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Legend of Gingerbread

Original version
History: The history of the Confectionery Factory "Kopernik" is a history of people who created it It all started 250 years ago. Toruń gingerbreads (Thorner Lebkuchen, Thorner Honigkuchen) - traditional Toruń pastry, made by bakers for about 700 years. The dough is made by hand from flour, water, milk, honey and spices in appropriate proportions. Then they are baked in the oven at a strictly defined temperature. Over the centuries, bakers from other cities tried to counterfeit Torun gingerbread, but they did not succeed. The legend : A long time ago, there were many respectable bakers making gingerbread in Torun, but one of them was the most popular. He was making the sweetest mouth melting gingerbread, giving it as many shapes as his imagination would allow him; such as rounds, hearts, stars, flowers. His most elaborate were in the shape of a carriage drawn by a horse, house, princess and other folks. He had only one daughter named Katharina. She was a quiet girl, who liked spending her time creating new meals. As she made dinners upstairs at their place, her father baked gingerbread downstairs at the bakery. The savory aroma from the meal would travel downstairs and the sweet aroma from the gingerbread would travel upstairs, attracting each other. It would even travel outside through the opened windows and doors, attracting neighbors and friends. Many of them were regular visitors as Katharina was very welcoming and always glad to hear flattery about her food. The ideas for new meals were coming faster than she could make them. And she was making something new almost every day. Even if it was just a different spice to a meal she already tried. She was always striving for a better taste. So it was always good to have somebody else to help them eat with so much food around. Katharina never really baked with her father, as none of them liked the other meddling into their creative cooking or baking. But she was very observant, and from time to time would help to clean some forms or sweep the floors, if the day was very busy at the bakery. So she knew a thing or two about baking. One day the baker got very sick and said to his daughter “Katharina, you’ve seen me making the gingerbread, why don’t you make it on your own today. If you need any directions, I’ll be upstairs resting.” She started the fire in the oven, got all the ingredients and proceeded with making the gingerbread. She prepared the dough, added some honey and was ready to place the dough into the forms, when she suddenly realized she forgot to pull them from the shelf. She swiftly went to get them, but they were not there, “I can’t find them. Daddy must be feeling really sick if he misplaced them. This never happens.” She didn’t want to worry him. So she came up with an idea of taking a glass and pressing medallions out of dough. She put six of them next to each other and baked them. In the oven, the bread was beautifully growing and turning into shiny brown color smelling deliciously. Katharina was very proud of herself. But as the bread was growing, the six medallions got connected creating one loaf of gingerbread. She briskly opened the oven door and as she was pulling the bread from the hot oven, she saw the connected medallions and her cheerful smile turned into a worry. She gasped “I don’t know if anybody will want to buy gingerbread in such shape.” She worried unnecessarily, because all gingerbread was sold out the same day. People loved the good hearted girl so much that they named the gingerbread in the shape of six medallions with her name Katharina.
Main characters
Katarzyna, her father, the king, bees, people of city
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
Toruń: The Museum of Torun Gingerbread (it is the largest gingerbread museum in Europe). Copernicus Torun's Gingerbread Store. The Leaning Tower, the Manor House, the Old Town, the Old Town Hall, Old Town Square, walk over the Vistula Walk along the trail of Gothic monuments In most Polish homes gingerbread is part of festive meals. Thanks to their ingredients they can be stored for a very long time, they have been a popular gift, especially those richly decorated. Kings of Poland were offered them as gifts for most important events, some were even gilded.
Local traditions or historical connections
Traditions: Gingerbread festival in Toruń in the Musem of Gingerbread visitors can make the real gingerbread themselves in the Old Market Square there are tablos in the shape of Katarzynki gingerbread with signatures of famous people who were born or created in Toruń Historical: The art of making gingerbread goes back to 14 century, but they were most famous in 17 and 18 century, when only Nuremberg was able to compete with Torun in this matter. Not only Polish kings reveived gigerbread as gifts. To mention most interesting ones – in 1778 for Russian tsarina Katarina II received a 2-metres log gingerbread presentig her coat of arms. John Paul II received a gingerbred that was shaped as heliocentric system, as presented in Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus …
Didactical Relevance
- Building bonds between young people from other countries - Education of creative attitudes - Arousing imagination and creative expression - Getting to know the history of the Middle Ages - Getting to know the court culture of the Middle Ages - Getting to know the value of manuscript - Getting to know the history of the Teutonic Order, which gave birth to the city of Toruń - Exploring the Gothic art of Toruń - Help students discover their own talents and passions - Comparing different versions of the legend about Toruń gingerbread - Making young people aware of the value of work and integrating young people
Didactical Activity
Activity: (for the whole class or group work) geographical – find Torun on the map, ask students what they know about the place or let them find information online historical – easily connected to geopgraphical, especially when seeking information online. Scientific – Nicolaus Copernicus and his work (as of the most famous Torunian) art/architecture – look for monuments and famous sites in Toruń literature – read the legend and check for proper understanding especially if any folk or regional terminology appears - read the legend again and look for connections with the geographical/historical/art information that were found trip to Toruń (if possible)


How they make gingerbread in Toruń
Ever wonder how gingerbread gets its spicy flavour? Matt does, so he stops by the Muzeum Piernika (Gingerbread Museum) for a demonstration on how this pastry gained its origins and was prepared 500 years ago in medieval Poland.


Description of gingerbread

External Sources

PDF version of the legend in national language

Polish version (827,3 kb)