The Legend of Pieskowa Skała, or Little Dog’s Rock.
As with any self-respecting castle, the one atop Pieskowa Skała is rumored to have been the setting of a doomed romance between the beautiful Dorota of the Toporczyk clan and a young, but poor, knight. As tradition dictates, Dorota was married off to the much older Szafraniec whom her parents had chosen to ensure a solid financial future for their daughter. Undeterred by the marriage, the two young lovers sought to continue their romance, and so one day the knight appeared at Pieskowa Skała disguised as a lutenist who had come to entertain the lady of the house. Szafraniec, being a trusting and oblivious husband, left the pair unsupervised while he indulged in a hunt in the surrounding wood.
Upon his return the husband found his young wife and the lutenist engaged in most inappropriate behavior. Enraged, Szafraniec ordered the knight be drawn and quartered, while his unfaithful wife was locked away in the castle’s dungeon to die of starvation. Unbeknownst to her husband, Dorota’s faithful dog brought his mistress table scraps each day which allowed her to survive long enough for her brutish husband to die of old age. Upon her release Dorota named the castle and the cliff which it stood upon “Pieskowa Skała” (Little Dog’s Rock) in honor of her faithful companion.
From a bit more historically objective perspective, Pieskowa Skała most likely takes its name from a former owner whose name “Pieszki” eventually evolved into “Pieski” (little dogs). The limestone cliff near the Prądnik river is located in the Ojców National Park just north of Kraków. King Kazimierz Wielki ordered the construction of the castle overlooking the cliff in the early 14th century and the structure was designed to reflect the style of the Polish Renaissance. Between 1542 and 1578 the castle underwent subsequent renovations and changes to its original architecture, and once again in the 17th century. By the early 20th century the Pieskowa Skała Society took ownership of the property which has been meticulously maintained to present day.
One of the main natural attractions of the Ojców National Park is a towering rock formation known as Maczuga Herkulesa (The Club of Hercules) which is situated near the castle. The formation stands 30 meters (98.5 feet) tall and is surrounded by a dense forest, deep ravines, a network of caves, and a variety of other rock formations.
Not to be outdone by the legendary romance of Pieskowa Skała, Maczuga Herkulesa has its own story. Purportedly the infamous Pan Twardowski, a Polish nobleman who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for power and great magic, had his hand in placing the club near Pieskowa Skała. According to the contract between Twardowski and the devil, the latter promised to perform three tasks set by Twardowski in exchange for his mortal soul, should they ever meet in Rome. As luck would have it, the two crossed paths unexpectedly while drinking at the “Rome Inn”. True to his word, the devil set out to fulfill his end of the bargain. One of the requests set by Twardowski was that the devil take an enormous rock and set it narrow end down to the ground without it toppling over. The devil did as he promised, and Maczuga Herkulesa still stands on its tapered end.