Chmielnik was established at the intersection of important trade routes leading from Sandomierz via Szydłów to Chęciny and Małogoszcz and from Kraków via Skalbmierz, Pierzchnica, Daleszyce and Bodzentyn to Iłża and Radom. The settlement, which according to archeologists dates back to the 11th century, was most probably the property of the duke and was part of the Wiślicka Castellany. It remained under the jurisdiction of the Gnojno Parish and, in 1326, it was incorporated into the newly established Deanery of Kije. In the 13th century, the Chmielnik estate probably became the property of the Odrowąż family. The name of the locality derives from plantations of hops used for beer brewing.
The first important date in the history of Chmielnik is 1241, when knights from the regions of Sandomierz and Kraków gathered in the town in order to defend the country from the Tatar troops. In the battle held on 18 March 1241, the Polish forces were defeated by the Tatars led by Bajdar. The commanders of the united Kraków and Sandomierz forces – provincial governors Włodzimierz and Pakosław and castellans Klemens and Jakub – were killed on the battlefield. Several annuals contain brief mentions of the battle, but a more detailed description of the town, including the positions of troops, course of combat and losses on the Polish side can be found in Jan Długosz’s annuals. A monument commemorating fallen soldiers allegedly buried on the spot exists to this day [1.1]. Another mentions of the town date back to the years 1295–1296 and concern the raids of the Lithuanian troops [1.2]. In the years 1347–1348 several written sources mention Werner of Chmielnik, a canon from Kraków. In 1348, Bernard from Chmielnik served as a messenger of King Kazimierz the Great and Bishop Piotr Fałkowski of Kraków; he was sent to the Pope, who at the time had his seat in Avignon. Another mention of the settlement comes from 1354, when the wooden All Saints’ (or Holy Trinity) Church was consecrated [1.3]
Until the mid-15th century, Chmielnik belonged to the Lesser Poland branch of the Odrowąż family. In 1532, as a result of the division of the family patrimony, Chmielnik became the property of Jan Oleśnicki, a relative of King Zygmunt August. On 9 March 1551, Chmielnik was granted town rights by the king[1.4]. The new town was established east of the existing village. It was given the right to hold three fairs, organise markets on Thursdays, and was exempt from taxes for a period of 12 years. The founder of the town, Jan Oleśnicki, was an avid supporter of the Reformation. Willing to establish a Protestant parish in the town, he instigated the profanation of the local church in 1552. The church became the property of the Protestants and the function of the parson was assumed by Franciszek, a teacher of religion and a follower of Arianism. Nonetheless, the building was given back to the Catholics in 1607. Jan Oleśnicki’s sons, Samuel and Mikołaj, built a Protestant congregation and a secondary school in the town.
The town’s fast economic growth can be credited in part to its location on important transportation routes and to numerous privileges it had been granted. In 1580, King Stefan Batory granted the town the privilege to hold more fairs. In 1618, the town had a population of 250, which increased to 412 by 1673. In the first years of the 17th century, Chmielnik became the property of the Głuchowski dynasty, whose efforts were directed towards promoting Calvinism in the town, which at the time was also a centre of the activity of the Polish Brethren. It became the seat of the seniors of Kraków and Calvinist synods, which were held there in the years 1644–1676.
[1.1] More: Krakowski S., Polska w walce z najazdami tatarskimi w XIII wieku, Warsaw 1956.
[1.2] Rogala S., Chmielnik – miasto i gmina, Kielce 2006, p. 25.
[1.3] Biernacki T., Historia Chmielnika, Chmielnik. Samorządowy Portal Internetowy [online] http://www.chmielnik.com/asp/pl_start.asp?typ=14&menu=26&strona=1 [Accessed: 19.11.2014].
[1.4] Baranowski J., Synagoga w Chmielniku, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1960, no. 36, p. 95.
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