The town of Zamość was founded in 1580 on the territory of Skokówka village, by Jan Zamoyski, the Chancellor and Hetman of the Crown. It was to be the seat of the Zamoyski family and the capital of the Zamoyski estate[1.1]. Jan Zamoyski built a fortified defensive castle there guarding the eastern borders of the Republic of Poland and at the same time guarding the trade route from Wołyń and Lviv to Lublin and Warsaw. Shortly after the town was founded, the privilege to settle was granted to Armenians and Greeks. Even though the Act of Location did not allow Jews to settle in the city, in 1588 they were granted the right to live in the town of Zamość[1.2].

The geographical location of the town encouraged its economic growth and it provided positive conditions for the settlement of Armenians, Germans, Scots, Dutch and Italians; thanks to them Zamość soon displayed the characteristic features of a multi-ethnic trading town. In the mid 1590s, Zamość became an academic centre as well. The Academy of Zamość was opened – the third academy in the Republic of Poland (after Krakow and Vilnius). In the 18th century, Zamość was an important Jewish religious and intellectual centre, and at the end of 18th century, it became a centre that attracted many supporters of the Haskalah movement.

The town as a whole demonstrated the practical realization of the renaissance conception of the ideal “town-defensive castle”. It was planned by Bernard Morando, an Italian architect. It had prestigious buildings, a seat of the emperor, and a garrison. The town was surrounded by a belt of modern fortifications with gates built between 1587 and 1608, reflecting gradual development of military building techniques. A large market (100 by 100 meters) with a splendid Town Hall was constructed between 1591 and 1600 and was surrounded by an arcade of tenement houses with rich decorations, built at the beginning of the 17th century. Inside the town’s walls there were: the Zamoyski Palace (1581 - 1586), cathedral, (1587 - 1598) and an Orthodox Church (1618 - 1631). In 1590, or according to other sources in 1603, by the Solny Rynek a wooden synagogue was constructed, and in the first quarter of the 17th century a masonry synagogue was built in its place.

Zamość was considered to be the best organized town in the modern Poland. Divided into bourgeoisie and the owner’s residence districts, it constituted a well-thought out and coherent entity with precisely a well laid-out system of streets and squares, enabling the functioning of an effective transportation system. Zamoyski mansion constituted an intellectual, cultural and artistic centre, where poets, writers and artists gathered[1.3]]. Until today, even though a large part of the former defensive walls was destroyed, it is still considered to be one of the best examples of European urban planning of the late renaissance period.

The beginning of the 18th century symbolizes the gradual decline of the town. Even though Zamość survived both the invasion of Chmielnicki’s Kazakhs in 1648, and the invasion of the Swedish army in 1656, during the Northern Wars the town was taken by the Swedish army (1704) and the Saxon army (1715-1716).

In 1772, Zamość belonged to Austria and in 1784 Austrians closed the famous Academy. At the turn of 18th and 19th century, Zamość eventually lost its former economic and cultural significance. In 1809, Zamość was incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw, and in 1815 it became a part of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1866, the tsar’s authorities liquidated the defensive castle in Zamość by destroying a considerable part of its fortifications.

During the German occupation, the creation of a large centre of German settlement was planned in the Zamość area, and in the spring of 1942, a decision to force the whole Polish population to emigrate from Zamojszczyzna was taken. The forced emigration action (under the code name “Wehrwolff”) took place in the winter of 1942 and 1943 and it concerned a group of about 110,000 Poles, including 30,000 children from the whole of Zamojszczyzna (from the counties of: biłgorajski, hrubieszowski, tomaszowski and zamojski). Some of those people (about 16,000) were sent to the Majdanek concentration camp. A large group of families was taken to Germany for forced labour, and some of the youngest children were Germanized. As a result of Polish Red Cross and the Central Welfare Council’s efforts, over 2,000 women and children from Zamojszczyzna were released from the concentration camp in July and August 1943. But over half of them were in the state of extreme exhaustion or agony, that is why many of them died in hospitals several days after they left the German nazi concentration camp. The last transport (mainly women and children) came to the Majdanek concentration camp in February 1944. In March and April 1944, before the evacuation of the concentration camp, a group of children from Zamojszczyzna was taken to Łódź concentration camp and Oświęcim concentration camp

In 1992 the Old Town in Zamość was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] A. Trzciński, Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 14.
  • [1.2] As above.
  • [1.3] A. M. Stasiak, Założenie Akademii Zamojskiej – 5 IV 1594, „Gazeta Wyborcza” Lublin 2007, http://miasta.gazeta.pl/lublin/1,36651,4766946.html [as of 01 August 2008