The Płock’s origin dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries when a pagan center was located here on Tumska Mountain. A prince‘s fortification and an early-medieval settlement were established here in the 10th century. The Płock‘s fortified location on a high Vistuala’s bank and at the junction of shipping (on the Vistula) and land routes were an invaluable asset to the political, trade and strategic position of the town.
A Benedictine monastery was established around 1009 which later developed as a science and art center. In 1075, a diocese seat was created in this place. From 1079 to 1138 Płock performed a role of the Poland’s capital. After King Władysław the Wrymouth’s death in 1138, the town became the capital of the district, then of the Principality, and eventually the seat of the Masovian dukes. For the first time in Masovia, Duke Konrad Mazowiecki granted the Polish town rights to the settlement in 1237 and the Duke Siemowit I extended them in 1255. Both the fortification and castle were repeatedly destroyed during the successive years and they were most severely damaged in 1031, 1262, 1286 and 1325. The role of the town was temporarily marginalized when the Czechs took control over the Duchy of Płock in 1329. In 1351 King Casimir the Great retook the Duchy and extended it. Later on, the monarch fortified the town walls and the castle and after his death Płock returned to the Duchy of Masovia.
In 1435, the Masovian Duke Władysław I chartered the town on the base of the Chełm Law and in 1495 it was incorporated into the Crown for good becoming the capital of the Province. A water-supply system was installed and a hospital was founded in the 15th century. The 16th century was a period of fast development of the local economy. At that time, the most important fields of activity included trade, craft, as well as clothing, brewing and alcohol-distillation industries. In 1511, a great fire destroyed a considerable part of the town and the castle, while in 1532 a sliding Vistula bank destroyed the castle even more. After these events the townspeople began to rebuild the area. Many buildings in the Renaissance style, including a cathedral, were erected or reconstructed. The town walls were fortified and the castle underwent renovation.
In 1564, the number of buildings in Płock increased to 600 so it was comparable to Warsaw. The Bishops Erazm Ciołek, Andrzej Krzywiski and Stanisław Łubieński contributed to the fact that the town was raised to a rank of an important intellectual and art center. The time of splendor and magnificence of Płock lasted until the 17th century. A plague that haunted the town in 1603 depopulated it claiming lives of two thousand inhabitants and thirteen years later, in 1616, fires consumed approximately 70% of the buildings. Another plague that occurred in 1625 caused the further degradation of the town. The Swedes plundered Płock two times, in 1657 and in 1705. In 1661, there were 28 wooden houses, 8 municipal apartment buildings, 7 Jewish houses, 2 inns and 104 town parcels. Toward the end of the 18th century, the spatial lay-out of Płock was changed, the walls were demolished and the moat was filled with soil. The German population flooding in the region could settle in the New Town that had been established especially for this purpose.
Between the years 1817-1823, the lay-out of the town buildings continued to be regulated. At the beginning of the 19th century a theater was formed in the Holy Trinity church. The Płock Scientific Society was active for ten years (1820-1830) and in 1907 was reactivated. Numerous Classicistic buildings, including a town hall, were erected. The progress of the town was possible due to the fact that it became the seat of the Provincial (Governmental) Authorities, that a “bridge of boats“ was built (1836-1839) on the Vistula and a steam navigation was activated in the year 1846. Again, Płock was a significant grain-trade center which annually exported grain worth three million zlotys. Urbanization was the effect of industrialization which sparked a demand for numerous food, metal and machine-building enterprises. A permanent bridge on the Vistula was built during World War I.
In 1925, a rail line connected Płock with Kutno and after erecting an iron bridge in 1934, the line was extended also to Sierpc. At the time of the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, the fighters defended Płock heroically however they were not successful.
After World War II the town came to be a dominant industrial center where in 1960 the first refinery and petrochemical plants started to be set up. At present, apart from having outstanding industry, Płock is the leading cultural, academic, scientific, administrative and transportation center of the west and north Masovian region[1.1].
Geographic and administrative location:
[1.1] Dzieje Płocka. Joint work edited by Aleksander Gieysztor, Płock 1978.
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