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Kielce travel guide — Kielce tourism and travel information

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about Kielce

Kielce (pronounce: [ˈkjεl.ʦε]) is a city in central Poland with 207,051 inhabitants (2003). It is also the capital city of the Swietokrzyskie Voivodship since 1999, previously in Kielce Voivodship (1975-1998). The city is located in the middle of the Holy Cross Mountains, at the banks of Silnica river. Once an important centre of limestone mining, Kielce are nowadays a centre of trade and commerce.

Kielce history

The area of Kielce has been inhabitated at least since 5th century BC. Until 6th or 7th century the banks of the Silnica were inhabitated by Kelts who most probably were the name-sake for the location. They were driven out by a Slavic tribe of Vistulans who started hunting in the nearby huge forests and had settled most of the area now known as Malopolska and present-day Świętokrzyskie Voivodship. The lands of Wiślanie were at first subdued by Bohemia, however they soon came under the power of the Piast dynasty and became a part of Poland. According to a local legend, Mieszko, son of Boleslaus II of Poland was attacked by a band of brigands in a forest. He was saved by a vision of Saint Adalbert. In the place of his vision he erected a wooden church.

In reality the area of the Holy Cross Mountains was almost unpopulated until 11th century when the first hunters established permanent settlements at the outskirts of the mountains. They needed a place to trade furs and meat for grain and other necessary products and so the market of Kielce was formed. In early 12th century the new settlement became a property of the Bishops of Kraków who built a wooden church and a manor. In 1171 a stone church was erected by bishop Gedeon Gryf. At the times of Wincenty Kadłubek a parochial school in Kielce was started in 1229. By 1295 the town was awarded with the city rights. In mid-13th century the town was destroyed by Mongol invasion of Ögedei Khan, but it quickly recovered.

The area around Kielce was rich in minerals such as copper ore, lead ore, and iron, as well as limestone. In 15th century Kielce became a significant centre of metallurgy. There were also several glass factories and armourer shops in the town. In 1527 bishop Piotr Tomicki founded a bell for the church and between 1637 and 1642 renaissance palace was erected near the market place. It is one of the very few examples of French Renaissance architecture in Poland and the only example of a magnate's manor from the times of Vasa dynasty to survive the World War II.

During The Deluge the town was pillaged and burnt by the Swedes. Only the palace and the church survived, but the town managed to recover under the rule of bishop Andrzej Załuski. By 1761 Kielce had more than 4.000 inhabitants. In 1789 Kielce were nationalised and the burgers were granted the right to elect their own representatives in Sejm. Until the end of the century the city's economy entered a period of fast growth. A brewery was founded as well as several brick manufactories, a horse breeder, hospital, school and a religious college.

As a result of the 3rd Partition the town was annexed by Austria. During the Polish-Austrian War of 1809 it was captured by prince Józef Poniatowski and joined with the Duchy of Warsaw, but after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1915 it was joined with the Kingdom of Poland. For a brief period when Kraków was an independent city-state (Republic of Kraków), Kielce became the capital of the Kraków Voivodship. Thanks to the efforts by Stanisław Staszic Kielce became the centre of the newly-established Old-Polish Industrial Zone (Staropolski Okręg Przemysłowy). The town grew quickly as new mines, quarries and factories were constructed. In 1816 the first Polish technical university was founded in Kielce. However, after Staszic's death the Industrial Zone declined and in 1826 the school was moved to Warsaw and became the Warsaw University of Technology.

In 1830 many of the inhabitants of Kielce took part in the November Uprising against Russia. In 1844 a priest Piotr Ściegienny intended a local uprising to liberate Kielce from Russian rule, for which he was sent to Siberia. In 1863 Kielce took part in the January Uprising. As a reprisal for insubordination the tsarist authorities closed all Polish schools and turned Kielce into a military garrison city. Polish language was banned. Because of that many gymnasium students took part in the 1905 Revolution and were joined by factory workers.

After the outbreak of the World War I Kielce were the first Polish city to be liberated from Russian rule by the Polish Legions under Józef Piłsudski. After the war when Poland regained its independence after 123 years of Partitions, Kielce became the capital of Kielce Voivodship. The plans of strengthening of Polish heavy and war industries resulted in Kielce becoming one of the main nodes of the Central Industrial Area (Centralny Okręg Przemysłowy). The town housed several big factories, among them munitions factory "Granat" and food processing plant Społem.

During the Polish Defence War of 1939 main part of the defenders of Westerplatte as well as armoured brigade of General Stanisław Maczek were either from Kielce or from its close suburbs. During the occupation that lasted for most of the World War II the town was an important centre of resistance. There were several resistance groups active in the town (among them the Armia Krajowa and the Gwardia Ludowa). Moreover, the hills and forests of Holy Cross Mountains became a scene of heavy partisan activity. A small town of Pinczów located some 30 kilometres from Kielce became the capital of the so-called Pinczów Republic, a piece of Polish land controlled by the partisans. The Swietokrzyskie Mountains Home Army District fought against the Germans long before the Operation Tempest started inflicting heavy casualties on the occupying forces and later taking part in the final liberation of their towns and cities in January 1945. During the war many of inhabitants of Kielce lost their lives, most notably almost all of the Jews who lived there. The few remaining Jewish survivors left after the Kielce pogrom in July 1946, when 45 Jews and 2 non-Jewish Poles were massacred.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Kielce".

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