Founded in 1953, Panieńskie Skały is a reserve located in the northern part of the Sowiniec Hill range in the Wolski Forest, and part of the Bielany-Tyniec Landscape Park. The name, which literally translates as “Maidens’ Rocks”, is associated with the nearby St Norbert’s convent and a legend about nuns fleeing Tatars.
The reserve is known for a long and deep ravine with steep slopes, loess top and rocky bottom, on which the Grabowski sidewalk is located, named after the author of the first guide to Krakow and populariser of the reserve’s current name.
The reserve encompasses a beech forest (the oldest in the region – most of the trees are about 140-160 years old) with a touch of oak, pine, sycamore and hornbeam. This particular forest stand has been protected since 1917, which contributed to the survival of some very old specimens of common ivy, a plant that blooms only after about a decade of life.
During the Tatar invasion of 1241, Premonstratensian sisters from the nearby convent sought shelter among the rocks, trying to save themselves from dishonour, and fervently prayed for salvation.
According to legend, at the very last moment the nuns were miraculously saved from rape and death as the rocks closed behind them, protecting them against the attackers. Nowadays, there is a statue of the Virgin Mary where the alleged miracle took place. Another version says that the sisters were turned into rocks. Yet another legend talks of a hidden, underground chamber where the nuns slumber or pray. Allegedly, until recently, there was a gap in the rocks through which you could take a look inside and see them.