The Devil’s Paw

About devils who passed a fairer judgement than people

Lublin became the seat of the Crown Tribunal for Lesser Poland at the end of the 16th century. It was the last court instance for the nobility. And although the judges were initially supposed to apply themselves to their work, they soon became corrupted. This legend seems to be the aftermath of their dishonesty …

The story about the devil’s trial is one of the most famous legends in the history of the Lublin Crown Tribunal. In 1637, the trial of a poor widow with a wealthy magnate took place at the Tribunal. The judge passed a judgment favorable to the magnate, and unfairly harmed the widow. The resentful woman exclaimed that if the devil were judging her, not people, then a fairer sentence would be passed. The same night, the tribunal writer heard sounds in front of the building, and after a while unfamiliar judges in crimson robes entered the stairs. They ordered the courtroom to be opened, then they sat down on the presidential table and once again heard the widow’s case. One of them stood up as the defender of the accused widow. The frightened writer noted that the judges’ sharp facial features and evil eyes were devilish, and that their raven hair masked hidden horns. Indeed, they were devils sent by God to re-judge the case.

Examination of files has begun. The prosecutor described the magnate’s claims favorably. False words appeared. When their enticing sound had faded away, the judges started their deliberation. And behold, the writer was frightened, for he heard the sentence in favor of the widow, and then Christ of the Tribunal wept bloody tears over human anger worse than devil’s one, and turned his head. The chairman of the devil’s court, as a sign of his presence, put his hand on the table and burned its mark on it. After the sentence was approved, the devils quickly left the court.

The next day, the news of the nocturnal visit to the Tribunal spread quickly around the city, gathering fearful crowds of curious people on the Market Square. The unjust judges, in front of the enraged crowd, broke their legs on the steps of the tribunal. People called the priest, and the Miraculous Crucifix from Tribunal was transported to the chapel in the Collegiate Church, where a solemn supplication service was held.

Two hundred years later, the Collegiate Church of St. Michael was destined for demolition. The memorable Crucifix was carried to the Cathedral. It is located in a quiet chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by many grateful hearts from all times, reminding the faithful of the old miracle in the courtroom of the Tribunal. The historic table with the burned mark of the devil’s paw has survived until now. It is exposed in the National Museum at the Castle of Lublin.

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