You cannot miss the St. Elisabeth Church in Wroclaw. It is one of the oldest churches there, and the tallest building in the Old Town area. Contrasting the church’s high tower there are two little houses framing the south corner of its backyard. They are connected by an arch, which in the Middle Ages crowned a gate to a cemetery.
In those times, thanks to skills and toil of local tradesmen, the city was prosperous, but dominated by the merchant class, which controlled the Town Council. By ruthless regulations the merchants took advantage of the hard-working guilds. It led to rebellion in 1418, when butchers and textile workers stormed the Town Hall. They beheaded the mayor, most of his advisers, even defenestrated one who was trying to take refuge in a tower.
The new order did not last long. Unfortunately for the rebels, two years later the Holy Roman Emperor was in town preparing his soldiers to launch a crusade against Bohemia, and got personally involved in the dispute. Thus, most of the guild leaders were banned from town and over twenty of them executed. The backyard of St. Elisabeth’s Church became their resting place.
People believed that the “rebels” fought for truth and righteousness, and in the memory of the events a sign was carved on the flagstone above the cemetery gate.
It is still there. It reads in Latin: MORS JANUA VITAE – Death is the Gate to Life.
Much of the area was destroyed by World War II, but after the war the people of Wroclaw decided to restore the Old Town, and the two little houses. Joined by an arch the houses reminded everyone of two children holding hands, so they were named: Jaś i Małgosia, the Polish names for Hänsel and Gretel. In English Małgosia translates to Little Margaret.
Now you know why I always felt special about this spot!
Today it is a lively corner of the Old Town Market Square and Małgosia houses the headquarters of the Wroclaw Lovers Association. The Association promotes the city, welcomes visitors, sells souvenirs and organizes guided tours around the town and vicinity. Therefore, to no surprise, right at the entrance to Malgosia's store, you can meet one of the city greatest admirers, a dwarf who does not want to be known by any other name but WrocLover. A happy and loving fellow, WrocLover has buddies all over the world and tells everywhere that Wroclaw is the friendliest place for dwarfs and people alike. Rumor has it, he convinced the dwarfs to move into the city to begin with. He welcomes all with a great smile and golden heart with the city emblem held high in his hand.
And of course, the backyard behind him is swarming with enjoyment and laughter. It is a meeting place for bikers, tourists resting in a local craft beer garden, and children searching for (and finding!) more of the city dwarfs.
I walked through the passage under the arch taking pictures. Caught in the camera intent stare of a handsome biker. Was he offended by being photographed, or wanted to ask if I’d like a close-up of his oh-so-shiny vehicle? I did not bother to check. Moving the lens quickly sideways I saw a glimpse of a strange shape; like a kneeling cross or a martyr-like figure, decapitated and yet holding up strait. Did someone but me remembered in the midst of this place of fun the rebellion from over six hundred years ago!? I came closer and red a sign on the ground:
Born February 4th 1906 in Wrocław
Evangelical Pastor and Theologian
Member of the German Resistance to National Socialists
Forerunner of Ecumenism, Christian Martyr
Murdered in Flossenburg Concentration Camp
April 9th 1945
This buoyant city square remembered one more rebel!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the greatest theologian of the last century, known for his courage, integrity and moral strength in the face of evil, was born in Wroclaw, and I was standing in front of his memorial. His book The Cost of Discipleship became a classic, and his writings on Christianity's role in the secular world have become widely influential.
The National Socialist was a mouthful to many, so if you are in doubt, there is a shorter version often used: the Nazis. Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his opposition to the Nazi dictatorship, including condemnation of Hitler's euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo he was imprisoned for more than a year, and finally after being associated with the plot to Hitler’s assassination, executed by hanging. He died but a two weeks before the regime collapsed and the Flossenburg camp was liberated.
His death was yet another the gate to Life...
It takes many rebels to build a city filed with so much laughter and love.
Love conquers all!
is a graphic designer and photography enthusiast.
is my little mascot! It is the most innovative, and techy dwarf ever known. He lives in a city called Wrocław, where dwarfs coexist with humans. Rumor has it he also likes taking pictures.
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