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Royal free city Sandomierz... Old Town...
By Pogranicze Media
Published: 10.09.2011

   In XI c., Sandomierz, alongside Krakow and Wroclaw, was classified by the chronicler Gaul the Anonymous as one of the main castles in the state - “sedes regni principales.” The high rank of the city was confirmed in the last will of Prince Boleslaw the Crooked-mouth (Boleslaw Krzywousty), according to which Sandomierz became the capital of a regional princedom governed successively, among others, by such princes as: Henry of Sandomierz (Henryk Sandomierski), Boleslaw the Curly-haired (Boleslaw Kedzierzawy), Casmir the Just (Kazimierz Sprawiedliwy), Leszek the White (Leszek Bialy), Boleslaw the Shy (Boleslaw Wstydliwy).
    This regional division did not immediately influence the development of the city. However, the development was disturbed by a series of Tartar invasions in the XIII century. Almost all wooden buildings, which dominated in the city at that time, seized to exist. After the defeats the stream of colonization was transferred to less accessible hills such as: Collegiate Hill, St Peter’s Hill and Municipal Hill, where, due to the decision of Prince Leszek the Black (Leszek Czarny) in the year 1286, the second official founding of the city was confirmed under the Magdeburg Law. The first official founding of the city on the old-town hills took place before the year 1241, or perhaps just before the year 1226.

   After the union of Polish lands, the former principality was transformed into the Sandomierskie Province embracing within its area a considerable territory of the south-east Poland. Approximately 3000 inhabitants populated Sandomierz at that time and, although it was one of greatest Polish cities, its buildings were almost totally wooden. In the middle of the XIV century those buildings were burned during one of the Lithuanian invasions. After this defeat the restoration of the city took place in the second part of the XIV century during the reign of Casmir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki). Due to the attention of the monarch and a favorable economic situation, the construction work developed rapidly. The final, well preserved till present times, urban architecture of the city has its origins in that period.
    However, the Swedish invasion known as "Swedish Deluge" put an end to the splendor of Sandomierz. The Swedes conquered the city on 13th October 1655. While in retreat, they blew out the castle. The city suffered considerable damage which was completed during the incursion by (Hungarian prince) Rakoczy as well as by the plague epidemic. Then, the bad economic situation of the whole country and impoverishment of townspeople deepened the difficulties in recovering the city from the destruction.
   The Great Fire in 1757 and finally the partition (foreign annexation) of Poland in 1772 made Sandomierz become a frontier city and annulled its administrative functions and caused economic stagnation. After the first partition of Poland Sandomierz became a frontier city; however, as a result of the third partition it was later joined to the Austrian annexation. Then, Sandomierz definitely lost its administrative functions to the gain of Radom City.

   Violent military struggles for Sandomierz, depicted by Stefan Zeromski in his novel “Popioly” (“Ashes”), which took place in 1809 caused further destruction to the city. After 1815 Sandomierz, as a district city, was incorporated within the borders of the Polish Kingdom. The population of city at that time was 2640 people, but since that time it constantly increased. In 1818 the position of Sandomierz was a little improved by establishing in Sandomierz the seat of a diocese by the papal edict of Pope Pius VII - "Ex imposita nobis".
    The biggest changes took place within the castle in 1825 when it was transformed into a prison. In 1857 there happened the first of the famous construction calamities. In the vicinity of the Zawichojska Gate an almost hundred-meter long fragment of city defense walls collapsed together with adjoining buildings. Since then one can more often observe references to collapses of underground passages and to preservative works connected with them in the city archives.
   During World War I Sandomierz and its region became an arena of war activity. The war ravaged the city and almost completely stopped its development, whereas a considerable decrease in population caused stagnation in many spheres of trade, crafts and small industrial production. The education system could not work properly and at the same time social and cultural organisations could not be developed freely. This whole situation made Sandomierz play a role of a provincial town with about 6 thousand inhabitants. However, the fact of regaining independence by Poland woke up the social potential of the inhabitants of Sandomierz which had been frozen during the years of partitioning and which in turn made the city change its own picture diametrically at the beginning of 1920’s. The intense development of market and communal economy as well as cultural, educational, and social activities in Sandomierz in the period between the wars resulted in the fact that the city was becoming an increasingly industrious centre with each coming year.
Bohdan Zhukiewicz (photo bo, zakapior)
translated by Justyna Rymarowicz

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Bohdan Zhukiewicz

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