Catoptromant Mr. Twardowski – disbelief

According to legend, the Polish nobleman Mr. Twardowski, who sold his soul to the devil, awakened the soul of the late Barbara Radziwiłówna for King Sigismund Augustus with the help of a magic mirror, which is now kept in the Vegrov Church and left an encyclopedia. of all the sciences before, according to the signed pact, was abducted by the devils.

They eat, drink and smoke … – Adam Mickiewicz begins his work, which is discussed in schools. Among the banquets is the magician Twardowski, who demonstrated his magic skills and once sold his soul to the devil for this ability. Not knowing that this was the name of the hotel where he was currently playing, he promised to return it to Rome, so the devil came for the promised payment.

Tvardovsky’s legendary face can be seen in many other works. However, little is known about its historical prototype. As Roman Bugaj writes in the book Secret sciences in ancient Poland. Usta TvardovskiMost of these texts date back to the nineteenth century, later than the sixteenth-century sorcerer, with little mention of Twardowski’s own life.

Bugaj, in love The Secret Sciences and does not always criticize the alleged plays described above, but tries to solve Twardowski’s mystery and the spirit of the late queen in a very rational way. First, it describes the vast, ancient magical context that flourished at Yagellon University as one of Europe’s leading centers. (The author does not specify the criteria by which the quality of work can be assessed in an area that cannot be measured by definition and does not lead to any verifiable results. It remains to be said.

Bugaj then follows Jan Kuchta’s hypothesis that Twardowski is not a Polish nobleman, but a German born in Nuremberg and educated in Wittenberg, and that he remains in the famous Polish magic center. If we recall the later John Dean, who was brought to the Batory Court from the British Isles by Olbracht Łaski, he would not have been the only foreign magician who used inexhaustible means to acquire the wealth or greatness of the Polish aristocracy.

In support of this thesis, the names Dhur, Duranovius, and Dur, which replace each other in the old texts, refer to the court man Sigmunt Augustus. Latin durus means difficultIn Latin texts, the names are novelized. On the other hand, during the Renaissance, foreign words, including surnames, became Polish. So, if you translated Duranovius into Polish, Twardowski would come out …

And it does not seem unbelievable that after the death of his beloved wife Sigismund Augustus, there was simply a sorcerer in the court of superstition and mourning. The mystery simply summons the spirit of the deceased.

Some doubted that this was done with a mirror. For centuries, such tools have been used for divination, and this art is called cathoptromancy (as an analogue of palmology, fortune-telling). Some of the mirrors used by magicians were suspected of having small, faint-looking carvings that reflected the real scene in strong light to predict the future (at least in terms of the catroptomancer’s own good earnings in the future). They suspected that similar formations were found in Tvardovsky’s mirror (picture below). There were legends that you can see the devil when you look at them. Therefore, they hung in the sanctuary of the above-mentioned church in Wegrów, east of the present-day Mazovia Voivodeship, high enough not to look at it, and simply did not pass any test that could confirm their characteristics. . History shows that the mirror was given to the church by the Krasicki family, probably associated with Twardowski, but it had to be well created before it awakened the spirit of the queen, who was installed on January 7, 1569. This means that, contrary to speculation, they were not specifically designed for this purpose, and the remaining notes do not mention the use of a mirror at all in this ceremony.

In fact, they do not explicitly state that the ritual was performed by Tvardovsky (mostly among the people write about magicians), but Bugaj insists on participating in this work. After reading that the king knew his dead lover mentally and that the courtiers had a relationship with the late Barbara Gizanka, who was related to the Mniszech brothers, and through them to Krasicki, Bugaj offered to assassinate the mourning ruler. He connected with his party lover to increase his income. Here Twardowski had to perform with candles and other distractions, which had previously been banned under threat by the ruler. spirit loss While moving from the scene, another participant of the plot briefly put his daughter, dressed in the robe of the deceased, into the room. Shortly afterwards, the courtier drew the ruler’s attention to this resemblance by chance the girl he met in the spirit of the late queen. Sigmunt took the opportunity to establish a relationship with Barbara, who gave birth to a daughter.

However, the fewer people knew about the assassination, the safer it was for its leaders. Therefore, Twardowski had to leave the mansion. After the ruler’s death, he was probably killed (at least according to Buga) by ambassadors of the Mniszech and Krasicki factions, perhaps in a place called Rome near Wegrów, but it was also suspected elsewhere.

So, not a magician, not a cunning, not a mirror, not a substitute girl, not kidnapped by demons, killed by bandits hired by a magnate. What about Twardowski’s book? The homepage is not preserved, but the work is older and probably written by a Czech author. Similarly, Twardowski often read it while in Krakow and was therefore associated with his name.

Marcin Nowak


  • Bugaj R: The Secret Sciences in Old Poland. Usta Tvardovski. Replica, 2022


  • Gerson In: Appearance of Barbara Radziwiłł, oil paint on canvas, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
  • Author unknown: Zwierciadło Twardowskiego, from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

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