The oldest proofs of settlement within the territory of Sandomierz date back to the Neolithic era. Centres of pagan cults may have been located on Sandomierz hills of Salve Regina or Żmigród in early Middle Ages. Starting from the early days of the Polish statehood, Sandomierz was among the major centres of power. In the 12th century, in his ‘Polish Chronicle’, Gallus Anonymus refers to Cracow, Wrocław and Sędomirz (Sandomierz) ‘the main capitals of the kingdom’ (Latin: sedes regni principales). During the period of feudal fragmentation Sandomierz was the seat of the local duchy (starting from 1146) but after the death of duke Henryk in 1166, it mostly had a common ruler with Cracow (the capital).

In 1191 duke Casimir II the Just funded a collegiate chapter in Sandomierz at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church. Wincenty Kadłubek, the author of the ‘Polish Chronicle’, became its first provost and was subsequently appointed the bishop of Cracow. In subsequent centuries Zbigniew Oleśnicki, subsequently appointed the Cracow bishop and cardinal, and his protégée Jan Długosz, a great Polish historian, served among prelates and canons in Sandomierz.

In 1226 the Cracow bishop Iwo Odrowąż brought the Dominican monks to Sandomierz, granting the St. James’ church for their needs whereas the Sandomierz parish was moved to St. Paul’s church. The town suffered a great deal during the Tartar incursions in 1241 and 1260. During the second incursion 49 Dominican monks died a martyr’s death (blessed Sadok and 48 Martyrs).

Presumably, the town was first officially located before the 1241 Tartar invasion. In 1286 duke Leszek the Black granted a town charter to Sandomierz. After a great fire in 1349, caused by a Lithuanian incursion, the town was restored with the support of king Casimir the Great on the layout which has been preserved until today. During that period construction of defensive walls with four gates was completed. Also erected were the royal castle, town hall, a new collegiate church, St. Peter’s church and St. Mary Magdalene’s church.

Starting from the 14th century, the town was the capital of the Sandomierz province and the seat of the starost, and also an important commercial, scientific and viticultural centre. In 1570, the town hosted a convention of three Protestant denominations: Lutherans, Calvinists and Czech Brethren, who signed an agreement, known as the Sandomierz settlement.

In 1602 the Poznań voivod and Sandomierz starost Hieronim Gostomski funded a Jesuit college and a monastery in Sandomierz. The monks were settled at the St. Peter’s parish church. Over a decade later, the Sieniawski family brought Benedictine nuns to the town and supported the construction of a church and cloister, both of which have survived until today. Moreover, a Franciscan monastery with St. Joseph church was erected in Sandomierz in the second half of the 17th century.

In 1655 Sandomierz was taken over by Swedish troops who imposed forced contribution and plundered the town. One year later, occupants were forced to retreat. The castle, mined up by Swedes, exploded while being taken over by Polish troops, reportedly killing over a thousand people. The town suffered great losses also during the Great Northern War in the 18th century.

After the third partition of Poland Sandomierz became part of the Habsburg monarchy (New Galicia). In 1809, after the war with Austria, it was annexed to the Duchy of Warsaw (Radom Department). Afterwards, after the collapse of the Duchy, Sandomierz became part of the Kingdom of Poland (Sandomierz province, with a seat in Radom, and then the Radom Governorate). In the 19th century Sandomierz, which was a poviat-level town then, lost its importance. After 1818 the most important figures in the town were subsequent ordinaries of the new Sandomierz bishopric.

Sandomierz was seriously damaged and plundered during World War I. In the inter-war period the town was a centre of strong regionalism: in 1923 the Stanisław Konarski Regional University was opened here. Excellent prospects for growth opened up in 1930s, albeit for a short time. Sandomierz was to become the capital of a new province, comprising the Central Industrial District (COP). A rapid population growth, up to 120,000, was anticipated but, regretfully, those plans were thwarted by the war.

On 8–15 September 1939, after the outbreak of World War II, fighting for the Vistula crossing places took place near the town. Polish troops also defended the town until the retreat of the ‘Cracow’ Army. During the German occupation the environs of the town (in the Radom district of the General Governorate) were an area of active partisan and underground fighting (‘Jędrusie’ partisan group, Armia Krajowa – the Home Army, Bataliony Chłopskie – Peasants’ Battalions). Between 29 July and 30 August 1944 Soviet troops fought a battle for the bridgehead on the left bank of Vistula near Sandomierz. On 18 August 1944 the town was taken over by Red Army troops but, luckily, did not suffer damage during that struggle. On 12 January 1945 a great winter offensive towards the Oder river started from here.

Until 1975 the Sandomierz poviat was part of the Kieleckie province, moving to the Świętokrzyskie province in 1999. In 1975–1998 the town of Sandomierz and its surrounding municipalities were encompassed by the Tarnobrzeskie province. Rescuing works began in late 1960s and continued for a few decades, followed by restoration works in the Sandomierz old town in response to the danger caused by the subsiding Vistula embankment and the sinking corridors and cellars bored under the entire town.

Bibliography

  • A. Buko, Początki Sandomierza, (1998).
  • Dzieje regionu świętokrzyskiego od X do końca XVIII wieku, red. J. Wijaczka, (2004).
  • Dzieje Sandomierza, t. 1–4, red. S. Trawkowski i in., (1993–94).
  • Sandomierz: z dziejów polityki, prawa i kultury, ed. P. Witek, A. Wrzyszcz, (2001).
  • J. Zub, Sandomierz. Stare miasto, (1998).
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