The Pagan Cult of Triglav in Szczecin

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“The three-headed statue had eyes and lips covered in gold”.

 

Triglav_Wolin

Our city of Szczecin has a long and glorious history but few people know that Szczecin was a Pagan Mecca as far back as the ninth century. Before there was a castle, the elevated hill on the bank of the Odra river was the location of a glorious temple to the supreme pagan god, Triglav. Triglav, literally meaning three-headed, was a mini-pantheon of the supreme gods Perun (Thunder), Svarog (Fire) and Dazbog (Sun).

According to Ebo von Michelsberg, medieval biographer of Bishop Otto von Bamberg, there were three sacred hills in Szczecin, each with its own Triglav temple. The highest, located on today’s castle hill, was where the most important idol was found. The three-headed statue had eyes and lips covered in gold. The deity’s three heads were covered with a triple tiara from which hung a veil down to the gods’ mouth. The pagans of the Lusatian culture believed the veil covered the faces of the gods so that they could not see their sins.

In addition to the temple on the castle hill, there was another temple at the sight where the Church of St. Peter and Paul stands today. This temple’s significance was the Sacred Oak Tree growing there. The Lusatians would offer sacrifices of goats and roosters under the Sacred Oak to pacify Perun, the thunder god.

The third temple’s location is not precisely known today, although it is believed to have been east of the temple of the Sacred Oak. This temple was said to house the oracle of Triglav, in the form of a black horse.

When Bishop Otto von Bamburg was sent on a mission to christianize Szczecin by King Bolesław III Wrymouth in 1124, he destroyed and sacked all three temples. He beheaded the glorious idol, chopped down the Sacred Oak, and sold the oracle horse, telling the Lusatians it would be better used to pull a carriage than to make predictions. Next, Bishop Otto from Bamburg built three churches on top of the old temples, St. Otto, St. Peter and Paul and St. Wojciech. He then took the Idol of Triglav to Rome as a trophy to show the pope that he had succeeded in christianizing the Baltic Slavs.

Legend says that the Lusatians saved three precious Triglav idols, one from the Triglav temple at Wolin, the other two, perhaps from Szczecin. The first is believed to be buried underneath the largest monolith in Poland, called Trzygław, in Tychowo. The next one is believed to have been hidden in a massive hollowed out tree in the village of Trzygłów, near by Gryfice. The location of the third idol is unknown but legend says the person who finds all three idols will command an unbounded and limitless power.

Because pagan Slav cultures, such as the Lusatians were an illiterate people that passed their culture down through the oral tradition, very little is known about their culture and beliefs. We do know, however, that the cult of Triglav was a very important cult in Slavic Mythology. Throughout the realm where the Slavic gods were worshiped we can find many topographical features named after Triglav. The most famous being Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia and Troglav, the highest peak of Dinara in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

To see some of the beautiful artifacts discovered from this period, please click HERE.”Lost and Found”, is an award winning exhibition by the Pomeranian Antiquities Collection of Szczecin.

**2016 UPDATE! The exhibition is back after travelling around Poland! You can see it (at the museum on Staromłyńska 27) until the end of  2016! Free admission on Saturdays!

Triglav_Tychowo1

This article was originally published on the soon-to-be defunct blog, sz-n.com in March of 2013.

 

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