365 Reasons Not To Be Martyred

The interiors of Sandomierz cathedral give a pleasant first impression, but focus on the details beyond the initial ostentation and you discover the macabre side of Sandomierz.

The paintings on the walls of the cathedral are by 18th-century artist Karol de Prevot (1708−37), who was apparently not of a cheery disposition. The four paintings on the back wall under the organ depict historic scenes such as the 1656 destruction of Sandomierz castle by the Swedes. But it is the series of 12 paintings on the side walls that are a real argument for checking ID at the cathedral's door.

The series, Martyrologium Romanum, depicts the martyrdom of the Dominican Fathers and other people of Sandomierz at the hands of the Tatars between 1259 and 1260. The unfortunate subjects are being sawn, burned, hanged, whipped, quartered, sliced, diced and otherwise discourteously treated.

The 12 paintings are supposed to symbolise the 12 months of the year; next to each image of torture a number represents the day of the month. Legend has it that if you find the day and month on which you were born, you’ll discover how you’re going to die. Let’s hope not.