Wadowice was first mentioned in 1327 in a fief registry sent from prince John I Scholastyk of Oświęcim to John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg. During the reign of Kazimierz, the successive ruler of the Duchy of Oświęcim, a great fire destroyed the town completely in 1430. The prince wanted to rebuild Wadowice very quickly and therefore granted it the Kulm law, drawing on the privileges from November of that year. The Kulm Law – commonly granted to towns in Pomerania and Prussia – offered more privileges than the Magdeburg or Neumarkt-Magdeburg rights, which were prevalent in the region. Residents of Wadowice were exempted from all duties towards the princes of Oświęcim for the period of six years; they were also allowed to cut trees in the ducal forests and fish in the river Skawa on fast days (Wednesdays and Fridays). Owners of taverns, brewers, shoemakers, tailors and wool merchants were granted the right of free trade in the radius of one mile of the town. In the years 1442-93 Władysław Zatorski, son of the prince of Zator from the Piast dynasty, ruled the town. In 1564 Wadowice was annexed to the Crown of Poland. In the 16th century the town was developing rapidly as a centre of crafts and commerce.

In 1772 Wadowice became part of the Austrian Partition. In 1802 municipality purchased dominium rights and Wadowice became a free city. In 1819 a large Wadowice district was created; it comprised 10 towns, 2 market settlements and 340 villages. In the years 1867-1975 the town was a county seat. In the 19th century Wadowice retained its predominantly Polish character, with substantial Jewish and German communities. Weekly county fair and market place were organized. Towards the end of the 19th century small industries were developing; there were 10 distilleries, 4 breweries, 12 mills and 12 sawmills. The railway line was being developed as well; Wadowice was connected by rail with Bielsko-Biała and Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Lanckorony (both in 1888) as well as Trzebinia and Skawce (both 1899).

After the First World War Wadowice became part of the newly-reborn Polish state. In 1920 Karol Wojtyła, who later became Pope John Paul II, was born there. During the Second World War, after it was annexed to the Third Reich, the town’s name was changed into Wadowitz. In the winter of 1945 the town was captured by the Soviet Army. In 1975 Wadowice became part of the Bielsko-Biała Voivodeship and, after the new administrative division was introduced, part of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

Bibliography

  • A. Gajczak: Wadowice, miasto rodzinne Jana Pawła II (1986)
  • A. Grodnicki: Opowieść o Wadowicach (1983)
  • T. Klima: Wadowice. Wadowice, [1907]
  • A. Nowakowski: Z dziejów miasta i parafii Wadowice. Szkic historyczno-prawny (1985)
  • Wadowice. Siedem wieków historii, ed. T. Graff, (2009).
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