The Dragon’s Den is a cave located in the western end of the landmark Wawel Hill and one of the most interesting naturally-occurring archeological reserves in Poland. It is also the mythical home of the Wawel Dragon, a legend deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of the region. Stewardship of the Dragon’s Den involves a multidisciplinary approach to the preservation of both the material and non-material heritage of this unique site. The interdisciplinary project “Preserving the Heritage of the Wawel’s Dragon’s Den” includes scientific study and analysis, which will serve as the basis for a conservation plan. Of equal importance are educational programs and artistic and scholarly events that address and contextualize the archaeological, iconographic, and cultural aspects of the Dragon’s Den and the legend of the Wawel Dragon.
Art and Scholarship
Exhibition and Symposium: Two Faces of the Dragon
September – October 2015
The artistic and cultural components of the heritage of the Dragon’s Den will be presented to the general public in the exhibition Two Faces of the Dragon and accompanying symposium.
The Wawel Dragon is not only the star of one of Poland’s best known and most beloved legends, it is also a inextricably enmeshed with the symbolism and history of both the city of Krakow and Wawel Castle. This exhibition takes an interdisciplinary approach to placing the Wawel Dragon within a broader European artistic and cultural context. It brings together four disciplines: archeology, history, cultural anthropology, and art history. The exhibition is constructed around three main complementary themes: iconography, symbolism, and history. A display of artworks created by teens participating in one of the project’s educational programs will be included at the end of the exhibition.
Noted scholars representing the disciplines listed above will present papers at the accompanying public symposium. The symposium links the visual art presented in the exhibition with scholarly discussion of the rich and complex range of cultural and anthropological issues connected with the subject. The papers will be published in the exhibition catalogue.
An intrinsic part of the Project is promoting access to culture through outreach to groups of young people that, for various reasons are unable to fully participate in the Castle’s educational programs. The legend of Wawel Dragon inspired special programs tailored specifically to their needs. Number of participants is limited.
Educational Workshops “Dragon x 3”
This unique educational series was conceived in collaboration with specialists and therapists and is directed to teens. The program will include visits to the Wawel Castle and the Dragon’s Den. The final product – the participants’ artwork – will be put on display in the exhibition Two Faces of the Dragon. The program consists of three stages:
- Stage 1 – “Meet the Dragon” – participants will learn about dragons in different cultures, belief systems, art, music, and legends. Some activities will be held on Wawel Hill and in the Dragon’s Den.
- Stage 2 – “Tame the Dragon” – participants will take part in outdoor activities in the Prądnik River Valley in the Ojców National Park and learn how to overcome their fears – “tame their own dragons.”
- Stage 3 – “Transform the Dragon” – art, drawing, and ceramics workshops that will enable participants to express the transformation of their fears into artwork. The workshops will be led by an art therapist and will let participants experience the satisfaction of creating their own dragon – symbolically overcoming fears and weaknesses.
Theater Workshops and Performances
This program was developed specifically for blind and seeing-impaired children as well as children with mental disabilities. This series of workshops led by specialists will take participants through the creative process of a theatrical production from exploring the subject, through creating stage sets, and finally mounting an improvisational theatrical performance about the Wawel Dragon. The series will comprise:
- Cognitive Workshops held in the Wawel Castle and on Wawel Hill. Children will learn about the legend and symbolism of the Wawel Dragon, find representations of the dragon in the art and architecture of the Castle, and learn about the artistic techniques used create them.
- Art Workshops led by professional artists will help children discover their creative potential. Participants will make scenery and stage decorations using art techniques and media appropriate to their individual needs and abilities.
- Theater Workshops. Groups of children will prepare and perform a play (a form of improvisational theater) about the dragon.
Scientific Analysis of the Dragon’s Den and Reserve
Nearly 40 years have passed since a key study of the Dragon’s Den was performed by Zbigniew Strzelecki and a team of scientists from the AGH Technical University of Krakow. Based on their findings, preservation work was carried out and reinforcements were put in place. New and detailed analysis of both the condition of the rock mass and the microclimate of the cave and the reserve located just above it, is now essential, as is the creation and implementation of new preservation methods to secure the cave.
Studies of the statics and microclimate of the cave and the reserve will be conducted by a team of scientists and will include:
- analysis of archived documentation of the structure of the rock mass, hydrogeological conditions, and microclimatic conditions
- survey of the technical condition of the site, condition of the existing safety structures, and destruction-level assessment of the rock mass
- field and laboratory examination of the physical and chemical parameters of the rock mass surrounding the Dragon’s Den and reserve
- analysis of the results of the examination of the rocks, static strength analysis with indication of safety criteria for the existing site
- conceptual solutions for securing and converting underground areas for safe occupancy
Microclimate studies will be carried out by the Norwegian partner NILU.