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Home > News > Roga-love! In Poznań, November 11th is more than just a celebration of independence – it’s about the legendary St. Marcin’s croissant

Roga-love! In Poznań, November 11th is more than just a celebration of independence – it’s about the legendary St. Marcin’s croissant

Visitors to the city will not tread far without being confronted by waves of people chomping through approximately one million ‘Rogal świętomarciński’ – a decadent pastry filled with poppy seeds.
PAP

For the overwhelming majority of Poles, November 11th has come to signify one thing alone: the date on which the nation regained independence in 1918. 

But in Poznań the date has come to be associated with something else too – the celebration of St. Martin.

Inexorably tied to this, visitors to the city will not tread far without being confronted by waves of people enjoying the St. Martin’s croissant – a decadent pastry long linked with the festivities.

Honouring the Roman legionnaire, Martin of Tours, the date celebrates a saint that became famed for his selfless acts of charity.Jakub Kaczmarczyk/PAP

Honouring the Roman legionnaire, Martin of Tours, the date celebrates a saint that became famed for his selfless acts of charity.

Centred around the city’s St. Martin’s Church, it was here in 1891 that a priest by the name of Jan Lewicki beseeched his flock to show good will to those less fortunate.

According to legend, it was as a result of these sermons that a baker called Józef Melzer had a dream in which the Saint’s charge lost its horseshoe. On waking, Melzer was inspired to bake a horseshoe-shaped pastry to hand out to the poor.

According to legend, a baker called Józef Melzer had a dream in which the Saint’s charge lost its horseshoe. On waking, Melzer was inspired to bake a horseshoe-shaped pastry to hand out to the poor.Jakub Kaczmarczyk/PAP

Szymon Walter, co-founder of the city’s Croissant Museum, takes up the story: “In the form of a newspaper advert from 1860, we have firm evidence that these croissants existed before this time, but without doubt it was in 1891 that they became truly popularized and when the charity aspect of the day really came to the fore.”

Now one of the city’s defining cultural treasures, in 2008 the St. Martin croissant was inducted into the European Union’s protected list of regional products – as such, strict guidelines must now be met by those seeking to attach the name of St. Martin to the croissants that they bake.

“Each has multiple layers,” says Walter, “and in between these folds you’ll find lots of margarine or butter that will keep them fresh for anything up to three days.

Jakub Kaczmarczyk/PAP

Now one of the city’s defining cultural treasures, in 2008 the St. Martin croissant was inducted into the European Union’s protected list of regional products – as such, strict guidelines must now be met by those seeking to attach the name of St. Martin to the croissants that they bake.Jakub Kaczmarczyk/PAP

“The fillings are also very important,” he adds, “and will often compromise around a third of the total weight.”

With the final product reaching weights of between 150 and 250 grams, crushed white poppyseed is a key ingredient (“Anyone that uses black poppyseed is baking a fake,” says Walter), with other add-ons including raisins, biscuit crumbs, eggs and almonds.

Chomping through approximately one million croissants around about the date of St. Martin’s Day, the treat has become a much-loved feature of the city – so much so that Walter was moved to create the city’s cult Croissant Museum in 2014.

Marek Zakrzewski/PAP

Marek Zakrzewski/PAP

Marek Zakrzewski/PAP

Celebrations are usually marked by a parade attended by anything up to 50,000 people.Marek Zakrzewski/PAP

Since then, the museum has become one of the city’s most valued attractions.

“It was a project born simply from me and my colleague’s passion for the city,” says Walter. “We never really planned for such success, but we just found ourselves growing step-by-step.”

Taking the form of an interactive cooking show featuring copious audience participation, those visiting find themselves engaged in a high-energy cooking demonstration supervised by bantering cooks dressed in period costume.

Rogalowe Muzeum Poznan

Rogalowe Muzeum Poznan

The city’s Croissant Museum takes the form of an interactive cooking show featuring copious audience participation.Rogalowe Muzeum Poznan

Hauled up to chop dough with clunky sabres, visitors are quickly immersed in a quickfire world of quips and action.

“The St. Martin’s croissant is one of the most important symbols of the city,” says Walter, “along with the local dialect and the two mechanical goats that decorate the Town Hall.

“Basically, we wanted to put all those together – using the croissant as the highlight – to transfer our enthusiasm for the city.”

Rogalowe Muzeum Poznan

Rogalowe Muzeum Poznan

Those visiting find themselves engaged in a high-energy cooking demonstration supervised by bantering cooks dressed in period costume.Rogalowe Muzeum Poznan

With grandstand views of the Town Hall’s aforementioned goats (which themselves honour a pair of goats that once escaped from the pantry before cavorting up to the top of the square’s tower), and no shortage of local lingo, the Croissant Museum has become an essential experience for both Poles and international tourists.

“We get visitors from across the world,” says Walter, “but we’re particularly thrilled that we’re so popular with children – because of that, we feel we’re really keeping alive the traditions of the area.”

Moreover, on a day that hasn’t always enjoyed the most positive of press, the museum – and the croissants that it hails – provide a much-needed light tonic.

Szymon Walter, co-founder of the Croissant museum said: “The St. Martin’s croissant is one of the most important symbols of the city.”Rogalowe Muzeum Poznan

“Independence Day has had a tendency to demonstrate the growing divisions in Poland, as well as the surging nationalism we face,” says Walter, “but St. Martin’s Day on the other hand is a very positive day – I’d even argue it’s now become the most important day in the city’s annual calendar.”

Usually marked by a parade attended by anything up to 50,000 people, the ongoing pandemic means that for the second year running this has been shelved. 

Nonetheless, a host of alternative attractions have been laid on, among them a croissant fair, charity collections and a slew of cultural events.


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