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The Legend of Anne Schilling

Fragments of badly preserved chest with rusty fittings found in the cellar by workers during the renovation of the house at 1 Mariacka street are a sensational discovery. It turned out that on the back of a rotten board there is a date Anno Domini 1539 and an inscription “Anne” together with a blurred fragment of a surname “Schill...”. Most probably it is the trunk of Anne Schilling...

In XVI century in Gdańsk, which was then the wealthiest town of the Polish Republic and one of the most powerful trade centres in Europe, Anne and Nicholas met. He was a canon in Frombork whilst she was a daughter of a Dutch merchant.

The Dominican Fare was just taking place, a number of vessels loaded with Spanish and French wine, silk, olive, Portuguese spices and other goods arrived at the port. Anne Schilling appeared unexpectedly at Mariacka street. Elegant dresses of the beautiful Dutch shimmered in the sun. Her alluring silhouette and lovely face gladdened eyes of passers-by, even wealthy townswomen were whispering: Look, here comes the daughter of Arend van der Schilling.

Anne met Nicholas Copernicus in Gdańsk in the year 1529 when her father, Dutchman Arend van der Schilling, together with Copernicus were the legal carers of a group of orphans. The famous astronomer enchanted Anne to such an extent that she agreed to become his housekeeper in Frombork. What happened with her husband? He was supposed to have left her for another woman.

Anne – a serious wife, was not only charming and wealthy but also clever. She read scholarly books, was interested in astrology. Like other people of her epoch she wondered what was the black curtain which covered the sun every night. Therefore, it was not a surprise that the educated and brilliant, although much older from Anne canon Nicholas Copernicus made a staggering impression on her.

For seven years, beautiful Dutchwoman remained extremely close with the astronomer-too close- in Frombork’s citizens opinion, though Copernicus himself introduced her as his housekeeper. However, every night visit was diligently noted for Frombork was a little town. There nothing could hide, even if it was only watching the stars together and casting horoscopes. Thus, in November 1538 bishop Dantyszek from a distant town Warminian Lidzbark sent a letter ordering Copernicus to end that acquaintance.

To end...- but how if she is so full of charm? – worried Copernicus, yet in his letter to the bishop assured: I strongly desire not to let the situation happen in which I would become the common cause of depravation. Six weeks later he wrote again: I have followed Your Majesty’s warnings. What a liar! Anne was still living in his house.

However, in the summer of 1539 Nicholas Copernicus sent Anne away. Nevertheless, people of evil will were still accusing them of clandestine meetings. Therefore, a concerned Warminian canon Paweł Płotowski informed: Doctor Nicholas’ woman sent her things to Gdańsk, yet she herself still remains here in Frombork...

Anne had no other choice than to return to Gdańsk and bring the rest of her belongings to Mariacka street. There, in the shadow of the basilica, in the house at the beginning of the most beautiful streets in Gdańsk she was waiting for her astronomer. Did he arrive? Most probably, for Anne differed so much from other women...

After the death of Nicholas Copernicus, the canons from Frombork wrote a letter to bishop Dantyszek asking if he would let Anne return to the city which she was expelled from then that doctor Copernicus had left. Bishop Dantyszek refused their claim immediately with the following words: We must be afraid that through the same means that she created his [Copernicus] madness [...] she can entrap one of you, my brothers [...].

Anne Schilling must have been a lovely creature indeed and endowed with magnetic personality. Certainly, she was one of the most gorgeous and shiniest Copernicus’ stars...




Krystyna Konecka
Nicholas and Anna

From house porch she walked in the basilica’s shadow
like off Raphael or Botticelli’s canvases.
Comet of hair. Her gaze. Delicate garment’s detail ...
Much easier to stop the sun, than astronomer’s pulse.

And with such unreachable, so dreamlike by his side
- in the tower in Frombork he used to spend later
years against the customs. For in the darkness of his world
body of Anna shone above all the celestial.

Was it so? Was she? Is there anything that’s been left?
In house’s gothic dungeon remains of rust and rot
- travelling chest, therefore trace of the returns to Gdańsk.

On it legible initials of Anna Schilling.
So – there it exists. So - still loves and lives on the floor
in the stellar dust of legend of the Gotyk House.

(Gdansk, ul. Mariacka 1)

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