kraków for centuries. All in the name of a sacred chicken.
Anyone who knows me or has read any of my books knows that I have a soft spot for weird and wonderful museums.
So you can imagine how pleased I was when I discovered Celestat.
It is a museum in Kraków dedicated to an ancient fraternity of sharpshooters known as the Shooting Society Fowler Brotherhood.
Or, as I liked to call them, the Brotherhood of the Rooster.
I visited the museum on a crisp October morning.
Much to my delight, I was greeted at the door by one of the brothers, Marshal Zbyszek Szota, in his full Rooster Brother regalia.
Roosters have traditionally been seen as symbols of vigilance in Central Europe.
The Cracovian Brotherhood was formed when Kraków was granted city rights in the 1257. Their task? To prepare the city’s residents to defend themselves in the event of an attack.
These days the Brotherhood are rolled out in their kontusz – a traditional outfit of Polish noblemen – to accompany dignitaries during important municipal and state ceremonies.
And to greet visiting Australian travel writers, it seems.
The museum is set in a Neo-Gothic palace on Lubicz Street, not far from the Central Railway Station.
It houses weapons used to defend the city through the ages. There are painted portraits of each of the fraternity’s leaders – Chicken Kings, if you will. And gifts presented by similar societies around the world.
In pride of place is the fraternity’s most precious relic – Srebrny Kur, the Silver Fowl of Celestat.
The rooster is crafted from silver, stands 41.5 cm tall and weighs 3.6 kilograms.
It was presented to the Brotherhood in 1565 by the city council and remains a symbol of the organisation.
It is also given by one Chicken King to the next to signify the transference of power.
Judging by the portraits, they all seem extremely proud to have a mystical silver cock sitting on their laps.
How to visit Celestat
Where: ul. Lubicz 16, 31-054 Kraków
Official website: MuzeumKrakowa/Celestat
For more information about things to see and do in Kraków visit the official Polish Tourism Organisation website Poland.travel
Main image: The current leader of the Shooting Society Fowler Brotherhood of Kraków (© Peter Moore)