The city lies on the Warta river. It is the capital of the Voivodeship of Wielkopolska and the see of the Archdiocese of Poznań.
St. Martin was a Roman soldier. One day, while entering Amiens with the army, he noticed a beggar dressed in rags by the city gate. He cut his soldier’s cape – his entire fortune – in two with his sword and gave half to the stranger.
The curate of St. Martin’s Church in Poznań retells this story every year before the parish fair gets underway.
In 1891, a baker named Walenty heard the story and decided to do asomething good deed like St. Martin. On the night before the fair, he heard the clatter of horses’ hooves on the road outside. He looked out the doorway a saw a knight in shining old-fashioned armour on a grey horse and a horseshoe lying in the snow.
This encounter inspired him to bake a horseshoe-shaped pastry with a poppy seed filling. Next morning after solemn mass, he handed out his pastries to the poor. Everybody was so taken by Walenty’s idea that these “rogals”, as these “croissants” have since come to be known, were baked every year. When he died, other bakers took up the tradition and guarded the recipe for the filling. Rogals are made of white poppy seeds, bakalie (a Polish confectionery consisting of figs, walnuts, hazelnuts, raisins, orange and lemon peel, and dried fruits) and cream. They are only baked here in Poznań and only on 11 November.
So much for the legend. What is known for certain is that, in 1891, he suggested the idea of St. Martin rogals to his boss, Poznań baker Józef Melzer. The rogals were handed out to the poor after solemn mass on 11 November. These rogals are now only baked in confectioneries which have a special certificate. Poznanians consume around 300 tonnes of this delicacy every year.
The entire nation associates 11 November with the Polish Independence Day celebrations. In Poznań, these celebrations run a decidedly happy course as they are associated with the name of the city’s main street – ul. Święty Marcin (St. Martin St.).
After mass, a colourful procession sets off from the church below the royal castle, where the Mayor of Poznań hands over the keys of the city to St. Martin. Poznanians, in the company of the many visitors who descend on the city to participate in the St. Martin revelry, take part in a variety of parades and performances until well into the night.