Gniazdo (The Cradle) (1974) 

 

 

 

Director:     Jan Rybkowski. 

Starring:      Wojciech Pszoniak (Mieszko I),  Marek Bargielowski (Czcibr, Mieszko's brother),  Wanda Neumann (Dubrawa),  Franciszek Pieczka (Mrokota),  Boleslaw Plotnicki (Ziemiomysl, Mieszko's father),  (Boleslaw I Okrutny, Dubrawa's father),  Tadeusz Bialoszczynski (Markgraf Geron),  Janusz Bylczynski (Markgraf Hodon),  Wlodzimierz Maciudzinski (Swietopelk, Mieszko's brother),  Czeslaw Wollejko (Empirer Otto I 'The Great),  Andrzej Szalawski (Odolan, Ziemomysl's brother),  Iga Mayr (Wiedzma),  Edmund Fetting (Krystian, Dubrawa's brother),  Aleksander Fogiel (Uczestnik chrztu Mieszka). 

Mieszko I and the Battle of Cedynia, 972 A.D.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

4 horsemen come riding up to the fortress.  At night two large bonfires are lit up in the mountains. 

A group of  Poles ride up to the bank of the Oder river (the current border between Germany and Poland).  They watch as a whole army gathers together on the other side of the wide Oder River.  The Polish leader says:  "Saxons."   With them are some Serbs.  Another man says their own forces will gather together by nighttime.  The Prince's own squad is very fatigued.  Another man comments:  "For the first time we're standing to fight with the Germans."   

The Polish leader tells Mrokota to move. 

A Pole shouts to the Saxons:  "Our master Mieszko Ziemomyslic, the Prince of Poland, wants to talk with the venerable Margrave Hodon."  The princes shouts a question: Why have they come to his border?  The answer comes back:  "You've occupied the Wolin Castle."  The prince shoots back that he does not need anyone's permission to take a fort where the people do not kneel before the sign of the cross.  Nor was the fort subordinate to the power of the emperor! 

Hodon says the Saxons have Gdanask and they are now trying to get Wolin.  The prince tells the Saxon leader that they can stay the night in this place, but tomorrow they must go back home.  The Saxon rejects this request.  It looks like there will be a fight tomorrow. 

The prince keeps seeing an old man in a chair (actually his father) who tells the prince that his brother Czcibor will be the new ruler, even though he is younger than the prince.  The prince expects a fight. 

The prince goes back to an encampment.  He calls for:  "Bronisz!"  He gives the order to burn the encampment down.  Some object that this is the servants' encampment and they are the ones who make arrow heads and shields.  The prince says to burn the place and take the people to the fort.  He wants room enough for the fight and for the cemetery.  "The enemy will remember this place.  Cedynia!"

In the fort the staff of the prince wonders if the Saxon emperor ordered the attack on them for occupying Wolin.  And yet the emperor said that he was a friend of Mieszko.  The prince is ill.  Brother Czcibor asks the prince if he is able to lead the battle?  Some of the staff decide to withdraw and go back to Poznan (in west central Poland) to gather more forces.  The prince says no to the idea.  He also says they will not meet the Saxon force is the open. 

Bonfires are lit in the mountains.  A priest visits the prince.

A merchant with camels arrives.  He says he heard talk of there being a fort of Gniezdno under a master who rules all between the Vistula River and the Warta River.

Now a witch visits the prince.  She gives him something to drink and says that those who are dead will visit the prince and he should try to win them over to his cause.  The brother and a staff member tell the witch to go away. 

Flashback.  Dad says he does not believe Mieszko when he says that he brought what appears to be a Mongolian fellow from the far away swamps.  Father says the man's people will find out what land they occupy and will come and kill them like the ones living by Slawa and Sala.  Dad says they will not meet the Germans in battle until they are equal in strength to the enemy.  The son says:  "You will never rule genuinely, until the whole force accumulate here in Gniezdno."  He says there must be one policy, one faith and one power.  Dad threatens his son with banishment if he does not obey his father.

Back to the present.  The prince jumps up and says that his father was cursing him.  The man never understood the situation, that other people, other armies, will find them, so they should prepare now for a possible battle.   

Flashback.  A man named Krzywosad, the head of a squad, has been killed.  Brother Czcibor asks why was Krzywosad killed?  The prince says he was killed because he would not turn over the leadership of the squad to his sovereign.  Then he says:  "Our brother Swietopelk came here as well to see our father."  The prince wants the three of them to go see their father.  The prince says:  "We will listen to him, but I will rule."

Dad is now very old and weary.  He wants his three sons to swear that they will never jeopardize Gniezdno. He wants them to never seek to imitate the west because the west means death.  And Mieszko is crazy.  "He will waste and destroy everything.  Therefore, you will not be the heir."  Czcibor will be the heir.  Mieszko goes over to his father, puts his hand on the sword blade and says:  "We swear." 

The brothers come out of the throne room and Mieszko tells the men that their Master Ziemomysl, the son of Ziemowit, has died.  The Master's brother wants to know why were they not permitted to see the Master one more time at least?  Why was the door closed?  Mieszko says that their father did not want to see anyone before he died.  Czcibor backs up Mieszko and bows to him as their monarch.  The only one who will not bow is Mieszko's uncle. 

Mieszko lets it be known that he is going to change "everything".  He now appoints staff member Mrkota to be head of the council of elders.  Uncle is still rebellious, so Mieszko says the man is no longer the master of Giecz and of the land of Giecz.  He then gives his youngest brother the fort and the people in it.

A funeral is held for the father of the three sons.  After that Mieszko tells his people that they will expand to the mountains and the sea. 

A village is burned.  The youngest brother of the trio has been killed.  News comes:  "Your uncle Odolan along with the tribe of the Vielets has invaded your brother."  Mieszko shouts:  "Wihman!"  They go after Uncle Odolan.  He his hoisted high in the air. Then horseman after horseman comes up and throws a spear at Odolan.  He is soon dead. 

Back to the present.  Mieszko says it's the spirit of their father causing them trouble through his curses.  Czibor tells Mieszko that he has a battle tomorrow and he must get some sleep.  The prince says that their father is coming.  He says he can't see father, but he knows he's here. He yells at his father:  "Father, we couldn't do differently.  You've forbidden me to reach for the oder River, but I couldn't be obedient."  He says 11 years ago he went West and he occupied the land of the Lubuszanie.  The people opened their gates to him, so he didn't have to fight.  After that, he went South along the Oder River where there was a field of the Slupianie.  Those who would not bow before the true God were punished by weighing them down with rocks, tying their hands together and pushing them into the river.  Mieszko says that he then had to become a Christian in order to be a true leader of his people. 

Flashback.  Mieszko and his staff have no one who can rightfully baptize them to become Christians.  So Mieszko tells his brother to go see the Czech Prince Boleslaw to get him to baptize them.  The Czech prince says that Mieszko will never be their brother.  Czibor leaves.  A Czech known as brother Christian decides to follow the men a distance away from the Czech prince and have a talk with the Poles.  

Czibor is back with the Prince, who tells him to got to Ratisbonne undercover to find a Christian monk.  He will go to Bishop Michal.  The bishop will put pressure on Czech Prince Boleslaw to wed his daughter to Mieszko.  While Mieszko is plotting this, some of his "wives" are fawning all over him.  But now Mieszko will have to let all these women go elsewhere, if he is to have a real wife.  One of his staff comments:  "It will be hard for him with only one woman."

The new wive, Dubrawa, is being taken to Mieszko.  With her comes the bishop and Brother Christian.  The people give the new wife a royal reception.  They have a big feast in honor of the occasion.  Alone in the bedroom Mieszko says he wants a son.  Dubrawa tells him she will give him a son. 

Mieszko tells the bishop that it's time to send some messengers to Rome, to the Pope.  The bishop explains that the Pope has been dead for seven months.  Mieszko says that there is a Pope.  It's the Bishop of Narnia and his name is Pope John XIII.  The bishop tells Mieszko to send his brother to see the Pope.  And with him the bishop's daughter, Mlada, a very saintly person, who will present his request. 

Mieszko is going to send a messenger to Italy to give his brother a message.  He is to return immediately.  He is to leave whatever else is to be done to reverend sister Mlada.  Also, tell Czibor that they will not wait for the baptism of their own bishop.  The Emperor has appointed a new diocese in Magdeburg and the Poles may have to go there to be baptized.  Mieszko says where they get baptized in not to be in the lands of the Saxons.

Mieszko gets baptized.  He holds a big feast in honor of this baptism.  It is mentioned that now Mieszko can go as an equal to meet with the Emperor. 

The Emperor asks Mieszko if he will go with him to attack the Vielets and carry the cross?  Mieszko says he will.  In return, Mieszko says that the Margrave Geron recently died and he would like the land to be divided up into five different parts.  The Emperor is willing to do this.  But he wants Mieszko to handle a man that has given him many headaches:  the nephew of the Margrave Geron.  He keeps invading the Emperor's borders.  Mieszko says he knows the man.  His name is Vihman and he invaded Mieszko's land and killed his youngest brother.  The Emperor says that there's a rumor that Vihman is going to invade Mieszko's land again.  If he does, he wants Mieszko to kill Vihman.  Mieszko says he will kill Vihman.  The Emperor now says he likes Mieszko and he accepts his friendship. 

The Poles go out to face this Vihman.  Vihman goes to the attack and Mieszko's brother goes out to fight him. He stabs Viman through his armor.  Mieszko and the men give a big cheer for Czibor.  Later Czibor's takes the helmet and other belongings of Vhiman to show to the Emperor. 

There is a dispute among the Emperor's kingdoms.  They don't like this Mieszko fellow at all. 

Back to the present.  Mieszko tells his father's spirits that he finally did it:  "I conquered the whole coast from the Vistula to the Oder River."  He also built a new fort in Gdansk along with hundreds of others in different areas. Furthermore, he has his own bishop, appointed by the Pope.  He says his own son will inherit a piece of land 10 times larger than the piece of land Mieszko originally inherited.  But if he or his son are to inherit the title of king, father must help Mieszko win tomorrow.

The Saxons and Poles prepare to fight.  Mieszko arrives among his men.  He says his father visited him last night.  And father left him with a special spear, a symbol of victory and fame. 

The enemy moves along the river bank next to some large hills on their right.  The Poles start rolling big logs down onto the long line of troops.  Now the army attacks the line. There is a lot of fighting between the two forces.  Now the Saxon and Polish cavalries start fighting each other.     

It's a Polish victory.  They capture two of the Saxon leaders.  Mieszko looks at them, Hodon and Ziegfried, and then tells them both to go away. 

Mieszko and his men return to their fort. 

 

Good, historical film.  And it is not much over 90 minutes.  A lot of the early historical Polish films are way too long.  Use the information in the historical background below to be able to follow the film with greater ease.  That information is in chronological order, as opposed to the film's switching back and forth from the present to the past and back to the present, etc.  The characters in the film refer to Mieszko as "crazy", but he sure did a lot for a mad man.  Mieszko did act a bit crazy, especially when he is speaking with his father's spirit.  Nevertheless, this first king brought about the ideal of a united Polish country and that ideal was often not obtainable.  (This was especially true asn poor Poland was caught between Germany on its west and Russia on its east.)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


 


Historical Background:

 

Margrave (male) or Margravine (female) a medieval hereditary nobleman with military responsibilities in a border province of a kingdom.

 

 

Piast dynasty (966-1385)

c. 930  --  birth of the future Mieszko I of the future Poland. 

c. 960  --  death of Mieszko I's father.

965 Mieszko I married the daughter Dobrawa of the Bohemian ruler Boleslav I the Cruel.

966  --  birth of the Polish state; baptism of Mieszko I, duke of the Slavic tribe of Polans.  He founded the Piast dynasty.  He converted to Christianity.

972  --  Mieszko I had already started solidifying the coastal area on the Baltic Sea.  This brought him into conflict with the Saxon noble Margrave Hodo.  Mieszko wanted to take Wolinian and Hodo felt that Wolinian belonged in his sphere of influence.  The two forces met at the Battle of Cedynia and the result was a Polish victory. 

973  --  death of Emperor Otto I.

977 Mieszko's wife, Dobrawa, died.

980 after the death of his first wife, Mieszko I married the nun Oda, daughter of Dietrich of Haldensleben, Margrave of the Northern March, after abducting her from the monastery of Kalbe.

By 990  --  Mieszko I had transformed Poland into one of the strongest powers in Eastern Europe. 

Mieszko's son Boleslaw the Brave united all the provinces that became Poland.

1025 --  Boleslaw was the first king of Poland.

Period of instability.

Poland unified under the reign of Boleslaw the Wrymouth.

1138  --  death of Boleslaw the Wrymouth. 

Period of Fragmentation that lasts two centuries.  Poland was divided among four of his sons.

1241  --  invasion of the Mongols; weakened and depopulated much of Poland. 

1226  --  Konrad I of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights to Poland to help fight the Prussians; a big mistake.

14th and 15th centuries:  the Teutonic Knights waged war on Poland and Lithuania. 

In the middle of 14th century Poland started to expand to the East and annexed Galich Rus'.

Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high united the Polish principalities.

His son Kazimierz the Great was the last of the Piast dynasty.  He strengthened Poland in both foreign and domestic affairs.

1370  --  Kazimierz died.

His nephew, the Andegawen Louis of Hungary inherited the throne.

1385  --  the Union of Krewo began the Polish-Lithuanian Union.  It was signed by Louis' daughter Jadwiga and the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila (later known as Władysław II Jagiełło).  This union strengthened both Poland and Lithuania in their opposition to the Teutonic Knights and the growing threat of Muscovy.

 

The Jagiellon Era (1385-1572)

 

 

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