The Krakow St. Mary’s Trumpet Call, also called the bugle call, is a melody composed in F major. It resonates four times, every hour, from the top of the highest tower of the Archpriest Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the so-called St. Mary’s Basilica. Two firemen on duty open windows in turn to the four cardinal sides of the world and play the familiar tones. Here it is worth mentioning the considerable symbolism of this ritual. Music from the south is addressed to the king in Wawel, from the north to guests from distant parts of the world, from the east for the commandant of the guard, and from the west to the mayor.
It is difficult to say exactly when the bugle call was created. It is said that its traces can be found as early as in fourteenth-century chronicles. Initially, the purpose of the melody was unknown. Since February 13, 1838, its sound announced precisely 12 p.m. The exact time was determined thanks to the efforts of Professor Maksymilian Weiss – director of the Astronomical Observatory of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.
A sound known throughout Poland
The exact hour was transmitted via radio from Krakow to all of Poland. Immediately after the time signal, the St. Mary’s bugle call was played. The sound was reproduced for the first time in 1927 and it continues to this day. However, the time is verified by the Laboratory of Time and Frequency of the Central Office of Measures, as the costs associated with receiving such information from Krakow have proved to be too high.
A living legend
Speaking of the Krakow bugle call, one cannot forget about the legend associated with the melody’s sudden ending. The story presents the event of the Tatars’ invasion of Poland. When the troops stood at the city gates, the bugler began to blow the trumpet to warn the residents. During his play, a stray arrow hit the musician in the throat and he fell without finishing the melody. The legend was created relatively recently, in the 1920s. And since then, it adds color to tradition.
(Un)replaceable bugle call
The history of Krakow is rich in situations when instead of the bugle call or in addition to it, it was possible to hear other sounds coming from the church tower. During a national mourning, the Łzy Matki (Mother’s tears) song can be heard from the windows. Such a situation took place after the death of John Paul II, the crash of the CASA plane and also after the crash of the presidential plane near Smolensk. When the city experienced special celebrations or events, songs such as the anthem of MKS Cracovia, bugle call of Sosnowiec, as well as Czerwone Maki na Monte Casino or What a Wonderful World were played from the top of the basilica.