The first references to Kielce appear in documents dating back to around 1084, although some suppose that there had been a trading community much earlier in this area, located near a fortified settlement which was the seat of the local castellan. Either at the turn of the 11th century or in the early 12th century, an extensive area to the south of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains was granted to the bishops of Kraków who were the most affluent hierarchs in Poland until the end of the 18th century. In spite of Tatar raids, the settlement developed successfully as a consequence Kielce received the Magdeburg law in 1364. As a bishop’s town, Kielce had de non tolerandis Judaeis privilege which was valid until Aleksander Wielopolski’s reforms of 1862. The 15th and 16th centuries saw demographic and economic growth of the town, which was directly connected to the rapid development of mining industry, especially iron and non-ferrous metals in the area.
The town became favourite place of residence of the bishops of Kraków. In the second quarter of the 17th century, on bishop Jakub Zadzik’s request, a new magnificent residence in the baroque style of the Waza dynasty (today the seat of the National Museum) was constructed, designed by the Italian architect Giovanni Trevano. In the mid-17th century, the prosperous period of the town’s history came to an end. During the Swedish Invasion, in 1655, Kielce was nearly burnt down, and a high tribute was imposed on the town. The rebuilding of Kielce started at the beginning of the 18th century. It was then that a seminary and a secondary school which was under the patronage of Kraków Academy from 1735, were established. A limestone mine was opened on the Kadzielnia hill together with two brickyards. Thanks to the donation made by bishop Andrzej Załuski the first credit union “Mons Pietatis” offering loans free of interest was founded.
In July 1789, the Four Years’ Sejm decided that the property of the bishops of Kraków was to be taken over by the royal administration. Shortly afterwards, as a consequence of the Third Partition of Poland, Kielce came under Austrian rule (West Galicia), whereas from 1809 it belonged to the Duchy of Warsaw (Department of Kraków). Under Austrian rule, the diocese of Kielce was established for the first time in 1805 (transferred to Sandomierz in 1818 and restored in 1883). After the Vienna Congress, in 1815, Kielce became part of the Kingdom of Poland, which remained under Russian control. As Kraków did not belong to the Kingdom of Poland, Kielce became the capital of Krakowskie Province. By the year 1816, Kielce became the seat of the Central Mining Management, which supervised the region’s industry development. Thanks to Stanisław Staszic, the year 1816 also saw the opening of the Mining Academy, Poland’s first technical university, in the former bishop’s palace.
After the November Uprising, the Krakowskie Province was replaced with the Kraków Governorate which was administered by a military governor. In 1844, due to an administrative reform the Kielce Governorate was liquidated and Kielce became one of the county towns in the Radom Governorate. For supporting the national mass uprising in 1863–1864, the town was punished with several tributes; many of its inhabitants were deprived of their property and sent to Siberia or to prison. November 1864 saw the dissolution of the Franciscan monastery on Karczówka hill and some time later part of the Seminary’s goods were confiscated. In 1867, Kielce regained the status of the Governorate’s capital and the converted Bishops’ Palace became the seat of the Russian governor.
By the power of the decree issued by the tsar in 1862, Jews were granted permission to settle within Kielce’s walls. From that moment on the kehilla was developing rapidly. From the 1880s, despite the Russian terror and persecution, the town slowly began to revive economically and demographically, which was influenced also by the construction of a railway line from Radom and Dąbrowa Górnicza to Kielce in 1885. More and more factories were opened. The first telephones were installed in 1904, and the first power plant was built just before the outbreak of World War I. In February 1905, there was a famous strike of school children who demanded to be taught in Polish at school.
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