Krakow would not be Krakow without the bugle call. Every hour, the refrains of a bugle are heard from atop St. Mary?s Church tower. The Krakow bugle is the oldest permanent radio music broadcast in the world.
Hundreds of years ago a bugler in the 81-meter-tall St. Mary?s Tower began heralding the daily opening and closing of the city?s gates.
The bugler was also a municipal guardian. If he noticed danger, he would immediately sound his trumpet.
According to legend, the melody that is played today honors a bugler that a Tatar warrior killed in 1240.
From his tower perch he was the first to notice Tatar troops bearing down on the city. He sounded the alarm ? but his trumpeting suddenly stopped. A Tator arrow had pierced his throat.
The call was enough to galvanize the city?s residents into getting inside the walls and setting their defenses, however. The Tatar assault failed.
In a salute to this legendary bugler, today?s buglars stop playing in mid-note during the last part of their tune to produce an intermittent silence.
The oldest reference to Krakow?s bugler is in a 1392 Polish chronicle, noting Krakow?s bugler who played a melody upon the opening and closing of the city?s gates.
The bugler was such an important symbol of Krakow that when city officials in the 18th Century could no longer pay him, the merchants Thomas and Julia Krzyzanowski donated money to ensure the tradition continued.
During World War II, the bugler played only twice a day ? at noon and 19:00 ? instead of four times an hour, 24 hours a day.
Each of the four directions that the buglar faces is a tribute to a person or group important to Krakow?s life.
The on-the-hour trumpeting faces Wawel Castle to the south in honor of the king. The strains that come at 15 past the hour face City Hall on the west in honor of the mayor. The trumpeting at 30 minutes past the hour faces north in a salute to the city?s inhabitants as a whole and to its tourists. And the 45 past the hour strains face east in honor of the fire chief and merchants.
The popularity of the tradition prompted the city to establish a Bugle Festival on July 3. This date is significant. Antoni Dolega died July 3, 1901, while playing a bugle in the tower. In 2006, a plaque was put on the tower wall to commemorate the renowned player.
Since 1927, Polish Radio 1 has transmitted a bugle call at noon daily to all of Poland.