History of Kielce
Kielce is a city with more than 900 year-old history. At the turn of the 11th century, the city became the property of the Cracow bishops. In 1171 bishop Gedeon built the stone collegiate church at the site of the old saint Adalbert larch church. During the administration of Wincenty Kadlubek (1208-1218) the parish school was established. Civic rights were granted to the city before 1295 and since then it had its own coat of arms - a gold crown on red background with the letters C.K. (Civitas Kielcensis, which means inhabitants of Kielce).
The city, surrounded by a region rich in many raw materials (iron, copper,
lead ores) was developing as the capital of an industrial and agricultural
region. The middle of the 17th century saw the erection of two magnificent
buildings in Kielce - the monastery on Karczowka hill and the Bishops' Palace in
the French Renaissance style, which remained until today as the beautiful
monument of manneristic and baroque architecture. In the middle of the 18th
century there were four thousand inhabitants and in the city centre numerous
stone buildings, such as tenement houses in Rynek, were built. In 1789 after the
nationalization of the Bishops' properties, Kielce became a state city granted
the right to choose representatives to Seym (Diet). In the 18th century a
brewery, brickyard, riding school, st. Leonard's church hospital, high school
and theological seminary were established. After the third partition of Poland
the city went under the Austrian rule and in 1809 became a part of the Grand
Duchy of Warsaw. After 1815 Kielce shared the fate of other territories included
in the Congress Kingdom of Poland, becoming for some time the capital of the
Cracov province. Together with the establishment of the Old Polish Industrial
Region, as well as many coal mines, smelting works, industrial factories, Kielce
also became the site of the first technical high school - the Mining Academy.
Since the Kosciuszko Insurrection, Kielce took an active part in all national
uprisings and struggles for independence. It was in Kielce where the famous plot
organized by the priest Piotr Sciegienny took place in 1844. In 1905 the city
joined a national school strike as well as various demonstrations and workers'
strikes. In August 1914 Kielce became the first capital in independent Poland.
The Rifles Detachment of Jozef Pilsudski marched into the city and the Polish
Legiontook it over within three weeks. In 1919, in free Poland the Kielce
province was created. Industrial, cultural and educational boom characterized
the city in the first decades of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the process
was cruelly stopped by the outbreak of the Second World War. During the German
occupation every third city inhabitant was killed. In spite of that, Kielce
managed to stay one of the strongest centres of resistance movement with
numerous underground organizations. In January 1945 the city was liberated from
the German occupation by the Red Army soldiers.
Electromechanical and building industries dominate in the city. Among the biggest companies are: "Exbud" SA (one of the biggest private building companies in Central and Eastern Europe), "Iskra" SA (the production of bearings, spark and glow plugs), "Polmo-SHL" with the production of specialistic cars, "Chemar" SA - chemical appliances and industrial fittings, "David S. Smith"- packaging, KPBP-BICK SA - building, "Bialogon" Pump Factory with tradition dated from 1817. There are also several thousands of small factories which represent light industry.
In the last years Kielce has experienced the steady development of trade and services such as: catering business, hotel trade, tourism, banking, finance, insurance and crafts. There are more than 20 banks, numerous insurance companies, which all guarantee the regular industrial and financial development of the city. One should pay special attention to the activities of the Kielce Trade Centre, the fifth such centre in Poland with the usable floor area almost as big as the Trade Centre in Poznan. Every year there are more than twenty national and international fairs and exhibitions. Well known, not only in Poland but also abroad, is the International Armament Fair.
For several years the "Exbud" Business Centre has been offering the complex services of conferences, symposiums and seminars as well as marketing and consulting services. The centre is situated in a modern office building with conference halls, audio-conference room with the possibility of simultaneous translations in five languages, two hotels, restaurant, drink bar, fitness centre and parking space.
Kielce is also an active educational centre and a site of six colleges (the biggest are: the Pedagogical University and Kielce University of Technology) which educate several thousand students. There are more than a hundred nursery schools, primary and high schools.
The cultural life in the city is both of regional, national and international
character. The national scout festival, country music festival, organ and
chamber music festival take place regularly every year. The city authorities
organize numerous art exhibitions, fairs, concerts and other cultural events.
The biggest cultural institutions in Kielce are: the National Museum in the
Bishops' Palace, Kielce Cultural Centre (one of the most modern in Poland),
Provincial Library, Oscar Kolberg Philharmonic Orchestra, Stefan Zeromski
Theatre, "Kubus" National Puppet Theatre, Provincial Cultural Centre, Country
Museum, Toy Museum, BWA Art Gallery, Museum of the School Years of Stefan
Zeromski, Geological Museum and four cinemas.
During the last few years the city developed international links with such towns
as Herning (Denmark), Liepaja (Latvia), Orange (France), Gotha (Germany),
Vinnitsa (Ukraine), Flint (USA), Gavle (Sweden) and Gorizia (Italy).
Text: Tadeusz Wiącek