Treasures of a hermit swindler found in Poland (13 photos)

Category: Archeology, PEGI 0+
16 May 2024

A treasure of coins linked to Poland's notorious hermit swindler Anthony Jaczewski has been discovered in the Helenow Mountains in south-central Poland.

Archaeologists from the Świętokrzyska Research Group carried out excavations in the Elenivska mountain range, located in south-central Poland. In June 2022, having received permission from the monument protection service of the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, they began searching for traces of the legendary treasure, which, according to legend, was hidden by the hermit Antoni Jaczewski, who deceived hundreds of people.

At the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century, a plague epidemic raged in Poland, as in many other European countries. It was a time of despair and fear, when people sought salvation in everything, including religion. Sometimes this was used by scammers who tried to profit from the misfortune of others. One of these adventurers was Antoni Jachevsky.

The treasure was kept silent for almost two years in order for it to be thoroughly studied.

In May 1708, he built a monastic hermitage in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. Yachevsky claimed that he received the power to heal the sick from the Virgin Mary herself, who allegedly lived there with him. This was a time when people were especially vulnerable to illness and death. They sought solace in religion and were ready to believe in any miracle that could save them from suffering. Yachevsky skillfully played on people's feelings, offering them hope for healing.

Pierced Hamburg ducat from 1648 depicting the Madonna and Child

People believed him and came to his monastery in the hope of a miracle. Soon his fishing became very successful. Donations came in large numbers, and he ended up with so much money and jewelry that he had to hire armed guards. This led to another unpleasant fact: his gang robbed pilgrims and raided nearby estates.

Silver Thaler

Eventually the local nobility demanded Jaczewski's arrest, and the Bishop of Krakow imprisoned him. However, he soon escaped and returned to his hermitage in the mountains, where he continued to engage in fraud. He made no attempt to hide and appears to have had the tacit approval of the papal authorities.

Silver Patagon

It would seem worth stopping. He earned money for the rest of his life. It was possible to lie low and live happily ever after. But greed took its toll and he eventually displeased powerful people again. In 1712 he was arrested again and put on trial at the Episcopal Court of Krakow. Jaczewski was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Częstochowa Fortress.

Some coins found by the Świętokrzyska research team during excavations in June 2022

During the excavations, researchers found several groups of buried silver and gold coins dating from the first half of the 17th century to the beginning of the 18th century. Among the coins found were orts, sixes, kraykars, kopecks (known as “tears”) and others. Particularly noteworthy is the Hamburg ducat of 1648 with the image of the Madonna and Child. The coin was pierced along the edge and may have been used as a medallion.

The coins kept by the Świętokrzyski Research Group were transferred to the Historical and Archaeological Museum in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski.

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