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Portal - Culture, Tourism and Sport
History of Inowrocław

Inowrocław, one of the historical capital cities of Kujawy, is often referred to as the "city on salt" due to its location on a massive salt dome, rising up to 10-20 m above the average height of the Inowrocław Plateau (ca. 90 m a.s.l.). Salt-making, whose unique traces have been found by archaeologists at Wojska Polskiego Street (the area of a former village of Rąbin) and in the vicinity of the Romanesque church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as the fertile black earth favoured settlement already 3,000 years BC. The whole area was adjacent to the marshy broads of the Noteć River, formerly called the Mątwa. Today, the modest-looking channel marks the southern boundary of the city. For the development of the city it was especially consequential that the famous Amber Trail used to run through the area of today's soda plant, joining the south of Europe with the Bay of Gdańsk. Furthermore, in the Middle Ages the course of the merchant trail remained basically unchanged. The trade emporium founded by the Celts two thousand years ago on the south bank of the Mątwa (the area of today's village of Krusza Zamkowa) was apparently the same place which had been mentioned on the Ptolemy's map of the 2nd century AD as Ascaucalis. It was a trade and manufacturing centre, co-operating with a number of nearby and distant settlements. The centre constituted a true gateway to the Baltic Sea and the area had great prospects of development. In the 9th century AD it was part of the country of Goplans, however it came under the influence of the Piast Dynasty with the rest of the land around Lake Gopło before the end of the century.
It is not difficult to identify the settlement which provided a background for the future Inowrocław, a city of 812-year-long, documented history. The first historical mention of a prince's fair, which – as historians agree – took place in the vicinity of the Blessed Virgin Mary church in Novo Wladislaw, about six kilometres from the river crossing, bears the date of 20 January 1185. The oldest Latin transcription of the city name indicates a prince Władysław as its founder. It could have been Prince Władysław Herman, who supported the idea of establishing a new town and installing his castellan after the residents of Kruszwica joined Prince Zbigniew and revolted against him in 1096. Undoubtedly, both the fair and the nearby salt works justify the distinctive status of that place. The importance of this settlement must have been growing, as at the end of the 12th century a magnificent stonewalled church was built there. The idea of founding a town might have been conceived at the court of Prince Leszek of Mazovia, a son of king Bolesław Kędzierzawy (the Curly). The castellan stronghold itself, possibly based on an older wood and earth hillfort, was situated in the area of today's Rybnicka Street, a few hundred metres to the south, near another trade settlement.
New possibilities opened up for the city after 1230, when the region of Kujawy was bestowed on Prince Kazimierz I, who established his permanent seat in Inowrocław.
As a result, already in 1237 or 1238 the city was granted civic rights under the Magdeburg Law and the modern urban concept found its implementation. Its centre was a large market square, which has been preserved until today, although in a reduced size and without the old buildings. The city received its own fortifications. The walls contained a new castle, a new monastery (third in Poland!) and a Franciscan church, the city hall, a weighing house and part of the old settlement with St. Nicholas church, which had been a parish church since the 14th century. The Blessed Virgin Mary church remained outside the city walls and the neighbouring settlement turned into one of the suburbs, called the Old Town already in the 13th century. The burghers, initially staying in the shadow of prince's officials, were gradually emerging and gaining political prominence due to their growing economic position. In the early 14th century the townspeople annually elected the town council, the mayors and a court alderman who led the jury. Prominent patricians, both Polish (Piotr Mąkoszyc) and German (Theodoric of Turzany, Gerwin), formed the closest circle of Inowrocław princes, especially of king Kazimierz I's nephews: Leszek, Przemysł and Kazimierz Ziemomysłowic.
The presence of the prince's court and the proximity of Teutonic Knights meant that the city was included in the political life of the country. As a result, the people of Inowrocław witnessed momentous events, such as political conventions, often organised and hosted by the Franciscans. The monks and the local parish clergy became involved in the famous Polish-Teutonic dispute about the Gdańsk Pomerania. The trial took place at the local parish church of St. Nicholas, where on 10 February 1321 the sentence was delivered in favour of the Polish side.
The historical mission of king Władysław Łokietek (the Elbow-high), who could have been born at the castle of Inowrocław, resulted in the rebirth of the Kingdom of Poland. Before 1327 the city was the capital of a separate duchy, but later on, until the period of partitions it was the seat of the voivode (provincial governor) and town starost (chief administrator). Until 1466 (the Second Treaty of Toruń), i.e. the time when Poland regained the East Pomerania and Chełmno Land, Inowrocław maintained a crucial strategic function, being the most important borderline centre. Threatened by Teutonic raids, the city surrendered to the superior strength of the enemy and in 1332 was captured by the Teutonic Knights and remained under their control for five years. In 1431 the invaders ravaged the city and took a few dozen prisoners.
King Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great) negotiated with the Teutonic Order and often stayed at the Inowrocław castle. The place was a venue of important meetings and diplomatic talks. In 1337 the Polish king received there the Czech king, Jan of Luxembourg and the Grand Master Dietrich von Altenburg. In the years preceding the Thirteen Years' War king Władysław Jagiełło often came to Inowrocław, at first with his wife, Queen Jadwiga (Hedwig). The queen found her place in the local tradition, however her historic meeting of 1397 with the Teutonic Grand Master Konrad von Jungingen – contrary to the record made by Długosz, the chronicler – most likely took place at the cathedral in Włocławek, not in Inowrocław.
The years of 1409 – 1411 marked the "heroic" period in the history of Inowrocław. Although it missed out the king's military expedition to Bydgoszcz (in autumn 1409), the city took active part in the following events. As part of the preparations to the conclusive battle with the Teutonic Knights the king ordered to strengthen the garrison by 400 men and told their commander, starost Borowiec, to harass and raid the Chełmno Land as soon as the truce ends. After the Battle of Grunwald the Inowrocław castle became king Jagiełło's main military base, where he kept the prisoners taken at the battle of Koronowo.
When the Teutonic threats were averted Inowrocław lost its presence on the arena of major events. Its economic position was stabilised for some time thanks to the renewed civic rights and further privileges granted to the burghers by king Kazimierz Jagiellończyk in 1450, however it did not give the city an impetus to grow. The cities situated on the Vistula River found themselves in a far better situation and took over the grain business to take advantage of the economic situation. The decline of the city was especially noticeable in the 17th century, partly due to Swedish raids. During the Swedish "deluge" (the invasion of 1655-1660) the city changed hands three times. It was occupied by Carl Gustav's soldiers for two years and in April 1656 the Swedish king himself entered the city.
Taxes and levies were mounted, and the city was being plundered, damaged and plagued. Empty plots of land and ruined houses could be found everywhere. The castle was run down, the monastery was deserted but for one monk. In July 1666 Jerzy Lubomirski's rebels were staying in the area and wiped out king Jan Kazimierz's troops near the Mątwa River crossing. Approximately 4,000 king's soldiers were killed at that time. However, the biggest havoc was wreaked in the city during the long Great Northern War (1700-1721). The poor city was completely ruined by Swedish, Polish and Russian quartered in Inowrocław.
The residents of Kujawy rose up to save the independence at the time of the Confederation of Bar (1768-1772), however they had no chance to oppose Russian and, later, Prussian soldiers. In January 1773, after the first partition of Poland, Inowrocław was incorporated into Prussia for the following 146 years.
The mayors (at first Poles, then Germans from 1838 on) were unable to prevent economic stagnation. The last traces of greatness were vanishing: the castle was replaced with Prussian cavalry barracks, the monastery and the city hall tower disappeared. After the unsuccessful armed bids for independence the residents of the Grand Duchy of Poznań adopted the idea of organic work as a realistic way to independent existence. Inowrocław became an important and the most eastward reaching centre of the so-called the longest war of modern Europe.
In the last three decades of the 19th century cultural societies were formed with a distinct nationalist character. Reading clubs, musical movement, clandestine classes and secret educational organisations were developed. Such community workers as, e.g. Maksymilian Gruszczyński and doctor Józef Krzymiński, brought in the idea of mens sana in corpore sano from the Falcons' organisation of Lvov. The idea promoted Christian and patriotic values. Thanks to the efforts of Lucjan and Stefan Grabski, and the indefatigable parish priest, Rev. Antoni Laubitz, in 1893 the Dziennik Kujawski, a Polish daily started coming out.
The fight for Polish culture would not have taken such a swing, had it not been for the new economic opportunities which opened up for the city when the salt bed started being exploited and new industries developed (chemical, food and agricultural). The Bismarck era Germany were engaging in superpower politics which made it a ready market. Inowrocław, backed up by its natural resources and vast capacities, was regaining its position as a thriving economic centre. The favourable rail links with Poznań, Bydgoszcz and Toruń enhanced the economic position of the city. New salt mine shafts, saltworks (1873), soda plant (1882), agricultural processing and manufacturing plants and numerous sugar factories offered new opportunities for the development of craft and commerce. Thus, a strong middle class appeared in Inowrocław. The people wanted and were able to take care of the culture, becoming the mainstay of the Polish identity and the opposition to the Kulturkampf.
At the end of the 19th century the population of the city exceeded 26,000. Germans, supported by Jews, dominated the local administration and government structures. In 1904 they changed the name of the city to Hohensalza. However, the Poles, many of who were in a good economic standing and rich in spirit, did not allow the Germans to change the traditional nature of the capital of Kujawy. New economic enterprises were formed by Poles, Germans and Jews who competed against each other, but also co-operated. Important companies and facilities were established to improve the municipal infrastructure: waterworks, gasworks and a power plant. In 1912 a tram service was even opened.
The foundation of the spa in 1875 marked the beginning of completely new possibilities for the city. The spa made use mainly of the therapeutic properties of the brine coming from the local salt mines. Consequently, in the western part of the city a spa quarter was quickly developing, where numerous boarding houses, villas and tenement houses were built.
The defeat of Germany in World War I brought the hope of independence back into the hearts of Poles. In December 1918 the Greater Poland Uprising was started and on 6 January 1919 the city of Inowrocław was finally liberated. In the times of the Second Polish Republic the local councillors and presidents – Józef Krzymiński and Apolinary Jankowski – put much effort to make sure that the Zdrojowisko Inowrocław (Inowrocław Springs – the official name of the spa from 1922) maintained the status of a renowned health resort.
Still in the period of the partitions the local residents were terrified at the sight of pits caused by land subsidence, due to the wasteful exploitation of the salt beds carried out by Solvay Company. The dangerous effects hampered the growth of building and housing. It was only after the construction of a borehole salt mine in 1926 that the threats were diminished. On the other hand, the world economic crisis brought the development of the economy to a standstill, increasing the unemployment and extending the limits of poverty to a considerable part of the local community. The maintenance of the health resort image was one of the priorities and some investments were even made at that time in the spa quarter of the city.
In the period of Nazi occupation (1939-1945) Inowrocław (again called Hohensalza) was included in the so-called Wartheland. The local residents fell victim to repressive measures which had never been seen in the history of the city before. Hundreds of people died in the local prison, the hard labour camp at Błonie and in the woods surrounding the city. A few thousand people were displaced to Germany or the General Government area.
Both in the pre-war period (after 1925), and after the war (from 1975) Inowrocław had the status of an incorporated city and belonged to the administrative division of the Poznańskie Province, then - in the years of 1938-1939 and after 1945 – to the Pomeranian (Bydgoskie) Province. Since 1999 Inowrocław has been a county (district) town of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province.
Over the last thirty years the city has grown in terms of space: new housing estates, industrial plants, schools, sanatoriums, cultural and sports facilities have been built. The multifunctional urban area of approximately 80 thousand residents has ceased to be associated with salt and brine only. Nevertheless, the excessive development of environmentally arduous industries has upset the ecological balance and affected the spa. In 1994 the local government approved a restructuring plan for the city which is to preserve both its spa and industrial features.

written by Edmund Mikołajczak

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