From the 7th to 9th century, the area of today’s Cieszyn was occupied by the gord of the Golensizi tribe. In the 9th century, the settlement was severely damaged, most probably by the troops of Svatopluk I, the prince of Great Moravia. It was when the gord was reconstructed into a fortified settlement on the Castle Mountain, protected by wood and earth embankments, almost 10 metres high and thick, that the history of today’s Cieszyn actually started. The new gord was made up of small huts abutting a road covered with laths. Among the excavated residues of its buildings, archaeologists found items testifying to the Slavic origin and developed culture of the inhabitants of the gord. Cieszyn later gained importance as a border guard point on the southern frontiers of lands ruled by Bolesław Chrobry. As the seat of a castellan, it became also the state administration centre of the first Piasts.  In 1155, Cieszyn was mentioned for the first time in a papal bull issued by Hadrian IV as Tescin. In the mid-11th century or about 1180, the first sacral building, a Romanesque rotunda, was built in the area [1.1].

In 1172, the castellany of Cieszyn became part of the newly established Duchy of Racibórz, which merged with the Duchy of Opole in 1202. In 1290, the founder of the Cieszyn line of Piast dynasty, Mieszko, became the ruler of the new Duchy of Cieszyn. He started to rebuild the gord into a castle. In 1327, in Opawa, Casimir I, a son of Mieszko, paid homage to the king of Bohemia, John of Luxembourg. From that moment on, the Duchy of Cieszyn was a fief of the Bohemian Crown, enjoying a high degree of internal autonomy.  Being the capital of the duchy, Cieszyn gained importance and expanded.

Cieszyn saw its heyday under the rule of Duke Przemysław I Noszak (1358–1410), who managed in 1374 to win a charter for Cieszyn under the Magdeburg Law. At the time, the wooden castle was replaced with a brick one and Mikołaj Giseler was appointed probably the first mayor of the town [1.2]. Moreover, a town council was established and located in a newly-built town hall building. In 1416, Duke Bolesław I confirmed the previous privileges of Cieszyn and granted new ones, such as the mileage right for guilds and the  right of townspeople to possess houses and own land estates [1.3].

The town saw a rapid growth under the long reign of Duke Casimir II (1452–1528) in the second half of the 15th century. In 1496, he removed the market square to its present location, simultaneously creating a new quarter along today’s Srebrna Street. He established also a land court and led to the widening of the embankments in the eastern direction (some of them were stone defensive walls).

The rapid growth of the town continued in the 16th century. When Wacław II Adam took power in 1545, the reformation movement started to develop in the town. The duke accepted Protestantism as the official domination of the Duchy of Cieszyn and most townspeople followed in his footsteps. As early as at the beginning of his rule, Wacław III Adam offered the town an area occupied by the garden of a Dominican monastery, which was later developed and named New Town [1.4]. In the second half of the 16th century, the town started to buy out areas located east of Wyższa Brama to establish the district of Górne Przedmieście [1.5]. A son of Wacław III Adam – Duke Adam Wacław - returned to the Catholic Church in 1609, but the last Piasts of Cieszyn did not took any active part in the conversion of their subjects in Cieszyn to Catholicism. [1.6].

During the Thirteen Years’ War (1618–1648), Cieszyn suffered widespread destruction. In 1645, it was looted by the Swedish troops. In 1653, following the death of Duchess Elisabeth Lucretia –  the last representative of the Silesian Piast dynasty – Cieszyn came under the rule of the Austrian Habsburgs [1.7]. That moment marked the beginning of the economic stagnation of the whole region. Cieszyn managed to win the status of a royal town. It was also entitled to send its own delegates to the Silesian Sejm in Wrocław from 1659 to 1722, when the Habsburgs endowed the Duchy of Cieszyn upon Duke Leopold of Lorraine. In the early 18th century, after the period of Counter-Reformation had ended, it was finally possible to build a large Evangelical-Augsburg church in the years 1709–1750. It is currently the largest Lutheran temple in Poland.

The course of the Silesian wars is the reason why Cieszyn remained within the territory of Austrian as one of few Silesian towns. In 1779, it was in Cieszyn that the treaty ending the Austrian-Prussian War of the Bavarian Succession was signed. In 1789, a great fire destroyed almost the whole town [1.8]. It was, however, quickly rebuilt. Towards the end of the century, Cieszyn became the area of activity of Leopold Jan Szersznik – a Jesuit and the most prominent representative of the Enlightenment in the area of Cieszyn Silesia. It was thanks to him that, in 1802, the first public library and the oldest museum in Silesia and the whole Hapsburg Monarchy was established in this area.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Cieszyn served as the refuge of the Caesar's court for a short period of time in 1805. After 1815, cultural life started to develop in the town as the first cafés and associations were being established. In 1837, the town had about 6 thousand inhabitants [1.9]. In 1839, the Piast castle was finally demolished and Prince Charles Habsburg commissioned the construction of a classicist palace surrounded by a park on the Castle Mountain. During the Spring of Nations of 1848, Cieszyn became an important centre of the Polish national thought. At the time, the first Polish paper was being published in the town. [1.10].

In 1869, the railway line reached Cieszyn, an improvement that allowed for the acceleration of the town’s economic development. An industrial district was constructed on the west bank of the Olza River; today it is situated within the area of Czech Teschen. In 1872, the town became the seat of the general vicariate of the Austrian part of the Wrocław diocese [1.11].

According to the Austro-Hungarian census of 1900, the town was inhabited by 18,581 people. In ten years’ time, the population of Cieszyn increased to a level of 22,489 inhabitants. During the First World War, the town served as the base of numerous units of the Austro-Hungarian troop, even as the headquarters of the General Staff for some time. Many members of the Polish Legions came from the town; Józef Piłsudski himself visited Cieszyn several times. One of the units of the Legions was the so-called Silesian (or Cieszyn) Legion, established in Cieszyn by the Silesian section of the "Sokół" Polish Athletic Association and commanded by Hieronim Przepiliński. Its members from Silesia took part in the most important battles, including the Battle of Mołotkow and Battle of Kostiuchnówką [1.12].

After the fall of the Austrian Monarchy, Cieszyn Silesia became an element of a dispute between Poland and Czechoslovakia. In October 1918, the National Council of the Cieszyn Duchy was formed in the town. Its goal was to lead to the incorporation of the region to Poland. In January 1919, a Czechoslovak-Polish war broke out. Using the involvement of Poland in the Wielkopolska Uprising and its fight for Lviv, Czechoslovakia invaded Cieszyn Silesia. The dispute was finally resolved in 1920 by the Paris Council of Ambassadors, which divided Cieszyn Silesia in an arbitrary manner. The town was divided along the Olza River so that its historical part was incorporated into Poland (Cieszyn), while the industrial part with the railway station became part of Czechoslovakia (Czech Teschen). Since the division was not carried out according to ethnic criteria, the Czech part of the town was still inhabited by numerous Polish people [1.13].

The separation of Cieszyn from the railway station and industrial areas inhibited the development of the town. In October 1938, the Polish troops entered Czech Teschen and Zaolzie, benefitting from the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Germany. Consequently, both towns were again merged into one.

During the Second World War, in September 1939, Cieszyn was invaded by the German troops. The town was incorporated into the Third Reich and largely populated with German people. Polish and Czech inhabitants were subject to various forms of discrimination at the time. Many of them were executed in public (for instance near Wałka in 1942). The former military barracks dating back to the times of the First World War, located in the district of Konteszyniec, served the Germans as a camp for prisoners-of-war (Stalag VII). The invaders committed murders on the local Jewish population, which was deported to various concentration camps [1.14]. In January 1945, Cieszyn was invaded by the Soviet Army. Subsequently, the town was once again divided into two parts - the Polish and Czech one - according to the borders before 1938.

Today Cieszyn is the seat of a poviat in the Silesian Voivodeship. From 1975 to 1998, it was part of the Bielsk Voivodeship.

Bibliography

  • 500 lat ratusza i rynku w Cieszynie, red. M. Makowski, I. Panic, Cieszyn 1996.
  • Cieszyn, [in:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 1, ed. F. Sulimierski, W. Walewski, Warszawa 1880, p. 697.
  • Dzieje Cieszyna od pradziejów do czasów współczesnych, vol 1–3, ed. I. Panic, Cieszyn 2010.
  • Gąsior G., Zaolzie. Polsko-czeski spór o Śląsk Cieszyński 1918–2008, Warszawa 2008.
  • Spyra J., Dzieje miasta. Okres międzywojenny 1918–1945, cieszyn.pl [online] https://www.cieszyn.pl/?p=categoriesShow&iCategory=274 [accessed: 19.03.2020].
  • Spyra J., Dzieje miasta. Okres piastowski, cieszyn.pl [online], https://www.cieszyn.pl/?p=categoriesShow&iCategory=185 [accessed: 19.03.2020].
  • Spyra J., Dzieje miasta. Pod rządami Habsburgów, cieszyn.pl [online] https://www.cieszyn.pl/?p=categoriesShow&iCategory=187 [accessed: 19.03.2020].
Print
Footnotes
  • [1.1] Panic I., Dzieje Cieszyna w średniowieczu, [in:] Dzieje Cieszyna od pradziejów do czasów współczesnych, vol.1, Cieszyn od zarania do 1528 roku, cz. 4, ed. I. Panic, Cieszyn 2010, p. 148.
  • [1.2] Gojniczek W., Burmistrzowie Cieszyna od XIV do XX wieku, [in:] 500 lat ratusza i rynku w Cieszynie, ed. M. Makowski, I. Panic, Cieszyn 1996, p. 73.
  • [1.3] Cieszyn, [in:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 1, ed. F. Sulimierski, W. Walewski, Warszawa 1880, p. 697.
  • [1.4] Gojniczek W., Rozwój przestrzenny, [w:] Dzieje Cieszyna od pradziejów do czasów współczesnych, vol. 2, Cieszyn w czasach nowożytnych (1528–1848), part 1, ed. I. Panic, Cieszyn 2010, pp. 78–81.
  • [1.5] Gojniczek W., Rozwój przestrzenny, [w:] Dzieje Cieszyna od pradziejów do czasów współczesnych, vol. 2, Cieszyn w czasach nowożytnych (1528–1848), part. 1, ed. I. Panic, Cieszyn 2010, pp. 83–86.
  • [1.6] Spyra J., Dzieje miasta. Okres piastowski, Cieszyn.pl [online], https://www.cieszyn.pl/?p=categoriesShow&iCategory=185 [accessed: 19.03.2020].
  • [1.7] Cieszyn, [w:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 1, ed. F. Sulimierski, W. Walewski, Warszawa 1880, p. 698.
  • [1.8] Cieszyn, [in:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 1, ed. F. Sulimierski, W. Walewski, Warszawa 1880, p. 699.
  • [1.9] Spyra J., Dzieje miasta. Pod rządami Habsburgów, Cieszyn.pl [online] https://www.cieszyn.pl/?p=categoriesShow&iCategory=187 [accessed: 19.03.2020].
  • [1.10] Spyra J., Życie polityczne w latach 1848–1918, [in:] Dzieje Cieszyna od pradziejów do czasów współczesnych, vol. 3, Od Wiosny Ludów 1918 roku, part 1, ed. I. Panic, Cieszyn 2010, pp. 7–12.
  • [1.11] Spyra J., Śląsk Cieszyński pod rządami Habsburgów (16531848), Cieszyn 2001, p. 152.
  • [1.12] Golec J., Bojda S., Słownik biograficzny ziemi cieszyńskiej, vol. 1, Cieszyn 1993, p. 226.
  • [1.13] Gąsior G., Zaolzie. Polsko-czeski spór o Śląsk Cieszyński 1918–2008, Warszawa 2008; Nowak K., W okresie konfliktu polsko-czechosłowackiego 1918–1920, [in:] Dzieje Cieszyna od pradziejów do czasów współczesnych, vol. 3, W II Rzeczypospolitej (1918/20–1939), part 2, ed. I. Panic, Cieszyn 2010, pp. 227–246.
  • [1.14] Spyra J., Dzieje miasta. Okres międzywojenny 1918–1945, cieszyn.pl [online] https://www.cieszyn.pl/?p=categoriesShow&iCategory=274 [accessed: 19.03.2020].