The exact date of our city beginnings is hard to establish. Archaeological research indicates that Kielce came into existence as a small settlement that developed into a place of goods exchange. Hunters and bee-keepers dwelling in primeval forests of świętokrzyskie region bartered the fruits of their work for grain and other products. Also industrial traditions of Kielce have their origins in the distant past, when ore started to be smelted in then hardly accessible outpost in the heart of wilderness.

The first church in Kielce, dedicated to St Wojciech, was erected in 10thC. At the turn of 11thC a collegiate church dedicated to the Virgin Mary emerged on a hill, today known as the Castle Hill. It was built by Cracow bishops who were granted the ownership of the settlement together with the vast areas of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains by the prince. Jan Długosz, the Polish historian, wrote, "Gedeon, the bishop of Cracow, expressing willingness to propagate the reverence for God, who is just, over his diocese, in the vast and at that time uninhabited forests built the city Kielce and the refined and decorative, made of large square-cut stones church in it."The work was completed in 1171, which is considered to be the first unquestionable date in Kielce history. Soon the parish from St.Wojciech church was moved there by bishop Wincenty Kadłubek who, on the strength of a document from 1213, took the canonical prebend from Kij and then designated it as in Kyelciam. Four prelates and six canons, endowed with benefices in the shape of surrounding villages, were associated with the collegiate church. Various markets, trade and church fairs organised in Kielce reflected the increasing economic activity in the settlement. In 1229, a parish school, among the students of which was a distinguished historiographer Wincenty from Kielce, was founded at the collegiate church. The Tartar forays as well as fights over the throne between Konrad Mazowiecki and Bolesław Wstydliwy inhibited the intensive development of Kielce. However, neither damage nor plunder led to the collapse of the settlement which recovered very quickly and even gained when the church on the Castle Hill was fortified. Unfortunately, the foundation document of Kielce from that period was not preserved and it was the charter granted by Leszek Biały in 1227 that allowed to start settlements under the German law. In 1295 bishop Muskata received the agreement on building fortifications like walls and moats around "market places", such as Sawków, Ia, Tarczek and Kielce. This document, issued on behalf of the Check king Wacław II, confirms the position of Kielce as a significant centre of local trade. It is assumed that at the end of 13thC Kielce had a status of a city under the German law, as did all the remaining centres at that time. Such an isolation of the city from the influence of the land law was a crucial part of the foundation charter. It was bishop Bodzanta, reorganising the administration of Cracow rulers' property, who changed it. In the middle of 14thC Kielce started to come under the Magdeburg municipal law. In the year 1359 Kielce was defined as civitas (the city) for the first time. At the turn of 15thC it had around 300 residents, whose occupations were connected mostly with agriculture. The end of 15th and the beginning of the 16thC was a flourishing period for the city. In 1496 cardinal Fryderyk Jagiellończyk granted Kielce a coat of arms representing two symbols: a crown and the letters CK, probably standing for Civitas Kielciansis (Kielce citizenship) underneath, both golden on the red background. A few years later, in 1502, the first guild associating cobblers officially came into existence in Kielce. After that, the King's charter confirmed the rights to organise two trade fairs. The road from Kielce to Bodzentyn was built and other guilds joining together locksmiths, coopers and dressmakers were set up.

Eventually, the city centre in the form of market-place was created and the following streets deviated from it: present-day Bodzentyńska and Piotrkowska. In the mid 16th C., two-storeyed Town Hall was erected on the market-place and a small church dedicated to Saint Leonard was built on the hill, in the east of the town. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the growth of iron and non-ferrous metals mining in the villages surrounding Kielce contributed to the city development and the inflow of specialists from Poland and abroad, mainly from Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany. For dozens of years the Mining Department was situated in Kielce. At about 1500, the province of Sandomierz, (the ancestor of Kielce and Święty Krzyż provinces) was considered one of the most significant industrial districts in Poland. Here, 73 ironworks rendered their services (as many as 14 in Wchock). At that time, the province of Krakw, 38 ironworks, the province of Sieradz - 27, Mazovian province - 16 and the province of Poznań while Kalisz - only 9. Steel and glass plants were built in Kielce. Workshops that manufactured armour started their services. After 1790, the growth of copper processing industry increased the importance of Kielce so much that the place of nobleman's regional council debates was moved here from the district of Sandomierz. The city was developing very fast. In 1645, it had approximately 1250 inhabitants. It was administered by the hereditary officer of a group of villages on behalf of the bishop. In Kielce, there was also the Town Council consisting of 14 people elected by the inhabitants every year.

In the early 17th C., the considerable growth of the city was observed. In the period between 1637-1642, bishop Jakub Zadzik founded a palace in the place of the old wooden mansion. It was built according to the design of an Italian architect J. Trevano (nowadays there is the National Museum in the Bishops' Palace). Then, the Holy Trinity church was built with the hospital next to it. On Karczwka Hill the church with Bernardine convent was constructed. The Collegiate church was extended by aisles and a choir, while on the churchyard the brick belfry was built. Thanks to the palace, school and organs in the collegiate church, the cultural life of the city developed. In 1661, King Jan Kazimierz stayed with his court in Kielce.

The period of prosperity was inhibited by the Swedish Invasion. The Swedish army as well as the civil wars in Poland stunted the development of the city. Kielce suffered not only because of military operations, plunders but also plagues. Trade came to a halt, most coal mines and steelworks did not work. The Bishops of Cracow - owners of the city - considerably contributed to the recovery of the economic activity in their manors.

The 18th C. passed under the banner of restoration of the former splendour. Wartime damage was quickly repaired and the theological seminary was built as well as the school theatre and secondary school started its activity in 1735 under the auspices of Cracow Academy. In the 80s of the 18th C., limestone mine on Kadzielnia and two brickyards started to work. New houses and new streets were built and the number of inhabitants of Kielce amounted to about 2 thousand. The event that influenced further development of the city was the issue of the bill by the Four-Years' Diet, according to which bishops' property, including the city, was taken over by the royal administration. It resulted, among other, in the privilege of electing deputies to the Parliament.

The Polish-Russian war and then the Kościuszko Insurrection caused new damage. In 1794, from June 7 to 9, commander-in-chief, Tadeusz Kościuszko stayed in Kielce. He quartered here with his detachment after the battle of Szczekociny. Wojciech Bartos Głowacki, heavily wounded during this very encounter, was taken to Kielce where he died in the local hospital. He was probably buried on collegiate church cemetery.

The third partition of Poland deprived Kielce of independence. From this time the city belonged to so called West Galicia (Austrian sector of partitioned Poland). Kielce was promoted to the dignity of the capital of "cyrkul" (unit of territorial division) under the leadership of "starost". In June 1800, dangerous fire destroyed almost all houses in the city centre and the Town Hall. Damage was quickly repaired. As a result of bulla (papal edict) issued by the Pope Pius VII, Kielce was established the capital of the new diocese.

In 1809, the city was included to the Duchy of Warsaw with the seat of district authorities of Radom department. In 1818, as a consequence of establishing the Free City of Cracow the capital of Cracow province was moved to Kielce, which resulted in considerable development opportunities. In the early 19th C., thanks to the efforts of Stanisław Staszic, a statesman and creator of the Old Polish Industrial District, the Mining Management was transformed into The Main Mining Management, next to which the first Technical University - Mining School in Poland was created. Apart from already existing men's secondary school, private female schools, a library and a printing-house started their activity.

November Uprising impeded the growth of the city until the late 19th C. In 1844, conspiracy of the priest Piotr Ściegienny was uncovered. He was arrested in Kielce during preparations to the fight against the invader. In connection with the administration reform in the Kingdom of Poland, Kielce stopped being the capital of a province and in 1845 it was degraded to the district town. No more investments in its further industrial development were made. The number of inhabitants started to decrease. At that time, president wielded power in Kielce. In 1835, on the market-place, the new Municipal Council was built. This building burnt down in 1873. Two years later, Franciszek Kowalski, a local architect, started designing the Town Hall and in 1876, the first removals of the municipal authorities to the new residence began. After a few modifications and development the building has been standing to the present day.

In the late 30s of the 19th C., the new road running through the city centre was built enabled direct connection with Warsaw and Cracow. The hospital of Saint Aleksander, bookshops and the Lardelli hotel with theatre hall were built. After 1875, the following four industrial plants operated in Kielce: brewery, marble factory, sawmill and steam mill.

The economic boom at the end of the century related to the launch of the railway in 1885. It ran across Kielce, from Dęblin to Dąbrowa Górnicza. First big industrial plants started their activity, among other, "Społem" Society, glass plant, Kadzielnia and Wietrznia lime kilns. Hotels, churches and a synagogue were built and in the early 20th C., telephone services were introduced to the city. New theatre hall was built, which contributed to the cultural life development.

"Kielce Newspaper" was first published in 1897, Kielce had approximately 13,5 thousand inhabitants.

Numerous patriotic spurts such as participation in uprisings, conspiracy, demonstrations and strikes reflected the inhabitants efforts to recover from Russian captivity. However, they resulted in persecution and the intensification of terror. Many outstanding inhabitants of Kielce were sent into exile to Siberia. Resolute attitude of the society made tsar allow for the establishing of Polish public and cultural organizations. In 1906, in Kielce, Polish School Society Department was created and two years later, followed by Library Society and Polish Touring Society Department. From 1903, 27 undertakings functioned in the city. In 1913, electric power station and first repertory cinema were built in Kielce. Technical School and Jewish Trade School were founded.

After the beginning of World War I, Cadre Company of Pilsudski's legions entered Kielce and in September 1914 the pledge of I Polish Regiment took place here. The city was given back its independence after 123 years of captivity in 1918. Despite war damage, Kielce became the seat of administrative authorities of a big province. Surrounding villages were included into the territory of Kielce and the number of inhabitants was still increasing. In 1939, it amounted to more than 71 thousand. New companies started their activity, among others: "Ludwików" Casting House - popular SHL, "Granat" Company (today's NSK Iskra), "Henryków" Furniture Company and numerous brickyards. In 1926, new electric power station opened. In 1927 - sewerage system and in 1929 - water pipe network started to function. In the 30 s of the 20th, the Central Industrial District was established. It included parts of the following provinces: Kielce, Lublin, Kraków and Lww. Its area constituted about 15% of the territory of Poland and 18% inhabitants of the whole country lived here. In connection with establishing Central Industrial District, armoury companies developed in Radom and Starachowice. At that time, there was a military garrison in Kielce. It had its barracks on the housing estate "Stadium" and "Bukówka" (at present, the Centre of Training for the Peacekeeping Force has its seat there). Cultural life of the city developed, periodicals and newspapers, such as "Gazeta Kielecka", were issued.

World War II blocked the expansion of the city. German army invaded Kielce during the first days of September. At the very beginning of their occupation, German soldiers murdered Stefan Artwiski, the president of Kielce. Between the years 1939 and 1945, was a period of the active underground fight for independence. The following departments of the Polish army were acting in this region: ZWZ-AK, SZP, "Orzeł Biay", BCh, NSZ and detachment "Szare Szeregi". In 1943 in the forests surrounding Kielce, partisans' troops were fighting with the enemy. Secret teaching on the level of secondary and public school took place. Then, in 1943, in concert with the University of the Regained Territories and Catholic University of Lublin, university courses were organized. German army was forced out of the city by the Red Army on January 15th, 1945. Destructed Kielce began the new chapter of its history with the number of inhabitants of 48 thousand.

Postwar years was the period of constant development, particularly intensive in the 70s. New big housing estates were built then. Kielce University of Technology (created from the Higher Engineering School of Kielce and Radom) and the University of John Kochanowski (formed on the basis of the Higher Teacher Training School). In the late 70s, the numbers of inhabitants was about 160 thousand. At the turn of 1979 and 1980, Kielce extended its territory and since then its shape has not changed.

The capital of świętokrzyskie province has developed dynamically. It has nearly 200 thousand inhabitants. This is the economic, cultural and educational heart of the region but also a very strong fair and exhibition centre. State and public universities educate more than 40 thousand students every year. The biggest Polish construction companies have their seats in Kielce. Well-developed trade network and institutions supporting development of enterprise function here. Many new attractive residential and business constructions are built in the city. Local newspapers, radio and television report on the everyday life of Kielce.


Kielce City Hall, Rynek 1, 25-303 Kielce
tel. 41-36-76-553, fax 41-36-76-552

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