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History of Pilzno, Poland

Description from 1880 Slownik Geograficzny

PILZNO: in documents also seen as Pylszno and Pylsna, a town and county [powiat*] seat on the left bank of the Wisloka, by where the Dolcza empties into it, in a hilly, wooded area. The elevation of the town itself is not that high (217 meters above sea level), the immediate vicinity is the level valley of the Wisloka (209 to 212 meters above sea level). But to the east, along the Wisloka's right bank, and to the south, elevations reach 346 meters; to the north is the Wisla lowland, wet and poorly drained, covered with pine forests, in the counties of Kolbuszowa and Mielec. Due to plentiful building material, Pilzno consists of tidy wooden courts surrounded by gardens, except for the marketplace, in which there are mostly single-story brick tenements. According to the 1880 census there were 238 houses here and 2,128 inhabitants (1,010 men, 1,118 women), to wit, 1,574 Roman Catholics, 2 Greek Catholics, 551 Jews and 1 non-Catholic [presumably Protestant]. A list of officials' names for the kingdom of Galicia for 1886 gives 1,634 Roman Catholics and 491 Jews.

Pilzno is 12 km. from the Archduke Karol Ludwik railway station in Debica, 7 km. from the station in Czerny. Highways connect the town with Brzostek, 14 km. to the southeast; Debica, 12 km. to the northeast; Zasow, 19 km. to the north; and Tarnow, 21 km. to the northwest. The town is surrounded by Pilznionek to the north, Dolczowka to the west, and Strzegocice to the south. There is an Imperial and Royal* starostwo* and a building and tax department connected to it, a county court, county council, district school board for Pilzno and Ropczyce counties, tax office, post office and telegraph station, a Roman Catholic parish, a Carmelite monastery, a mixed four-class state school, a pharmacy, several grocer's and mercer’s shops, a doctor, a surgeon, and a notary. The financial institution is a district division of the land credit society; humanitarian goals are served by a fund for the needy, which owns a brick house, 26 morga's* of land, and 3,821 zl. of capital. This fund is administered by the gmina*. The gmina office consists of the mayor, his assistant, three officials, and a surgeon. The gmina property’s assets come to 26,134 zl., 54 cents; liabilities come to 5,698; and the yearly income is 7,000 zl.

The town’s chief ornament is an ancient parish church, date of construction unknown, which was long ago a provostry, having four mansioners, of whom three were endowed by Wawrzyniec Grucki on 28 July 1607, and the fourth, the "Primarist," by Mikolaj Oborski, administrator of the Krakow bishopric in 1680. It also had three prebendaries funded by Krzysztof Kaminski, Sandomierz seneschal (with his wife, Jadwiga of Drozdowo, owners of the village of Lipiny in 1623), as well as confraternities of the Rosary, literary societies formed by the townsmen, archipresbyteries, confirmed in 1481 by Bishop Jan Rzeszowski of Krakow, in 1639 by Jakub Zadzik, and by a bull of Urban III in 1642; there is also a confraternity of St. Anna and an single preacher. Outside the town, on the road to Strzegocice, stood a wooden church, and in the town was the brick church of the Holy Spirit, connected with the hospital, as well as a third, of brick, of the Augustinians. The provostry was abolished in 1800 and attached to the parish office, and at that same time Holy Spirit church was also closed, as well as the monastery and church of the Augustinians, after the suppression of that order in Galicia; the Governor, Archduke Ferdynand d'Este, gave it to the Carmelites in 1841. That church had been funded and built by Wladyslaw Jagiello in 1403, but in 1474 it was completely destroyed; it was later rebuilt, along with a parish church, by Zygmunt I. When the monastery burned down again, the Augustinians built just a wooden house, where they stayed until the abolition of the order. This church was destroyed a final time by fire in 1865, and thus no relics of the past remained. It was renovated by the Carmelite prior Rev. Ludwik Zielinski. In 1848 a brick monastery was built next to it, in which three monks are now staying. The parish belongs to the diocese of Tarnow, Pilzno deanery, and includes: Pilznionek, Strzegocin, Lipiny, Kozia Wola, Zajaczkowice, Rzedziny, Bielowy and Slotowa, with a total of 5,610 Roman Catholics and 1,156 Jews. The area of the major estate, the municipal gmina, has 31 morga's of farmland; the minor estate has 567 morga's of farmland, 26 of meadows, 46 of pasture-land, and 5 of woods.

From ancient times Pilzno was the property of the monastery in Tyniec. In a 1328 charter issued by Abbot Michal in Tyniec (Cod. dypl. Malopol., ed. Piekosinski, p. 211), it was stated that after taking counsel from the whole congregation, he was allowing a certain Urs to establish a soltystwo of Pilsno, with a charter based on that of Sroda Slaska, in the area of the Wisloka, giving him two free lan's*, … a tavern with a garden, a free mill, cobblers' stalls, a butcher shop, the right to catch fish freely, every third denar* from any fines, and every sixth from the rents. The abbot also gave the settlers 20 years’ exemption both from tithes and from other fees… After expiration of that period, each settler was to pay the Tyniec monastery 9 szkoty* per lan as well as a tithe, and to perform the usual services, which are generally designated as "communal and public service to the lands of our house, as per the law." The borders of the new soltystwo were designated as follows: "in the first part opposite Pilsno Pauli Rawelis (that is, along Pilznionek), in the second part adjoining the borders of the lord Gregorius of Leki, in the third adjoining Strzegocice in the river which is called Czepina in Polish up to Camen and falls into the Wisloka." Finally, the soltys was allowed to sell the property, with the knowledge and permission of the monastery.

A fairly sizable population must have been attracted to the new settlement, for the years of exemption had hardly expired when on 3 October 1354, at the request of the abbot and monastery of Tyniec (ibid., 282), Kazimierz the Great issued a new charter in which he allowed the founding of the town of Pilsno, on the same terms of German law as Krakow was ruled by, establishing markets on Tuesdays, exempting the wojt* and townsmen from provincial courts, castellan courts, etc.—in all, giving them the same freedoms Kraków had, in addition to the right to fight duels for the purpose of arriving at the truth before the courts, or ordalia… It freed them from all burdens of Polish law and permitted them to conduct crafts of all kinds. Finally the King gave the townsmen freedom from taxes, for 6 years to those settled on land already cultivated, and for 20 years to those settling on new land. Where this new population came from, it is impossible to say from the several names that have been preserved. It may be that some of them, as Kromer maintains, came from Saxony and Holland, but some must have been local. In Debica's foundation records from 5 July 1572 we read among the witnesses mention "of that city, to wit, Pylsna, president Woythko Peshko, called swertil, and Clymko also, citizens of Pylsna" (ibid., 376)—so their first names, at least, were already Polonized.

In Starozytna Polska (Vol. II, p. 476) Balinski cites a different record of Kazimierz the Great dated the 6th day after the feast of St. Michael, 1354. It says nothing about the abbot of Tyniec, but says that Kazimierz allowed a nobleman Dobeslaus to found that town, appointed him wojt along with his legal descendants, gave him 4 free lan's, a mill, baths, a garden, stalls of bakers, cobblers, butchers, weavers, and salters, and designated for him every sixth denar from the rents and every third from fines collected, under the condition that he present himself for military actions on a horse worth four grzywna's*, in armor with iron visor, and with spears. After the 6 free years were over, the townsmen were to pay 6 skojec's* per lan. It is impossible to interpret the connection between the two charters otherwise than that in 1354 he ceded the Pilzno monastery and Strzegocice by legal contract to Eustachy Firlej (Siarczynski, manuscript, Bibl. Ossol. No. 1826) and he probably ceded it to the king, who immediately issued a new charter.

Later Pilzno was a starostwo (one not affiliated with a grod*), and brought the Commonwealth treasury in its final years a kwarta* of 2,724 zlp. In 1456 Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk granted the townsmen a charter lowering tariffs in Kraków and the whole country by half, and in 1461 he allowed its councilmen to install underground pipes and waterways, awarding them in perpetuity the revenue accruing from them. During the short war between Poland and Hungary in 1474 the Hungarians surrounded the town and demanded a ransom of 400 zl. The townsmen were inclined to pay it, but the king would not allow them to submit, so the town was taken and burned and part of the population murdered. At that time the parish church and that of the Augustinians burned also.

It seems that after this disaster the town did not return to its former prosperity, although in 1489 the wojt allowed waterways to be installed on his property for a fee of 13 grzywna's, and in 1495 Jan Olbracht established markets on St. Andrew's [feast-day?], and Zygmunt I on St. John the Baptist's, and in 1539 released the townsmen from giving stations; but the 1564 inspection found only 166 houses and 85 town lan’s there. The inspectors noted that despite prohibitions against it, there were 9 distilleries; 28 peasants, settled on land just outside the town, paid a grzywna per lan and gave 2 bushels of oats, 2 capons, 2 cheeses, 20 eggs, and contributed to the king's stations. By virtue of a 1533 charter, the inspection report says, they have work one day a week in the fields [presumably as a labor service to their lord], "and they charge that they work on the royal manorial farmstead of Strzegocice rarely, but on the wojt’s property every day." The market-fee brought in the following: 1 grosz* each from carts with crops, 1 grosz each on herds of cattle, or 6 denar's per flock, 1 grosz per quarter of flour, 2 grosz'es each for Hungarian colts and other horses driven to market, that is, one from the seller and another from the buyer, of which there were 1,000, more or less… In payment for feed at the St. John's market they collect 2 groszy each for Hungarian colts, of which there are usually from 800 to 1,500. From the villages they pay 50 grzywna's for the king’s stations to the mercenary in the colors of His Royal Majesty. There are 3 Jewish farm-owners, who pay a Hungarian florin each, that makes 3 marks, 12 grosz'es; there are also 2 boarders who do not make a payment in money but perform labor and repairs to the manor."

In 1577 Stefan Batory ordered the Jews evicted and forbade them to settle in the town or vicinity. But this measure, taken to improve industry and trade, did not help much. The inspectors in 1629 found more houses, for there were 204 in town and in its outskirts, and 16 distilleries; the houses of the Jews were empty, and of the guilds they found cobblers, a baker, a smith, weavers, and butchers. "They do not have market-fees as earlier because horses aren’t brought from Hungary (this was during the 30-year-war), but cattle and herds are brought to and from Ruthenia by another highway. The wojt collects from the use of the mill, gardens, and the bakers' and butchers' stalls. The townsmen give 67 fl., 6 grosz'es in underwater money [?—podwodnych pieniedzy], and 40 florins in coronation money. They are obligated to provide in war a carriage with four horses, covered with cloth, with victuals and other necessities."

This was the period of the town’s greatest flourishing after the catastrophe of 1474. There still existed large stores of wines; sought-after brass and copper objects were being made; and the Sejm of 1641 passed a resolution for a bridge-tax for the town of 1 grosz per horse. But when the war with Sweden broke out, the crown’s army looted the town, and the enemy burned what was left. The inspection of 1663 found 36 poor-quality houses in the town and its outskirts. Despite new catastrophes from fire, flood and plague, the town arose again, for the inspection in 1765 found 82 houses there: the town was surrounded by ramparts, and had four churches. The townsmen paid 1 grosz per house, but there was no cloth-cutter and no scales, and the brick town hall in the center of the market needed swift repair. "It would be the jewel of the town and an advantage for the courts," the inspectors reported, "and also for the preservation of the records. For the law provides that land courts be held in city halls, and a resolution from 1764 of Pilzno county instance determined that the grodzki* courts, for which citizens had to go to Korczyn, henceforth were to be held by the Korczyn grodzki office in Pilzno, and summaries of transactions were to be kept there and depositions for both land and town courts, therefore we recommend to the starosta* that he repair the town hall as quickly as possible. They should always keep the military carriage ready [presumably the one the town was supposed to provide as its contribution to the army, see above], which we order under penalty of fines. The town has raised the issue with us that the Lord Starosta (Stanislaw Pininski) has an innkeeper who has several Jews with him, and he conducts business to the detriment of the town. Verified profit from the starostwo, 10,896 zl., of which a quarter goes to the Commonwealth."

The Austrian government created a starostwo in Pilzno and admitted Jews to the town, and peacetime allowed it once more to rise, and it was even designated as the seat of a bishopric, later transferred to Tyniec and then to Tarnow. In more recent times Pilzno became famous in 1846, for here a revolutionary movement started. The construction of the Archduke Karol Ludwik railway inflicted a heavy blow on the town which, so far from the station, was deprived forever of business traffic and 16 annual markets, and the weekly markets on Monday are of only local significance. The same cause prevented development of any industry whatever, other than that of crafts that meet the daily needs of the residents and vicinity.

Pilzno is the home town of Marcin z Pilzna (Gilcz or Glicki), who was 16 times the rector of the academy in Krakow; of the preacher Szymon Marycki, a learned humanist, the author of O szkolach i akademiach [Of schools and academies], 1551; of Andrzej Grucki (Grutinus), a doctor and author of medical books in the early 17th century; of Sebastyan Petrycy, court physician to Cardinal Maciejowski and Maryna Mniszchówna, translator of the works of Aristotle and Horace, who after his return from Moscow made a bequest for maintaining a historiographer at the school of Krakow; and of Szymon Halicki, a 17th-century orator.

The Pilzno grod-affiliated starostwo was located in Sandomierz province, Pilzno county. According to treasurer’s lists from 1770, it consisted of the town of Pilzno with its wójt’s office and the villages of Strzegocice, Pielawy, Slotowo, and Dzwonowa. At that time its owner was Stanislaw Pininski, and he paid on it a kwarta of 2,724 zlp., and a hyberna [tax for the upkeep of the army during winter] of 1,758 zlp., 12 gr. This starostwo was taken over by the Austrian government in 1790, and was given in 1801 to the heirs of prince August Jablonowski, as partial compensation for his hereditary estate of Jablonow, which had been appropriated for its salt-works.

Pilzno county [powiat] occupies an area of 858 sq. km.* or 5.8893 myriameters, and is divided into two parts: the northern part, lowland with sandy soil, covered with coniferous forests and extending north from the tracks of the Archduke Karol Ludwik railway; and the foothills, extending south from that line. This irregular parallelogram borders to the north on Mielec county, to the west on Tarnow county, to the south on Gorlice and Jaslo counties, and to the east on Ropczyce county. In the whole county there are two towns, Pilzno and Brzostek, 77 settlements, and 62 catastral gmina’s. The Special-Orts-Repertorium of 1886 gives figures of 8,292 houses, 47,537 inhabitants (22,990 men, 24,547 women); by denomination 44,673 Roman Catholics, 10 Greek Catholics, 2,813 Jews, and 41 Protestants; by ethnicity 47,452 Poles, 19 Germans, 7 of other nationalities. In the county there are two four-class mixed community schools, 16 one-class state schools, and 5 branch schools, but only a third of the gmina's have schools. There are two county courts, in Pilzno and in Brzostek, and in the whole county only two doctors have permanent residences; there are two pharmacies, and 38 gmina's have loan societies, with a total capital of 37,705 zl. (Austrian currency).

The population of the southern part of the county consists of more recent settlers, who advanced along the river valleys to the mountains in the 13th and 14th centuries. Some of the settlers came from Silesia, Moravia, Saxony and Holland, and preserved their uniqueness in their dress, which is like that used by the Saxons in Hungary and Transylvania. Today they are Polonized, but the local folk call them "deaf-mutes" [or "deaf Germans"?, literally gluchoniemcami]. In the northern part there are Mazovian settlements that originated amid the Sandomierz primeval forest, and they are called pustaki; in their dress and speech these people have preserved Mazovian traits. Woods cover one-third of the whole area, meadows and pasture-lands one-seventh, fields of rye the rest. Almost two thirds of the farmland, pasture-land and meadows belong to minor estates, whereas only one-sixth of the woods belong to minor estates. In two localities, that is in Baczal and Grudna, there are lignite deposits; but in view of the abundance of wood for burning and the lack of factory industry, they are not really used properly. — Mac.


denar, abbrev. den.: an ancient monetary unit (from Latin denarius), smaller than a grosz.

gmina: a territorial administrative subdivision in Poland since the 12th century, ruled by a rada [council] and a wójt or mayor; a powiat [county] consisted of a number of gmina's; in English often translated as "rural district" or "township."

grod (adj. grodzki): citadel, fortress, castle, near which towns often developed; in the earlier days of Polish history they were also administrative centers, and courts of law (sady grodzkie) were located there.

grosz, abbrev. gr.: an ancient monetary unit, larger than a denar but smaller than a grzywna.

grzywna, abbrev. grz.: ancient monetary unit used in Poland, Bohemia, and Ruthenia.

Imperial and Royal: in Polish ciesarsko-krolewski (abbreviated c. k.), in German Kaiserlich und Königlich (abbrev. K. u. K.), a title used in reference to institutions of Austria and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

kwarta: a tax for the maintenance of the army, from the Latin word quarta, "quarter"

lan: a unit of land measurement used in Poland since the 13th century; it means "field," and originally was used as a description of a full-sized farm; in medieval times it was from 3 to 50 hectares, but in Malopolska the Franconian lan was used, 23-28 hectares.

morga, also sometimes morg, abbrev. mr., a unit of land measurement; according to Gerald Ortell’s book on Polish parish records, in Galicia 1 mórg = 1.422 acres.

powiat: an administrative subdivision, below the województwo [province] and above the gmina, abolished in 1975; it is subsequently rendered as "county" in this translation.

skojec (scotus, skojec, skot): an ancient monetary unit, 1/24 of a grzywna; sort of like a penny.

square kilometers: in the original Polish these are given as mile kwadratowe, "square mila's"; 1 Austrian mila was about 7.6 km., so 1 sq. mila was about 57.8 sq. km., and the calculation of square kilometers is made on that basis.

starosta: a royal official in Poland, 14th-18th centuries, in charge of administering the treasury, the police, and the judiciary in a powiat.

starostwo: the property or office of a starosta, or the area under his jurisdiction

wojt: in rural areas, chief officer of a group of villages; in a town or city, the mayor.

Sources: 1) Slownik Geograficzny translated by William F. "Fred" Hoffman (This information was published between 1880 and 1902 and gives a view of this locality during that time frame).

Linked toCatholic Church Sacramental records, Pilzno (Debica), Rzeszow, Poland

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