“Kulig. A sleigh ride. This much-loved entertainment of Poles occurred on the 20th of January, 1695 in Warsaw. It was described by Ludwig Klermont, secretary to Oueen Marie Casimire d’ Arquien, wife of King Jan III(*Sobieski).
Drawing of unknown date illustrating sleigh in shape of a swan.
"A group of well-known individuals gathered at the palace of Daniłowicz which later was to become the Załuski Library."
*The library was reconstructed from the Daniłowicz Palace, adding an astronomical observatory. At the time (late 1700's), it was considered to be Poland's first public library. Destroyed during World War II, it was reconstructed once again.
"At 3pm in the afternoon, the trumpeters sounded the signal and the entire entourage set off: 24 Tartar horses in service to Prince Jakuba (the oldest son of the king) pulling 10 sleighs each with 4 horses abreast; on each a different set of musicians; Jews with hammered dulcimers; Ukrainians with torbans; more trumpets, fife’s and janissaries(*an elite guard of soldiers) from the various manor houses.
An example of a hammered dulcimer, a folk instrument called cymbały in Polish.
"They were followed by sleighs covered with Persian carpets, leopard skins, sables and other expensive furs. Each sleigh was pulled by a pair of horses decorated with feathers, tufts, ribbons and tassels; on each sleigh there were individuals of both genders and riding along the sleighs were young lords from the manors mounted on horses. There were 107 of these ensembles and hard to say which had superiority because all of them had fine horses, expensive furs and servants dressed in Hungarian livery.
At the end there were sleighs in the shape of Pegasus; sitting on it were 8 young men who recited verses that were written long ago by Ustrycki(*Andrzej Wincenty Usztrycki, Polish poet and preacher) and Chrościński(*Wojciech Stanisław Chrościński, Polish poet who also wrote in Latin).
The entourage ended with a branch of drabantów (*a type of Polish honor guard who carried halberds – an axe mounted on a long pole, topped with a spike, essentially a battle axe )
All the guests arrived first to Sapieźynki’s, then to the Princess Radziwiłła; followed by Potocki’s to the young Lubomirski prince; to the Castellan(a member of the Polish Senate) of Lublin and to Ujazdów (no mention of who lived there). Wherever they arrived, the host would give them the keys to the cellar and the hostess the key to the pantry so the guests could help themselves to whatever they wanted. Music kept playing, there was dancing and then they moved on. The last destination and get-together occurred at Wilanów(*the royal palace) where the King and Queen greeted their guests warmly; everyone was entertained, even the accompanying servants, until late into the night. The entire entourage returned home by torch lights, of which there were 800.”
King Sobieski's Palace at Wilanów.
It is said that some of the families mentioned above were richer than the king himself, in possession of incredible wealth and equipped with their own armies, let alone an honor guard. But, oh my, to have clapped eyes on those sleighs! Here is another illustration with the sleigh in the shape of a deer/stag.
The winter entertainment of the wealthy elite was still prevalent in the 1800's as caught on canvas by painters Juliuz and Jerzy Kossack within their lifetime.
Painting by Juliusz Kossak 1887 with sleigh in the shape of a bear.
By the end of the 18th century, the sleigh rides of court nobility disappeared. The custom of more simple sleigh rides through the snowy countryside persisted among the lower social groups for a long time. Here is a fun video that depicts the sleigh ride as enjoyed by the artistocracy as well as more simple folk by modern and historical painters.
Text of sleigh ride from book Gry i Zabawy (Games and Entertainment) by Łukasz Gołęmbiowski
Photos from Wikipedia
Illustrations from www.cultureave.com
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.