When walking past Warsaw’s Old Town and the Church of Our Lady of Grace, there is a small statue that does seem a bit out of place. It’s a bear, seemingly frozen on the church porch.
This statue is said to be of Prince Mieszko, an adopted prince of Janusz I who was found in a bear’s den during a hunting trip. According to the legend he protected the bear and her cubs from being shot by putting himself between the animals and the hunters, a very brave move that convinced Janusz I’s family to adopt the child as their own.
The young prince was raised with love and care and learned the customs of the court, but he never quite got over his wild nature and remained close to the forest. It’s said he was bad with people, especially women, until he met Jadwizka, the woman he fell in love with.
Mieszko told himself that he would marry her or die. It was a requited love, and it seemed that the union was about to happen. However, Mieszko was summoned into service and had to leave the city against his will for a few months.
When Mieszko returned, he looked for the perfect place to hold a wedding and entered the church in the Old Town. To his astonishment, he found Jadwizka in the church, marrying someone else against her will. This broke Mieszko’s heart, nearly killing him. Luckily (or not), a witch saved him, by turning him into a stone bear. Mieszko is destined to remain in his deep sleep until his true love comes and kisses the statue.
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