The external tomb of Boleslaus II the Bold, king of Poland, former Benedictine monastery of Ossiach, Carinthia, Austria


A pilgrimage to the Ossiach Benedictine monastery, to the alleged tomb of king Bolesław II the Bold. Carinthia, Austria.

According to a popular legend, but backed by Benedictine chronicles, one summer evening of 1081 or 1082 an anonymous lone rider arrived at the Benedictine monastery of Ossiach in Carinthia asking for the permission to stay incognito as a simple novice monk. He named the only reason — to expiate his sins. He was received and could stay as long as he wished. Fulfilled all lowly duties of a novice monk without complains, although some legend versions mention a cache of gold he brought with him. Years later, on his death bed and after the final reconciliation he revealed his true identity.


The highly symbolic original ancient Roman legionnaire marble tomb plate with the saddled horse orphaned by the rider was placed on the outer wall of the monastery wall perhaps at least two centuries after his death, as the stylized Latin inscription reveals. It mentions the controversial Saint Stanislaus — executed 1079 most probably by the king in person as a traitor and a leader of a mutiny, but, note well, canonized much later — in 1253. The plate itself was referred for the first time in sources dated in the sixteenth century, which confirmed much older messages that the king died in a monastery by the western boundaries of Hungary, finally forced to flee the country due to mutiny of nobles — perhaps led by the treacherous bishop — and his insidious brother taking the power over. Some versions of the legend name the king’s death cause in Ossiach: a knife attack by unknown men appearing suddenly from the dark.

Anyway, someone choosing a Roman cavalry commander symbols for his tomb must have known the history of medieval Europe well, not to mention the details of the king’s life. Especially his role as a powerful and faithful ally of the pope Gregory VII in his deep conflict with the German King Henry IV. After the famous walk to Canossa in 1077 and the pope’s error of absolving Henry from his excommunication, the time of revenge came, hitting not only the pope but his ally Boleslaus as well.

It is presently supposed that the earthly remains of the king were transferred already some time between 1086 and 1089 to another Benedictine monastery, in king’s homeland, to Tyniec by Cracow, the very place of his alleged sin of killing the traitor bishop who by surprise became a saint(!) two centuries later. So why the artificial tomb plate in Ossiach obscuring the matters? Benedictine monks have always had the reputation of being learned but also very wise and warm people. They know the truth. And, anyway, their benefactors gain their respect and protection to the very end and beyond. Note well, the king grounded at least three Benedictine monasteries in Poland.

A few archaeological investigations of the tomb in the past revealed nothing conclusive. It is presumed that due to rebuilding of the church, especially after a devastating fire in the fifteenth century, the tomb plates were moved around the building and its surroundings. Just another level of obscurity.

Post Ossiach on