Oleśnicki Dom Spotkań z Historią

History of the Town

From the gloom of history emerges a Slavic town of Olesnicz, today Oleśnica, situated by the river of the same name. It was formed among its backwaters. It spread thanks to merchants who chose it as their first stop on the way from Wrocław along the “Royal Route” to the east or the “Amber Route” to the north. Planning to expand the settlement, the fathers of the town designed quite an unusual communication system for those times. They set out a checkered layout of the town’s streets, twelve of which meet in the market place. Four gates surrounded by defensive walls appeared on the pass-through roads. Oleśnica was always a safe shelter at the intersection of the ancient “Amber Route” and “Royal Route”. In 1255 the Piast duke Henry III granted Oleśnica the location privilege on urban rights. In 1312 the Duchy of Oleśnica was formed and was ruled by the Piast dynasty until 1492. The Piasts formed a town council authority and granted new privileges which gave rise to the first period of increased development. In 1467 they built a castle church being one of the finest examples of Silesian construction culture. The development of local government of Oleśnica resulted in the construction of the town hall in 1407. After the death of the last of the Piasts of Oleśnica, the duchy was taken over by the dynasty of Podebrady, which ensured further development. Under the reign of Duke Charles II the castle was developed and one of the best educational institutions for young people, GymnasiumIllustre (greatest school), was established, where studied not only students from Silesia, but also from the Wielkopolska region. From 1648 the Duchy of Oleśnica was ruled by the representatives of the Wirtemberg dynasty, who healed Oleśnica after the catastrophic destruction of the thirty years war. They ensured intellectual boom, attracting outstanding thinkers and poets to Oleśnica. Thanks to their foundations the basilica minor has currently gained a new main altar and beautiful organ front. The crypt and the mausoleum of the Wirtembergs are an example of the  highest level of funerary art. In 1793 the family of the dukes of Brunswick became in charge of the duchy. Duke Fredrick Augustus of Brunswick, a cultural animator and an artist at heart, lived too short. His successor, a great soldier involved in Napoleonic wars, was killed in a battle. In 1884 the last duke of Oleśnica died and under the decree of the Prussian government in 1886 the Duchy of Oleśnica became the fiefdom of each successor to the throne of imperial Germany and the Kingdom of Prussia. From 1919 Oleśnica lived the life of the Weimar Republic, even though from 1883, for 37 years of being the mayor, Richard Kallman introduced Oleśnica in contemporary times. After him mayor Ernst Schlitzberger became in charge of the town and continued his work. In 1945 Oleśnica found itself within the Polish borders, but it was a great war site of the fire. Its rebuilding was started by residents expelled from the areas of Poland which became located within the borders of the USSR. A new era in life of the town began.

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