[size=15pt]The Legend of Piast Dynasty[/size]

Poland, or at least its nucleus, was ruled at various times either by dukes (the 10th-14th century) or by kings (the 11th-18th century). The longest-reigning dynasties were the Piasts (ca. 960 – 1370) and Jagiellons (1386–1572). Intervening and subsequent monarchs were often rulers of foreign countries or princes recruited from foreign dynasties.

During the latter period a tradition of free election of monarchs made it a uniquely electable position in Europe (16th-18th centuries). Polish independence ended with the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1795) and was restored at the end of World War I (1918) on a republican basis.

Piast the Wheelwright legend

The first dynasty, that united and ruled Polish lands, was called Piast. Among the first rulers the most popular is Mieszko. As a ruler of Polan tribe, he joined further territories that enabled him to form strong and independent country that he passed on to his son and his off-springs. But the chronicles mention the ancestors of Mieszko: Siemowit, Lestek and Siemomysl (father of Mieszko). Although there are many disputes over the existence of the three latter ones, a legend about father of Siemowit was passed on by generations. His name was Piast what gave the beginning of the dynasty.


When Gniezno (and the Poland tribe) was ruled by Popiel, two strangers came for a visit. As Popiel had two sons who were between 7 and 10 years old, he arranged ‘Postrzyzyny’ celebration for them. Postrzyzyny, meaning ‘First haircut’, was an old Slavic rite designating the moment when a small boy was becoming a man. According to the custom, no guests that wanted to take part in the feast (organized for the hair cut rite) should be left uninvited. But greedy prince Popiel chased the two strangers away.

Zofia Stryjeńska Piast

The visitors encountered another ‘Postrzyzyny’ feast organized in the village by a poor wheelwright whose name was Piast (Piast Kolodziej). Although Piast did not have enough money and food to provide to his guests, he invited the two travellers to feed them after a long journey. Miraculously the amount of food increased during the feast. The hair cut was performed by the two guests who named the young boy Siemowit. They had foreseen that Siemowit would one day decease Popiel and rule Gniezno and its citizens.


Later additions to that legend mentioned that the two visitors appeared to be angels while other would state they were St John and Paul. Other versions of the legend would state also that it was Piast personally who was elected (by the gathering of citizens) to become a prince of Gniezno, while his son – Siemowit – took over a rule after his death (that according to further legends took place when Piast was at the age of 120 years).


Throughout the years Piast became a symbol of righteous citizen and ruler who was chosen through democratic election. His example proved that it is not the status of our family but our own hard work and righteous life that decide about our future and respect from others. During elections the novelty would often encourage people to choose king-Piast, meaning that the elected ruler should be ethically Polish, in case of foreign candidates that would take part in elections.

Walery Eljasz-Radzikowski (1841–1905), Piast


Piast makes an appearance in the Polish Chronicle of Gallus Anonymus, along with his father, Chościsko and Piast's wife Rzepka.

The chronicle tells the story of an unexpected visit paid to Piast by two strangers. They ask to join Piast's family in celebration of the 7th birthday of Piast’s son, Siemowit (a pagan rite of passage for young boys). In return for the hospitality, the guests cast a spell making Piast's cellar ever full of plenty. Seeing this, Piast's compatriots declare him their new prince, to replace the late Prince Popiel.

If Piast really existed, he would have been the great-great-grandfather of Prince Mieszko I (ca. 930–92), the first historic ruler of Poland, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Bolesław Chrobry (967–1025), the first Polish king.

Two theories explain the etymology of the word Piast. The first gives the root as piasta (hub in Polish), a reference to his profession. The second relates Piast to piastun (custodian or keeper). This could hint at Piast's initial position as a maior domus (majordomo), or a "steward of the house", in the court of another ruler, and the subsequent takeover of power by Piast. This would parallel the development of the early medieval Frankish dynasties, when the majordomos of the Merovingian kings gradually usurped political control.[/li]

Monument to Piast Kołodziej in Złotów