Location: 79th Street, east side
Artist/Designer: Stanislaw Kazimierz Ostrowski, sculptor; Aymar Embury II, architect
Materials: Bronze, granite
Funding: King Jagiello Monument Committee
Wladyslaw Jagiello (1351-1434) is revered by Poles as a symbol of independence and national identity. Born into a royal family, he inherited the title of Grand Duke of Lithuania. He became the King of Poland by marrying the Queen of Poland. This arranged marriage was an effort to strengthen the two kingdoms against the imminent threat of invasion by the Teutonic Knights at the start of the 15th century. Jagiello met the Teutonic Knights on the fields of Tannenberg and engaged in one of the largest battles of the medieval period. Jagiello and his allies were successful, ending the influence of the Teutonic Knights in Eastern Europe.
A similar, earlier statue was erected in Warsaw before the outbreak of World War II. When Germany invaded Poland at the start of the war, that statue of Jagiello was turned into bullets. Our Jagiello was created for the Polish pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. After the fair, the Polish government in exile gave the statue to the United States rather than return it to an occupied country.
Jagiello is depicted in battle armor. The crossed swords have had different interpretations. One version asserts that the statue depicts the king before the battle; emissaries from the Knights taunted Jagiello to fight by offering him additional swords. In another interpretation, Jagiello is seen after the battle and represents Lithuania and Poland united in victory. In either case, the battle of Tannenberg changed the course of European history for centuries, until history repeated itself some 500 years later.
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