As well as being the economic, cultural and educational center of the region, the scenically located city of Kielce is an attractive spot for people wanting to enjoy plenty of fresh air. The city also has many green areas where you can relax and play, and there are even a number of walking routes for you to try if you feel more ambitious. Kielce gives you the opportunity to rediscover nature, for there are five nature reserves within the city’s suburban area.
History of Kielce
Unsurprisingly, there are several legends about the origins of Kielce. According to one of them, Mieszko, son of King Boleslaw Smialy, experienced a vision of St. Adalbert while being attacked by a band of brigands, which helped him to win. To thank the saint, Mieszko made an undertaking to build a fortress and church in the place where the miracle happened. Before long, a settlement called Kielce appeared there, which owed its name to the discovery of tusks of some unknown animal, presumably the boar (tusk – kiel in Polish).
Another legend holds that the name of the city has something to do with the nation of Celts, also known as Kelts, who while wandering through Europe decided to stay for some time in the Swietokrzyskie region. Some historians believe that the city took its name from the occupations of its inhabitants, such as building mud huts or making arrows.
The first mention of Kielce appears in the documents from 1212. Already by 1295 it had the status of city under German law. Despite the ravages by Tartar troops, Kielce managed not to go into decline – the situation even improved after the church on the Castle Hill had been buttressed. What pushed the development of Kielce was the increase in the mining of iron and non-ferrous metals in the neighbouring villages.
Kielce's prosperity was hindered by the Swedish Invasion. Later, as a result of the Third Partition of Poland, the city became a part of Austria.
The Duchy of Warsaw annexed Kielce in 1809 Kielce. The possibilities for growth were much enhanced following the move of the capital of the Krakow province to Kielce in 1818 after the Free City of Krakow was established. Finally, the railway arrived in 1885, a connection leading to a genuine economic boom.
At the dawn of World War I, a Cadre Company of Pilsudski's legions marched into Kielce, and then in September of 1914 the pledge of the Polish 1st Regiment also took place here. After Poland regained its independence in 1918, the city was established as a capital of a big province.
Some twenty years later, the advancement of Kielce was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Within the first days of September 1939, the city found itself under Nazi occupation. The Polish underground resistance was very active in the Kielce region, and the Red Army entered Kielce in January of 1945.
The postwar years were a period of gradual development for Kielce, reaching a peak in the 1970's.
Finding remnants of Kielce’s 900 years worth of history is easy. The city is dotted with historic monuments. The best place to get to know the city is the Market Square with its collection of fine buildings, and from there you should check out the remodeled cathedral from 1171 with its valuable interior and rich treasury, the 17th century bishop’s palace with its gallery of paintings and sanctuary of Marshal Pilsudski, and the Neo-Gothic palace. That still leaves romantic towers, churches, museums, old manor houses and tenement houses to be investigated on another day.
Kielce has a marked Tourist Route, which is as yet still rare in Poland. For the far more adventurous is an 80 km long walking route that winds around the city, along the Silnica River and leads to a number of scenic sites. Many of the latter can be easily reached by bicycle, and some parts of the route are marked for motorists as well.
A significant asset is the variety of picturesque recreational areas and the good range of sports facilities, giving you an opportunity to take part in various types of active recreation and outdoor fun.
A great many of fairs and exhibitions are held in Kielce throughout the year, while the many restful hotels, restaurants and cafes give top quality service.
National Museum Kielce
The Polish Country Lovers Society established the National Museum Kielce (Muzeum Narodowe) in 1908. This newly created institution was devoted to prehistory, history and natural history of the Swietokrzyski Region. The first director was Szymon Tadeusz Włoszek, a teacher who participated in the January Uprising.
In 1910 the museum already had 1986 catalogued items. A piece of the petrified tree from Miedziana Góra from the Feliks Rybarski’s collection was the first in the inventory of the Museum. Despite that the tsar banned collecting historic souvenirs, the curator gathered many items, especially connected with the January Uprising.
Museum objects were gathered in many ways, by good and bad means. A good example might be a history of the old drum from 1830. The painter Zdzisław Lenartowicz noticed the drum in the church in Wzdół. He knew that the parish priest was reluctant to get rid of his belongings and he decided to steal the drum. So he took the drum to pieces, let it down from the church tower and brought it to Kielce. The priest was very stubborn and took his drum back with force. Everything took place on 11th June 1912.
In 1922 there were attempts to take the museum collection to the former bishops’ palace but they were fruitless. In the magazine “Ziemia” (The Earth) from 1930 we may find some information about the Polish Country Lovers Society Museum: “It has one of the richest collections of the regional objects. The collection is in a rented one-story building on Leonard Street. The premises include three exhibition rooms, a curator’s flat and a library. Two exhibition rooms are quite small – 2,5 x 4 meters, the third one is bigger – 4 x 6 meters. Natural and archaeological objects are still not described."
When Szymon Włoszek died in 1933,Sylwester Kowalczewski took the management of the Museum over. One of his most crucial actions was organizing the Exhibition of the Świętokrzyski Region in Warsaw in 1938. In 1938, in the south-west part of the Kielce Palace’s ground floor, the Sanctuary of Marshal Józef Piłsudski and the Museum of Legions were established. Attendances in the first 30 years of the Museum increased up to 58,100 visitors. The museum's activity was interrupted by the Second World War. Although a lot of objects were hidden thanks to Edmund Massalski, a huge part of the collection was destroyed or just stolen by occupying army.
Although collections of the Museum were partly scattered, the Museum managed to resume its activity immediately after the Second World War. The first director after the war became Juliusz Nowak Dłużewski
In 1946 the first exhibition was open. The Museum’s director in the years 1946 – 1961 was Edmund Massalski – a naturalist. He changed it from a lumber-room into an institution organizing specialist exhibitions and studies. He also initiated establishment of new museums in the Kielce region.
Zygmunt Włodzimierz Pyzik and Janusz Kuczyński organized the first exhibition after the war. It was an archaeologist exposition and was accompanied by a guide book “Prehistory of the Kielce Voivodeship Area”. In 1958 there were a few regional museums established – the Museum of Henryk Sienkiewicz in Oblęgorek, others in Szydłów and Czarnolas.
In 1961 the director Massalski retired and his post was taken over by Alojzy Oborny, an art historian, so far director of museum in Racibórz. As the state of the museum buildings was terrible, his first action was to organize their renovation. The activity of the Museum was not interrupted.
In 1965, thanks to eagerness of Aleksandra Dobrowolska, who was the inventor of the previously listed biographic museums, the Museum of Stefan Żeromski was established. The Museum of Henryk Sienkiewicz in Oblęgorek was growing in popularity and in 1967 it had 80,000 visitors. “The Yearbook of the Świętokrzyskie Museum” started to be published. As some plans of creating the Gallery of Polish Painting appeared, the Museum bought paintings by Lampi, Siemiradzki, Kostrzewski, Grottger, Brandt, Wyspiański, Pankiewicz, Boznańska and many others. The Museum became more and more active . It hosted the National Festival of Films about Art, developed permanent exhibitions of historical and ethnographic ones, as well as the Gallery of Polish Painting.
In 1971 a 17th - century Bishops’ Palace became a new premises of the Museum. At the same time restoration of the Palace began. The first exhibition was presented within 8 months since a take-over and the palace was called “Kielce Wawel” by prof. Stanisław Lorenz. In 1974, the number of visitors exceeded 100,000. In recognition of Swietokrzyskie Museum's achievements it gained the rank of the National Museum in 1975.
Since this time over a quarter of the century has passed. There is no need to list all exhibitions and kinds of activity that have been honored in Poland and abroad. It is enough to say that from small provincial institution it developed into huge and active museum.
In 1998 in the renovated north wing of the palace the Gallery of Polish Painting and Decorative Arts opened. Due to director Alojzy Oborny’s efforts the renovation of the palace was finished, a lot of building works were done. His last initiative was a reconstruction of Italian garden. However, it must be mentioned here that without goodwill of Voivodship Governors, Marshals and Presidents of Kielce, realization of many of these ideas would not be possible.
In 2003 the director of the National Museum in Kielce became prof. Krzysztof Urbański. He had already been a director in the years 1987-1990. He continued realization of already started projects and took up a few totally new initiatives. During these last 5 years there were a lot of exhibitions including monographic ones: “Wojciech Siudmak’s Fantastic Worlds”, “Danuta Leszczyńska – Kluza”, “Leszek Mądzik”, “Leon Wyczółkowski – in the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth”, “Karol Hiller.
New perception painting, heliographic, drawing, graphics”. From other expositions worth mentioning are: “Art of Kielce region after 1945”, “Mythological motifs in fine arts” and the biggest “Passion of collecting”. The last one was prepared in cooperation with the Royal Castle in Warsaw and presented in Kielce from September 2007 to February 2008. “Passion of collecting” was a presentation of more than 1,000 objects (European and Eastern weapons, decorative arts, painting) gathered by Ryszard Z. Janiak - a collector from Łódź.