The Cursed Tomb of the Polish King Casimir IV Jagiellon

The Cursed Tomb of the Polish King Casimir IV Jagiellon

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When Howard Carter opened the tomb of King Tut and people who were with him started to become ill and die many thought that it was due to the curse of the pharaohs. A similar way of thinking appeared in the early 1970s in Crackow (Kraków, Poland), when a group of researchers opened the tomb of King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, known also as Casimir IV Jagiellon.

In 1973, four of the twelve people in the group of archaeologists passed away shortly after the tomb of the king was opened. The media likened the story to the incidences which happened 50 years earlier in Egypt, after the opening of tomb KV62, which belonged to the young pharaoh Tutankhamun. It should be noted that this was still a period when microbiology was not very advanced in historical and archaeological research.

Opening the Tomb

In the 1970s, Poland was a socialist country and many types of research were not allowed. It was not easy to receive an agreement to examine many historical sites, so the excitement amongst the archaeologists who were granted permission for any kind of research was immense. Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was a main supporter of the researchers who were studying King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk. As a person who seemed unstoppable, he was responsible for the final decision to allow the opening of the tomb. (A few years later, this priest became Pope John Paul II.)

A 1980 photo of John Paul II in Rome, Italy.

A 1980 photo of John Paul II in Rome, Italy. ( Public Domain )

500 years after the funeral of the king, people were about to examine his remains and discover the secrets which he took to his grave. The researchers hoped that the burial wasn't looted by Russians during World War II, as this had happened to many other royal tombs in Poland.

The king was buried in the chapel of Wawel castle, so the works took place in the church with the largest number of the royal remains in Poland. At the time, it was the number one topic in the Polish media, and people became obsessed with the medieval king, as was the case with Tutankhamun a few decades earlier.

Tomb of Casimir IV in the Wawel Cathedral, late Gothic masterpiece by Veit Stoss.

Tomb of Casimir IV in the Wawel Cathedral, late Gothic masterpiece by Veit Stoss. ( Public Domain )

At the same time, all of the researchers began to joke about a curse, which could take many of their lives. Unfortunately for them, the funny anecdotes became a prophecy.

The Life and Death of a King

King Casimir was born November 30, 1427 as the third and the youngest son of King Władysław II Jagiełło and his fourth wife, Sophia of Halshany. He became the Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1440 and the King of Poland in 1447. He ruled until the day of his death. The king is known in history as one of the most successful and politically active Polish rulers. During his reign, Poland defeated the Teutonic Order following the war known as the Thirteen Years War (1454 – 1466).

After the war, King Casimir recovered Pomerania and the most important city near the southern coast of the Baltic Sea – Gdańsk. Due to his actions, the Jagiellon dynasty became one of the leading royal families in Europe. The wisdom of his advisers strengthened the power of the Parliament and the Senate, and Casimir himself was considered one of the greatest kings of his times.

Casimir IV of Poland and his wife Elizabeth of Austria meeting Saint John of Capistrano.

Casimir IV of Poland and his wife Elizabeth of Austria meeting Saint John of Capistrano. ( Public Domain )

The final destruction of the Teutonic Order in this part of the world, adding Prussia to the Polish territory, and a good relationship with many European royal courts brought Casimir glory. Under his rule, Poland appeared to be a wealthy country which gained more status in Europe. With his position, the king received the English Oder of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry - which continues to be the most prestigious honor in the United Kingdom.

When Casimir died, he was 65 years old. On June 7, 1492, when Columbus was “discovering” America, the king died. It was a hot summer day in the castle of Grodno, which is currently a part of Belarus.

Casimir IV, by Marcello Bacciarelli.

Casimir IV, by Marcello Bacciarelli. ( Public Domain )

The funeral could only be held in Wawel castle in southern Poland. Due to the weather conditions, that was a challenge. He was buried in a simple wooden coffin and his naked body was covered with very expensive textile. The people who prepared him for his last travel to the capital city didn't know what happened to his body, but the process of decay was surprisingly fast for them, so they decided to cover the body of the king with calc. The closed coffin was then covered with textile and resin. The king was buried on July 11. After that the coffin became a biological bomb - which exploded 500 years later.


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