Based on archaeological data, it is assumed that Częstochowa was founded before the end of the 11th century. First mentions of a ducal village come from a document issued by Bishop of Kraków Iwon in 1220. Next information on Częstochowa appeared in the Bull of Pope Innocent IV dated around 1250, where the settlement was mentioned as one of the villages paying the tithe for the cannons of Wrocław. At that time, Częstochowa belonged to the Małopolska region. In 1325, Częstochowa was referred to in the documents of the Apostolic Camera concerning the collection of Peter’s Pence; it can be concluded that towards mid-14th century, Częstochowa was one of the least populated towns of the region.
In 1356, Częstochowa was chartered as a village under Średzkie law. In 1370, the neighbouring area became part of the fiefdom of Duke Władysław Opolczyk and, within seven years, Częstochowa gained a city charter. The existence of an ironworks here dates back to 1377. By the end of the 14th century, the Częstochowa ironworks and iron ore mines were known throughout the country. In 1382, the Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra was established – an important centre of the Marian cult. In 1393, Częstochowa became a royal town.
In 1430, Czech and Moravian marauders attacked the town and plundered the monastery (among others, they stripped the picture of the Holy Mother of its gold crown and fittings). In the 14th and 15th centuries, Częstochowa was an undeveloped and less populated town. Only in the first half of the 16th century, under the reign of Zygmunt I Stary and Zygmunt August, the last members of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the town flourished. Thanks to the support of King Zygmunt I, the town was granted numerous privileges, among others, a copy of the foundation (1502), the right to collect the bridge toll on the Warta river (1504, 1512), the right to hold fairs (1508) and exemption from duties and market taxes for the townsmen for 12 years[[refr:|Krakowski S., Czarnota A., Dzieje Częstochowy od zarania do czasów współczesnych, Katowice 1964, pp. 36-40.]]. Great contributions to the town’s development were also made by Mikołaj Szydłowiecki, the district official of Oświęcim. In 1531, a fortified wall was built around the town.
In the 16th century, the number of inhabitants amounted to 1,500; at the beginning of the 17th century – to around 2,000; and in the first half of the 17th century – to around 2,500. In that period the social division of the Częstochowa population was formed and included: the possessors (wealthy families), craftsmen belonging to guilds, and townsmen, who, apart from crafts and trade, also dealt with farming, animal husbandry and gardening. The first raid on Częstochowa took place in 1587, when Maximilian II Habsburg, a pretender to the throne, plundered the town on his way to Kraków. In 1620, the building of fortifications on Jasna Góra began. In the second half of the 17th century, the settlement of Częstochówka, attached to the monastery, was established.
Until the Swedish Invasion, Częstochowa developed without any interruptions. In 1655, the Swedish army tried to capture the Jasna Góra monastery, but with no success (the siege of the fortress lasted 40 days). The town was completely destroyed by the Swedes. It did not manage to rebuild after these events, as at the beginning of August 1665 the area staged fights between the participants of the Lubomirski’s Rebellion and the King’s army. The defeated King’s army sought shelter on Jasna Góra, but the prior of the monastery ordered to close the gates to the soldiers[[refr:|Krakowski S., Czarnota A., Dzieje Częstochowy od zarania do czasów współczesnych, Katowice 1964, pp. 60–61.]].
During the Great Northern War (1700-1721), in 1702, Częstochowa was plundered by the Swedish army under command of General Guldenstjern. They returned after two years and in 1705 General Stromberg burnt Częstochówka. In 1708, the plague befell the town’s area. In the next year, the withdrawing Swedes tried to extort a contribution from the monastery, but they retreated as far as Wieluń, as the Russian-Saxons pursuit approached. Nonetheless, the Swedish army managed to plunder all churches in Częstochowa[[refr:|Snoch B., “Częstochowa w dobie wojny północnej (1700–1721),” Almanach Częstochowy 2000, vol. 15, pp. 55–61.]]. All these factors led to the town’s economic collapse.
In 1717, Częstochówka gained a monastic-city charter under the name of Nowa Częstochowa. In 1769, the Bar Confederation, supporting King Stanisław Poniatowski, occupied the Jasna Góra fortress. At their head in 1770 was Kazimierz Pułaski, who successfully commanded the defence of the fortress against Russian armies. In January 1771, the Russians retreated from Częstochowa.
In 1793, as a result of the Second Partition of Poland, Częstochowa was annexed to Prussia. The Prussians confiscated the monastic property and granted Nowa Częstochowa town rights.
In July 1807, General Dąbrowski’s Polish army entered Częstochowa, which, as a result, became part of Kalisz Department in the Duchy of Warsaw.
When in 1815 Częstochowa was seized by the Russian army, Tsar Aleksander I ordered that the Jasna Góra fortifications be demolished and the town together with Nowa Częstochowa became part of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1826, Częstochowa and Nowa Częstochowa were merged into a single town. Thanks to that, Częstochowa became the fourth largest town of Congress Poland, after Warsaw, Lublin and Kalisz. At that time, several important investments were made – among others, a new Town Hall was built in 1828.
The establishment of the Warsaw-Vienna railway in 1846 initiated intense development of the town. Częstochowa, being a large border town and an important traffic junction, was strictly supervised by the tsarist authorities during the Spring of Nations (1848-49). In fear of a national Polish uprising inspired by emissaries from other partitions, the registration rules were restricted and the military police strengthened. Personal documents were inspected at the town’s gates[[refr:|Krakowski S., Czarnota A., Dzieje Częstochowy od zarania do czasów współczesnych, Katowice 1964, pp. 96–98.]]. During the January Uprising (1863-64), numerous battles between the insurgents and Russian units took place in the neighbourhood[[refr:|Krakowski S., Czarnota A., Dzieje Częstochowy od zarania do czasów współczesnych, Katowice 1964, pp. 96–98.]].
By the end of the 19th century, Częstochowa had become an important centre of industry with a power station, an ironworks, three iron foundries, a spinning factory, and others plants. The local ironworks was the most modern in the Kingdom of Poland.
During World War I, as early as 3 August 1914, the undefended monastery and town were seized by the German army. However, due to accusations of misbehaviour in the sanctuary by the German soldiers, the Austro-Hungarian army took over the town in April 1915, creating the so-called “Jasna Góra Enclave.” In 1918, Częstochowa became part of the newly established Polish state. During the Silesian Uprisings it served as an important centre of aid for the insurgents; money and medicines were collected in the town and volunteers were recruited. The Ukrainian government of Semen Petlura was based in Częstochowa during the Polish-Bolshevik war in 1920[[refr:|Krakowski S., Czarnota A., Dzieje Częstochowy od zarania do czasów współczesnych, Katowice 1964, p. 154.]]. World War I brought enormous losses to the economy of Częstochowa. High unemployment rates could be noted in the area in the first years after the war. In 1921, about 3,500 workers emigrated to France looking for a job[[refr:|Krakowski S., Czarnota A., Dzieje Częstochowy od zarania do czasów współczesnych, Katowice 1964, pp. 170–178.]].
Częstochowa had about 83,700 inhabitants in 1921, and in 1939 already 137,000. Moving the town’s border in the years 1928-30 was of importance for the town, as its area was extended by 47.2 square kilometres.
Before the outbreak of World War II, the Częstochowa region was fortified and the 7th Infantry Division was stationed there. After the German attack, the unit firmly resisted the German troops, first on outpost positions and later on the main defence line near the town. As a result, the Germans lost several dozens of tanks and a few aircrafts. As other units were defeated, the 7th Infantry Division was forced to withdraw from the town at night on 2 September; the Germans entered the town on the next day. As early as on 4 September, they carried out executions, which were remembered as “the bloody Monday.” The Nazis shot 227 inhabitants of Częstochowa, including 205 Poles and 22 Jews[[refr:|More: Pietrzykowski J., Cień swastyki nad Jasną Górą, Katowice 1985.]].
Częstochowa was incorporated into the General Government and the occupant changed its name to “Tschenstochau.” In 1942, a separate district was created for the incoming German settlers. At the same time, brutal repressions of the Jewish population intensified. A ghetto was established in the town in 1941. In September 1942, its liquidation began and the Jews were transported to the Nazi German extermination camp in Treblinka. The Polish underground movement operated in Częstochowa. On 16 January 1945, the town was seized by the Soviet Army.
During the period of the Polish People’s Republic, the iron works “Częstochowa” underwent rapid development and was given the name of Bolesław Bierut (after 1989 it regained its former name). The town developed dynamically and grew into a large city, the sign of which was building tramlines in 1959. In 1949, the Częstochowa University of Technology was established. Nowadays, the town is one of the most important centres of central Poland, although administratively it is only a district capital in Śląskie Province.
- Bossowski J. A., Częstochowa przez wieki: od pradziejów do wyzwolenia 16 stycznia 1945 r., Częstochowa 1999.
- Krakowski S., Czarnota A., Dzieje Częstochowy od zarania do czasów współczesnych, Katowice 1964.
- Powiat częstochowski: szkice monograficzne, Częstochowa 1974.
- Sowiński J., Trochę historii: jak powstało i rozwijało się nasze miasto, Częstochowa 2006.