Ancient History

Profitable natural conditions and suitable location caused that the vicinity of Świdnica was settled as early as in the Neolithic period (4500-1800 B.C.) In the early Middle Ages the region in question was inhabited by Slavic tribe (Ślężanie.) In approximately 990 the Silesia was occupied by Mieszko I and annexed to Poland.

Piast Period

990-1392

For the first time Świdnica was referred to as a town (civitas) in a document of 1267. The location document is unknown; nevertheless it is assumed that Świdnica became a town in approximately 1250. In this period it belonged to the Duchy of Wrocław. Duke Henryk IV of Wrocław, referred to as Probus, bestowed two privileges on the town as a result of which violent development had taken place. It was the right-of-shrott (1278) as well as the right-of-mile (1285). After childless death of Henryk IV, Świdnica alongside with a part of the Duchy of Wrocław was vested in Bolko I Surowy in 1290 who raised Świdnica to the rank of duchy’s capital and became the protoplast of the Piast dynasty of Świdnica. At the very beginning of the 14th century the town was equipped with battlements including six gates, parish church and two monasteries. In 1285 in Świdnica there operated the guild of bakers, weavers, potters, shoemakers, furriers and tailors. In 1308, seven years after the death of his father, the reins were taken up by the oldest son of Bolko I - Bernard. Due to the fact that he had two brothers he was forced to divide the duchy into three parts. He partially reunited the lands which were increased by his son Bolko II Mały (1326-1368). At the end of his life he was the most powerful of Silesian dukes; the lands of Świdnica-Jawor Duchy were spread from Dzierżoniów and Niemcza reaching Łużyce. In 1353 Bolko II entered into succession arrangement with the Czech king Karol Luksemburg as a result of which the Świdnica-Jawor Duchy, after the death of duchess Agnieszka – the widow after Bolko II - was annexed to the Czech Kingdom. During almost 100-year-reign of the Piast Dynasty Świdnica experienced a constant bloom. Świdnica was famous for an excellent beer, clothes and knives production. The town was governed by town council, managed by the mayor. However, not always everything was managed successfully – the life course was disturbed by huge disasters (in the fire of 1313 the entire town, excluding two churches, was supposed to burn down) as well as civil unrests and wars. In spite of all disasters mentioned above the town developed and increased its significance. At the end of the 14th century the number of citizens amounted to 6 thousand.

Czech and Austrian Period

1392-1740

The change of nationality did not affect the economy. Craft and trade were still flourishing. In 1429 the Hussites tried to conquer Świdnica, nevertheless the townspeople did not allow them to conquer the town. At the end of the 15th century Silesia was reigned by Hungarian king Maciej Korwin. In 1471 in the town there operated as many as 50 guilds associating huge number of craftsmen of various specialties. Nearly 300 houses were granted the right-of-beer (to brew beer). There could be found several grain mills and as of the end of the 15th century – one paper mill. In Świdnica there took place large, and not only known in the Silesia region, kine and hop fairs. After the battle of Mohacz in 1526, when Czech and Hungarian king Ludwik Jagiellończyk died, the entire Silesia went under the rule of the Hapsburgs. Nevertheless the Silesia remained the land of  the Czech Crown. In the first century of the Hapsburgs' reign considerable changes of social life took place. As a consequence of Reformation the majority of citizens converted to Evangelicism which resulted in the conquering of the majority of churches, including the parish church. In the next century the Thirty Years’ War broke out (1618-1648) as a result of which the entire Silesia was almost completely devastated. After repeated sieges, fires and marches of the army Świdnica was completely demolished. In 1633 the plague consumed 17 thousand lives. In the year the war finished in Świdnica there were 118 strongly damaged houses with 200 inhabitants. During the war the imperial authorities initiated a broadly comprehended recatolization of citizens in which the huge role was played by legal and administrative actions. Devastations of the Thirty Years’ War resulted in the crush of the town’s economy. In spite of its progressive restoration Świdnica had never regained such high rank it had before. 

Prussian and German Period

1740-1945

This period commenced by the war between Austria and Prussia. As a result of five-year actions nearly the entire Silesia was incorporated into Prussia. Shortly afterwards the fortress around the town was erected by order of the Prussian king Frederick II (in accordance with the project of General Cornelius de Walrave). In 1748-1754 the existing fortifications were reconstructed and new external line of fortifications was formed among others consisting of five forts and four redoubts. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) hostile armies besieged Świdnica four times conquering it each time. It resulted in the destruction of over 200 houses and damage of nearly 400 houses. After the completion of actions considerable financial means were intended for the strengthening of the fortress. It affected and stopped the development of town. Only the economic reforms of the Napoleonic Wars period resulted in certain revival. The first manufactures came into existence in the late 18th century; however it was the removal of the fortress in 1866 that significantly affected the development of industry. As early as in 1844 Świdnica was linked with Jaworzyna Śl. and afterwards Dzierżoniów (1855) and Wrocław (1898) by railway line. Concurrently municipal infrastructure was extended as well: gas-works (1863), new water tower (1876) and municipal power station (1907) were built. The measure of the development is the increase of the number of citizens – from approximately 15 thousand in 1852 to over 28 thousand in 1900.

Nowadays

from 1945

Shortly after the completion of war actions Polish operational group appeared in town.  German population was displaced and Polish settlers flocked (predominantly from Małopolska region and west borderlands). The town itself did not suffer considerable loss as a result of the war and therefore its management was extremely facilitated. Industry facilities developed, schools were opened and cultural life was arranged. In the post-war period the industry of Świdnica was significantly developed and new, large housing estates were built.

In 2001 the most precious monument of Świdnica – the Holy Trinity Church of Peace – was regarded as the World Cultural Heritage and entered into the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. In 2004 the Diocese of Świdnica was formed. In accordance with the decision of Pope John Paul II the first bishop of Świdnica is Ignacy Dec. Simultaneously an important impulse to the development of town had taken place. Świdnica Subzone of the Wałbrzych Special Economic Zone “Invest-Park” was formed. Since then 12 companies (including Colgate – Palmolive Manufacturing Poland Sp. z o. o. and Electrolux Poland Sp. z o. o.)  made a decision to invest in Świdnica. The last event of historical significance is undoubtedly the reconstruction of town hall tower of Świdnica which collapsed in 1967. Renovation work began in 2010, ended at the end of 2012.

 


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