Stopnica was a fortified settlement situated on a small river – The Stopniczanka, in a swampy area protected by nature, at the road from Kraków to Sandomierz, then to Warszawa. Its location was even more convenient because the village was situated on a hill. 

According to Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego, the term “Stopnica” was used to describe localities situated on hills and with rivers flowing at the foot of the hills[1.1]. Słownik etymologiczny języka polskiego by Aleksander Bruckner indicates the relationship between the word and the noun “tonia” an the verb “utapati”, which are cognate with present dialectical words utaplać, staplać, which meant to drown, for example in mud[1.2]. Initially, the access to a settlement located in a swampy area was possible thanks to numerous foot-bridges, which proved to be helpful when inhabitants wanted to get out of a village.

Ziętarski formulates a few hypotheses as to the origin of the name of the village. The first hypothesis supports the idea that the name derives from the word “stop” meaning a post, because Stopnica, as a border settlement in the State of Wiślanie, was, according to the contemporary custom, surrounded by border paths. Stones with an imprint of a human foot were placed at such paths to mark borders crossed on horseback[1.3]. Another hypothesis, which is a more reliable explanation, relates the name to the size of the fish (foot size), called stopniki. It is likely that Stopnica was once a dependant village (a type of village in medieval times whose inhabitants were required to provide services to its owner) obliged to deliver the fish to a prince[1.4].

There is also a legend according to which the name “Stopnica” derives from footprints left deliberately by bandits who wanted to mislead the pursuit by putting on shoes with a heel in the front. It is difficult to determine the name unequivocally and the problem also applies to the spelling (once with a “b” – Stobnica, another time with a “p” – Stopnica). The version with a “b” is present in the works by Jan Długosz, in royal privileges (issued for example by King Kazimierz Wielki/English: Casimir III the Great) written in Latin, as well as in the surname of the scholar Jan from Stobnica. An exception is a privilege of King Jan III Sobieski (John III Sobieski), in Polish, where Stopnica is spelt with a “p”.

The first preserved reference to Stopnica (and to a parish church) can be found in Roczniki by Jan Długosz dated 1103. The same year, the canon and rector whose name was Baldwin was appointed Kraków bishop. It is the evidence of the fact that Stopnica was a fortified settlement, which maintained a close contact with Kraków and the authorities of Poland[1.1.4].

Stopnica was not a typical rural settlement that generated income only from agriculture. In the beginning, the village’s population consisted of craftsmen and farmers. Merchandise trade was organized in markets where peasants supplied themselves with craft’s products in exchange for farm produce.

In 1226, the village was included in the ducal holdings. Under the rule of King Władysław Łokietek (Władysław the Elbow-high), St. Anna’s chapel, which led to the dungeons situated beneath Stopnica, was built here in 1326[1.5].

King Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great) had a great influence on the development of the locality. Thanks to his support, a wooden church was replaced by a Gothic brick temple and a hospital and a fortified brick castle were constructed. In 1362, King Kazimierz granted Stopnica a privilege by virtue of which it was exempted from paying all tributes, taxes and from all burdens for the period of 16 years. Then, the king decided to change the Polish law to the German law modeled on the organization of the town of Środa Śląska[1.6].

In 1438, King Władysław Jagiełło exempted the town from all the obligations to the king, except “the special needs of the Republic of Poland”. The privilege was confirmed by Jan Olbracht (John I Albert), Aleksander I (Alexander Jagiellon), Henryk Walezy (Henry III), Stefan Batory (Stephen Báthory), Jan Kazimierz (John II Casimir) and August III Sas (Augustus III). Thanks to the decisions of these kings, Stopnica managed to regain the strength in the period of its decline[1.7].

Following the outbreak of the Reformation in 1517, Stopnica was a tolerant and a multi-religious town. However, after a dozen years that followed the Council of Trent, Counter Reformation started here as well[1.8]. Stopnica starost (a royal official) Krzysztof Ossoliński donated funds for establishing a Reformers’ monastery with the view of converting Arians[1.9].

The times of peace and heyday for Stopnica ended, as they did for Poland, with the death of King Zygmunt August (Sigismund II Augustus) in 1572 when riots started and the gentry got involved in bloody fights. Stopnica did not avoid the conflicts. The Zborowski brothers, once deprived of the Stopnica starosty (crown land), hatched a plot and conducted an attack on Tarnowski, abducting him to recover the starosty.

Until the second half of the 16th century, the town developed rapidly, but the period of prosperity ended when a peasant rebellion broke out in Ukraine. The Cossacks and Tatars reached the town. Although Stopnica starost (a royal official) Baldwin faced them in the battle of Zborów[1.1.8], this event marked the beginning of a wave of misfortunes. In 1655, the Swedes burned down and destroyed the town, the church and the castle. The army led by Rákóczi plundered Stopnica two years afterwards. Once again, by stimulating its economy and trade, the king helped to raise the town after it had fallen into decline. He approved the number of fairs and granted permission to produce bear, vodka, mead and wine.

A few years later, in 1662, Stopnica was affected by another calamity when a plague broke out in the town claiming lives of 600 people. A locust plague of 1748 caused extensive damage to the Stopnica agriculture[1.1.8].
Other important events that deserve mentioning was the construction of the first water-supply system in Stopnica in 1783 r. and the establishment of one of the first cemeteries in Poland located far from the church.

A fire raging in the town in 1795 destroyed the church, synagogue, school and hospital[1.10]. At this time Stopnica was under the Austrian occupation. In 1809, the town was annexed to the Duchy of Warszawa, and then became the seat of a vast, newly established Stopnica County[1.11]. In 1815, Stopnica was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland.

In 1827, Stopnica had 2,061 inhabitants, about 50% of whom were Jewish. The number of the Jewish residents increased to 56% in 1855. At this time, another fire consumed the town, which was rebuilt in stone. At the time Stopnica had 2,556 inhabitants with about 70% of Jews[1.12]. A rapid urbanization of the Kingdom of Poland caused that Stopnica lost its status of a town in 1869 and was degraded to a settlement.

A critical time for the village was World War I when, in 1915, the Austrian authorities occupying the territory of Stopnica County relocated its seat from Stopnica to Busko.

In 1939, two thirds of Stopnica County’s population was Jewish, so the Germans did not spare Stopnica and set the southern part of the square on fire. A considerable part of the village turned into a scene of fire.

In 1941–1942, in the vicinity of the old cemetery, the Germans established a ghetto for about five thousand Jews, later annihilated in Treblinka. In 1944, as the result of the hostilities, Stopnica was completely destroyed. When the Red Army started seizing the nearby territories , the Germans, who wanted to destroy the bridgeheads, started bombarding the village, and then hit it with six armored and one motorized divisions[1.13]. From 13 to 15 August, 1944 Stopnica was the secne of fierce fighting between the German army and the units of the fifth army under General Żdanow. Although the settlement was retaken, the Soviet army retained the Sandomierz bridgehead whose boundary ran along the Dziesławice, Białoborze and Mietel villages[1.14].

After 1945, Stopnica Municipality started a reconstruction of both the town itself and the surrounding villages. The settlement and the villages developed quite rapidly. By 1999, a water-supply system was installed in 32 villages, a gas pipeline – in 30, a sewage-treatment plant, type “LEMNA”, was built and a sanitary sewage line was provided. Today, the municipality has a Complex of Schools and a Kindergarten in Stopnica (including an Elementary School in Stopnica, a Branch School in Klępie Górne, and a Kindergarten in Stopnica), Elementary Schools (in Czyżów, Mietel, Smogorzów, Strzałków), a Junior High School in Stopnica, Upper Elementary Schools Complex in Stopnica[1.15].
 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Vol. 12, Warszawa 1880–1895, p. 374.
  • [1.2] Brückner Aleksander, Słownik etymologiczny języka polskiego, Warszawa 1974, p. 573.
  • [1.3] M. Zientarski, Dzieje Stopnicy, (a typescript of a paper presented during a ceremony commemorating the 600th anniversary of the town privileges to Stopnica, as of January 5, 1964).
  • [1.4] Salomon Aleksandra, Rys historyczny dziejów Stopnicy, Kielce 1999, p. 9.
  • [1.1.4] Salomon Aleksandra, Rys historyczny dziejów Stopnicy, Kielce 1999, p. 9.
  • [1.5] Leszczyński Jarosław Tadeusz, Stopnica, Kielce 2003, p. 18.
  • [1.6] Leszczyński Jarosław Tadeusz, Stopnica, Kielce 2003, p. 19.
  • [1.7] Salomon Aleksandra, Rys historyczny dziejów Stopnicy, Kielce 1999, p. 15.
  • [1.8] Leszczyński Jarosław Tadeusz, Stopnica, Kielce 2003, p. 25.
  • [1.9] Salomon Aleksandra, Rys historyczny dziejów Stopnicy, Kielce 1999, p. 34.
  • [1.1.8] [a] [b] Leszczyński Jarosław Tadeusz, Stopnica, Kielce 2003, p. 25.
  • [1.10] Leszczyński Jarosław Tadeusz, Stopnica, Kielce 2003, p. 29.
  • [1.11] Salomon Aleksandra, Rys historyczny dziejów Stopnicy, Kielce 1999, p. 42.
  • [1.12] Wiesław Caban, Społeczeństwo Kielecczyzny 1832–1864 – Studia nad strukturą i aktywnością gospodarczą ziemiaństwa, mieszczaństwa i Żydów, Kielce 1993, p. 168.
  • [1.13] Salomon Aleksandra, Rys historyczny dziejów Stopnicy, Kielce 1999, p. 75.
  • [1.14] Salomon Aleksandra, Rys historyczny dziejów Stopnicy, Kielce 1999, p. 75.
  • [1.15] Stopnica Municipality Office. News, available at: http://www.stopnica.pl/page.php?id=10&s=2 (as of 18 December 2009).