Penitents' Bridge in Wrocław - a top viewpoint
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The Bridge of Penitents in Wrocław

The Bridge of Penitents in Wrocław (Mostek Pokutnic we Wrocławiu) is a must-visit tourist attraction in the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia.

First of all, it’s one of the best viewpoints in Wrocław. Secondly, a gripping legend and a great deal of mediaeval patriarchal baggage hang heavy over the footbridge. 


All about The Penitent Bridge in Wrocław 

Also known as the Witches’ Bridge (Mostek Czarownic), the Penitent Bridge is a footbridge which connects the two towers of the Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene. It was first mentioned in official documents in 1459.

The Bridge of Penitents in Wrocław is located at an altitude of 45 metres. It served as a viewing point from the very beginning. An orchestra was also known to have played there. The bridge has been renovated several times over the centuries – in 1632, for instance. On the night of March 22-23, 1887, the bridge and the towers burned down during a fireworks show celebrating the birthday of Emperor Wilhelm I. It was rebuilt in 1888–1892. 

Shortly after the siege of Wrocław on May 17, 1945, an explosion (probably mines) tore apart the southern tower of the cathedral. Its northern half collapsed, culminating in the destruction of the Witches’ Bridge. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries that the bridge was rebuilt.

Penitents' Bridge viewpoint in Wrocław
©️ Finding Poland

Legends connected with the Bridge of Penitents in Wrocław

As I’ve already stated, the bridge is referred to by two separate names – the Bridge of Penitents and the Witches’ Bridge – reflecting the two legends connected with it. 

Witchcraft in Europe in the Middle Ages and Post-Medieval Era

First of all, let’s consider the witchcraft hysteria that pervaded Europe from the 15th century through to the 17th century. Essentially, masses of elderly, unmarried or widowed women were accused of engaging in witchcraft and subsequently tried and executed. Whenever, for example, someone fell ill or a poor crop yield occurred, these women were convenient scapegoats. It was easy to accuse them of witchcraft for the many ills in society. After all, they were suspects because they tended to have some knowledge of herbal medicines.

In light of the aforementioned mockery and victimhood, the accused candidates were subjected to “tests”. These were nothing more than a series of torturous trials which women, or occasionally men, would either pass or fail. Either way, death usually ensued regardless of the outcome. If they passed the “test”, they were found guilty of witchcraft. Many simply died while trying to pass these torturous “tests” and prove their innocence.

The Bridge of Penitents in Wrocław was the site of one such “test”. Those accused of witchcraft were forced to walk across the bridge’s railing (with no guard rail) from the north side to the south side. Very many people fell to their deaths from a height of 45 metres so they were exonerated. Those who “passed” the test were deemed witches and thus burned at the stake.

The Legend of The Penitent Bridge – with Tekla and Martynka

When you step out onto the Bridge of Peninents, you can’t fail to notice two little “Wrocław dwarfs” on the right-hand railing. These dwarf sculptures represent a witch, Martynka, and a vain little girl, Tekla. Anyhow, the legend goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful yet vain girl called Tekla who lived in Wrocław. Such was her lazy nature, all she was ever interested in was dressing up and checking her appearance in a mirror. Boys’ eyes certainly lit up whenever Tekla passed them by. However, Tekla wasn’t interested in marriage.

“Why would I need a husband”?, she would say, laughing. “Me, working? Don’t I deserve to have fun?”

Tekla’s father wondered whether she would ever grow up. Tekla’s mother was only worried about whether her daughter would tie the knot.

All Tekla could do was laugh off her parents’ pleas.

The years passed by and Tekla’s stubbornness continued to prevent her from changing her ways. All she cared about was having fun, beautiful dresses and attending balls. Tekla continued to refuse to help out around the house despite her mother’s constant pleas. Although she was getting older, she still didn’t want a man in her life.

One day, in a fit of anger, Tekla’s father cursed his daughter for her laziness, vanity and recklessness. The following night, Tekla was kidnapped and placed on the bridge between the two high towers which she was supposed to sweep until the end of her life as a punishment for being so vain.

Tekla cried and screamed, but nobody could hear her way up high above the ground.

The years continued to pass but. Tekla had aged and became ugly, her former beauty obscured by dirt covering her face. When she no longer possessed the strength to sweep the bridge, a young witch by the name of Martynka offered to help her. Despite being a witch, Martynka was very kind-hearted. 

One night, Martyna secretly nabbed Tekla’s broom and flew to Wrocław’s Market Square to seek help. While she was flying, she spotted a mysterious man crouching on the pavement. Therefore, Martynka lowered her flight, landed and curiously observed the man.

“You could help instead of staring, you know?” – the man grunted.

„I would gladly do that but what are you looking for, sir?” – Martynka kindly replied.

The man turned out to be Michał the wizard. He had lost both his glasses and his wand. Without his wand, he was bereft of power. Michał was helpless and angry.

Martynka jumped on the broom and soon spotted the wand from the air. She gave it to Michał. As a reward, the wizard granted Martynka one wish. Martynka wished for Tekla’s release. A grateful Michał duly obliged.

When Martynka returned to the bridge, Tekla had disappeared. Martynka returned to the school of witchcraft and the bridge remained as a stark reminder to all lazy young ladies.

Martynka and Tekla on the Bridge of Penitents in Wrocław
Martyna and Tekla ©️ Finding Poland


It was a bitingly cold January day when I climbed the 247 steps to reach the Bridge of Penitents. Still, the sky was blue. The rooftops were white. It was Wrocław in winter at its finest. 

The bitterly cold air didn’t deter me from making the most of my time on the bridge and admiring the views of Wrocław. Even though the views are not of the 360-degree variety due to the two towers, the viewpoint offers a unique perspective of St. Elizabeth’s Church and the Market Square in the foreground. 

The climb itself isn’t as hard as the ascent I endured to the top of St. Elizabeth’s Church. On the way up, you will hear some haunting music and be able to see some old pictures of the Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene.

View from the Bridge of Penitents' in Wrocław
©️ Finding Poland
View towards Cathedral Island from the Penitents' Bridge in Wrocław
©️ Finding Poland

Ticket prices

Adults – 15 zł

Concessions* – 10 zł

Family ticket (2+1) – 35 zł

Family ticket (2+2) – 40 zł

* Reduced-rate tickets are available to: 

1. Children between the ages of 5 and 18 

2. Students under the age of 26 with a valid student card.

3. People over the age of 60

4. Disabled people and their carers


Opening Hours

The Bridge of Penitents in Wrocław is open between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. in the summer. The closing time in the winter is 7 p.m.


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