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Wieliczka

Polska / małopolskie

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Summary

Province:małopolskie / krakowskie (before 1939)
County:wielicki / krakowski (before 1939)
Community:Wieliczka / Wieliczka (before 1939)
Other names:Maków [przed 1930]
Groß Salze [j.niemiecki]
קהויליצ [j.hebrajski]
Vilietchka [j. jidysz]
Величка [j.rosyjski]
 
GPS:
49.9872° N / 20.0650° E
49°59'13" N / 20°03'53" E

Location

Anna Rutkowski

Herb miasta Wieliczka | Poznaniak

Wieliczka is a town located around 15 kilometers Southeast from Cracow. It lies in a valley between two hill ridges of Pogórze Wielickie. In the years 1975-1998 the town was located in the Krakowskie Province. It is known for it’s unique salt mine, which is visited by over 1 million of tourists each year (data for the period from January to October, 2007 lists 1.1 millions visitors).

The town has 19,300 inhabitants (2007) and an area of 13.41 square kilometers.

 

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History

Anna Rutkowski

Children in the Jewish orphanage outside of Krakow | unknown

The first note concerning Jewish activities in Wieliczka dates to the late medieval period. As early as 14th century marked the activity of a Jewish banker and financial advisor Lewko (dec. 1395) in the King’s Council of the King Kazimierz the Great. Ever since 1368 he was also the administrator of the Royal Salt Mines in Bochnia and Wieliczka.

The turn of the 15th and 16th century saw the Jews actively engaged in the production of the salt mines. Among the most important people the names of Leszko Judeus, Bula, Trukla Leszko, Bartko Monetariusz and Arnold Welkier have to be mentioned. All of those people received a lease of the Wieliczka salt mines from king Ludwig of Hungary. The first Jew to become a documented resident of Wieliczka was the neophyte Michał Izraelowicz Rabiński.

From the very beginning a fierce competition in the profitable salt trade has to be mentioned, between Jewish merchants and Wieliczka residents, who continually insisted that the Kings shall banish the Jews from the town. Under the pressure of Christian merchants, King Zygmunt August banished the Jews from the town in 1525. That ban was repeated in a 1538 Statute and parliament constitution dated 1562 and 1563. The failure of those measures is clearly visible in another document issued by the King in Lublin in 1566, which in connection with the previous constitutions, barring “strangers and Jews from salt trade and residing in Wieliczka”. The town did not have a formal Jewish kehilla at that time, but the Jews still settled in the nearby settlement of Klasno and stayed in close merchant relations with the residents of Wieliczka. In breach of the official legislature the Jewish merchants still played an important role in the economic life of the town. The formal bans were never enforced and remained on paper only. This was a direct result of the incoherent policy of state authorities and the tenants of the salt mines, who on one side supported the regulations discriminating Jews and on the other hand had nothing against closing profitable contracts for salt trade with them. A privilege issued by the Great Treasurer of the Polish Crown, Jan Mikołaj Daniłowicz, in 1631, enabling Samuel Złotnik from Cracow to trade with bagged salt is a clear example of such incoherence. Another field of bitter competition between the town of Wieliczka and Jews was

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Local history

Anna Rutkowski

Panorama Wieliczki, 1910 | nieznany

Wieliczka is first mentioned at the beginning of the twelfth century AD in a document listing the profits of the Benedict Monastery in Tyniec. The document lists a settlement called Magnum Sal (Polish: “Wielka Sól”). The name of the town comes from the first part of that initial name, as the word “Sól” (Salt) was abandoned and the word “Wielka” (Great) evolved into Wieliczka.

In the year 1290 King Przemysł II located the town on the Francon Law. The history of Wieliczka is connected with salt excavation. Archeological investigation resulted in finding that salt was mined in the vicinity of today’s Wieliczka as early as 3500-2500 BC. A castle was constructed in Wieliczka in the 13th century, used as the seat of the Krakowskie Saltworks. The excavation and mining of the salt was a very profitable activity at that time and brought enormous income to the town. The King himself had his part in those as one third of the income of the Kingdom came from salt taxes. The money was used to build and restore monasteries as well as the King’s Seat- the Wawel Castle in Cracow. The incomes were also used to pay the state administration and the professors of the Cracow Academy.

Intensive development of the town came under the rule of Kazimierz the Great, who vastly enlarged the Saltworks Castle around the middle of 14th century. In 1356 the same ruler introduced the Court of the Six Towns, which included Cracow, Sącz, Bochnia, Olkusz, Kazimierz as well as Wieliczka. In 1361 he transferred the town from Francon to Magdeburg Law.

St. Clement parochial Church was founded at the turn of 13th and 14th century. The modernized and rebuilt building still stands today. Rapid development of crafts came in the 15th century, as the salt trade required merchants (so called “prasołowie”), coopers, smiths, wheel wrights, carpenters, cord makers, bakers, slaughterers, tailors, shoemakers, furriers, weavers and even goldsmiths. The pinnacle of the towns’ development came in the 16th century, when the salt mine was administered by Andrzej Kościelecki, Jan Boner and Sebastian Lubomirski. A slow decline of the town came in the 17th century. In 1657 the town was captured, plundered and partially burnt down by the Swedish army. During the Northern War in 1704 the town was destroyed by a fire only to fall

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