Polish king nicknamed ‘Elbow-high’ because of his shortness may have been taller than thought, say researchers
A Polish king nicknamed Władysław the Elbow-high because of his small height may not have been as short as previously thought.
According to researchers examining the medieval king’s tomb at Wawel castle in Kraków in the hope of retrieving genetic material, the nickname might not even refer to the king’s height, which is thought to have been 120cm.
Lead archeologist Tomasz Wagner said: “According to us, the king was 152-155 cm tall when he was alive.
“Hence his nickname, although this was not so small for the Middle Ages, people were shorter then.”
The Piast-dynasty king has been resting in Wawel Castle since his death in 1333.
Despite his diminutive nickname, he was one of Poland’s greatest kings and restored the kingdom after the period of feudal fragmentation which started in the early 12th century.
The latest discovery came after archeologists used an endoscope threaded through three 18 mm boreholes to peer inside the 14th-century king’s burial chamber.
This revealed that the king, whose remains were in very good condition, had been buried without a coffin and laid directly onto the stone bottom of his burial chamber.
Usually, medieval coffins of kings were placed on iron bars, so when these materials decomposed, the interior of the sarcophagus collapsed.
The researchers also found a royal scepter alongside a disintegrated wooden orb. The king’s that navy blue garments and his pointy shoes, however, were well-preserved.
When the body was placed in the tomb, a silk scarf was most likely laid over the king's face, which has also been preserved and also visible is the king’s knight's belt.
Surprisingly, however, there was no crown and no trace of it was discovered on the king's skull.
According to Wagner, although a crown was reported when the tomb was opened in the 19th century, it’s unlikely to have been stolen.
Instead, he said: “Most likely it was not there because there would have been some trace left on the skull or scattered fragments if it had been made of perishable material.
“An attempt to pull out the crown would have involved moving the skull, and it has been resting intact since the body was placed in the tomb.”
Rubble that can be seen in the photographs comes from the 19th century when stonemasons building the pedestal on which he is now placed looked inside.
The Gothic stone tombstone in Wawel cathedral was most probably created in the years 1341-1346, funded by Władysław’s son and successor King Casimir III the Great.
The canopy covering the tombstone dates from the beginning of the turn of the 20th century.