As well as being the economic, cultural and educational center of the region, the 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 some 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
There are several legends about the origins of Kielce. According to one of them, Mieszko, son of King Boleslaw Smialy, had a vision of St. Adalbert 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 this happened. Before long, a settlement called Kielce appeared there. It owed its name to the discovery of tusks of some unknown animal, presumably the boar.
Another legend holds that the name of the city has something to do with the Celts, who stayed 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 reinforcement of the church on the Castle Hill.
An increase in mining of iron and non-ferrous metals in the neighboring villages pushed Kielce's development. The Swedish invasion hindered Kielce's prosperity. Later, as a result of the Third Partition of Poland, the city became part of Austria.
Kielce annexed by Warsaw
The Duchy of Warsaw annexed Kielce in 1809 Kielce. Possibilities for growth were much enhanced following the move of the capital of the Krakow province to Kielce in 1818 after establishment of the Free City of Krakow. 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 became a capital of a big province.
Some 20 years later, the outbreak of World War II interrupted Kielce's advancement. 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.
Kielce's postwar years were a period of gradual development, reaching a peak in the 1970's.
Finding remnants of Kielce’s 900 years worth of history is easy. The city has many historic monuments. The best place to get to know the city is the Market Square with its collection of fine buildings.
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 see on another day.
Kielce has a marked Tourist Route. For the more adventurous there's an 80 km long walking route that winds around the city. It moves along the Silnica River and leads to some scenic sites. Many of the latter are easily reached by bicycle, and some parts of the route have marks for motorists as well.
One significant asset is the variety of picturesque recreational areas and the good range of sports facilities. It gives you an opportunity to take part in various types of active recreation and outdoor fun.
There are many fairs and exhibitions in Kielce throughout the year, while the many restful hotels, restaurants and cafe's give top quality service.
National Museum Kielce Poland
The Polish Country Lovers Society established the National Museum Kielce in 1908. This institution focused on 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 1,986 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 arrived in many ways, by good and bad means. A good example is the 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. This all 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. When Szymon Włoszek died in 1933, Sylwester Kowalczewski took the museum's management over. One of his most crucial actions was organizing the Exhibition of the Świętokrzyski Region in Warsaw in 1938.
The Sanctuary of Marshal Józef Piłsudski and the Museum of Legions are from 1938. The number of visitors increased up to 58,100 visitors within 30 years. World War II interrupted the museum's activity. Although a lot of objects were hidden thanks to Edmund Massalski, a huge part of the collection was destroyed or stolen by occupying army.
The Museum managed to resume its activity immediately after the Second World War, although collections were partly scattered.
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 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.
Thanks to eagerness of Aleksandra Dobrowolska, who was the inventor of the biographic museums, the Museum of Stefan Żeromski was established in 1965. The Museum of Henryk Sienkiewicz in Oblęgorek was growing in popularity and in 1967 it had 80,000 visitors.
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.
A 17th century Bishops’ Palace became a new premises of the Museum in 1971. At the same time restoration of the Palace began. The first exhibition was within 8 months since the 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.
The Gallery of Polish Painting and Decorative Arts opened in 1998 in the renovated north wing of the palace. Due to director Alojzy Oborny’s efforts the palace's renovation finished. His last initiative was reconstructing the Italian garden.
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 latter was a co-production with the Royal Castle in Warsaw and presented in Kielce from September 2007 to February 2008. “Passion of collecting” presented more than 1,000 objects (European and Eastern weapons, decorative arts, painting) gathered by Ryszard Z. Janiak - a collector from Łódź.