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Piast the Wheelwright

Piast Kołodziej (Polish pronunciation: [ˈpʲiast kɔˈwɔd͡ʑɛj], Piast the Wheelwright; 740/1? – 861) was a semi-legendary figure in medieval Poland (9th century AD), the founder of the Piast dynasty that would rule the future Kingdom of Poland.[2]

Piast the Wheelwright
Piast plate by Walery Eljasz-Radzikowski (1841–1905)
Duke of the Polans
Died861 (claimed age 120)[1]
HouseHouse of Piast (founder)


Piast makes an appearance in the Polish Chronicle of Gallus Anonymus,[3] along with his father, Chościsko, and Piast's wife, Rzepicha.

The chronicle tells the story of an unexpected visit paid to Piast by two strangers. They ask to join Piast's family in celebration of the 7th birthday of Piast’s son, Siemowit (a pagan rite of passage for young boys). In return for the hospitality, the guests cast a spell making Piast's cellar ever full of plenty. Seeing this, Piast's compatriots declare him their new prince, to replace the late Prince Popiel.

Monument to Piast Kołodziej in Złotów

If Piast really existed, he would have been the great-great-grandfather of Prince Mieszko I (c. 930–92), the first historic ruler of Poland, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Bolesław Chrobry (967–1025), the first Polish king.

The legendary Piasts were native of Gniezno, a well fortified castle town founded between the eighth and ninth century, within the tribal territory of the Polanie.[4]

According to legend, he died in 861 aged 120 years.[1]


In over 1000 years of Polish history no one else bore the name Piast.[5]

Two theories explain the etymology of the word Piast. The first gives the root as piasta ("hub" in Polish), a reference to his profession. The second relates Piast to piastun ("custodian" or "keeper"). This could hint at Piast's initial position as a majordomo, or a "steward of the house", in the court of another ruler, and the subsequent takeover of power by Piast. This would parallel the development of the early medieval Frankish dynasties, when the Mayors of the Palace of the Merovingian kings gradually usurped political control.


  1. ^ a b c Prichard, James C. (1836). Researches into the Physical History of Mankind. 1. London: Houlston and Stoneman. pp. 11–5 ff.
  2. ^ Norman Davies (23 August 2001). Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present. Oxford University Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-19-280126-5. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  3. ^ Excerpts from the Gallus Anonymus' chronicle, PL: Gimnazjum.
  4. ^ Dzięcioł, W. (1966). The origins of Poland. London: Veritas.
  5. ^ [1] No person bore the name Piast


  1. ^ Dzięcioł, W. (1966). The origins of Poland. London: Veritas.