Situated in an attractive region of Lower Silesia, Legnica (German: Liegnitz) is one of the first known Polish towns, though it now plays the role of a local provincial center. Legnica has two faces: it's an ancient city with a multicultural past and an abundance of historical sites, and a modern economic center of the copper industry.
History of Legnica
The history of Legnica starts as early as the 9th century when the center of the copper industry emerged there, but there were ancient settlements on this site even earlier, described by Ptolemy. First mentioned in 1149, it received city laws about a century later. Legnica was the capital of a separate duchy ruled by Piast princes under the Czech Crown for a very long period – the last ruler of the Piast dynasty died in 1675. Then the area fell under Habsburg and later Hohenzollern rule.
It's believed that Legnica was the hometown of Vitello (1230-1280), outstanding physicist, scientist and philosopher of the Middle Ages.
In the 16th Century, Legnica became a center of the Protestant movement. The town suffered seriously during the Thirty Years’ War, never again reaching its earlier level of prosperity. The Silesian wars in the 18th century, fortunately, excluded Legnica. The town hosted foreign armies again during the Napoleonic Wars, and in 1813 the Battle of Kaczawa between Napoleon and allied Russian and Prussian troops took place nearby. In the 19th Century, Legnica developed into a modern capitalist town within the borders of Prussia (and later Germany).
After being seriously damaged during World War II, the city became part of Poland and gradually rebuilt. For a short time, it was the capital of the province, as Wroclaw had been mostly destroyed. Until 1990, the town was the headquarters of the Northern Group of Forces of the Soviet Army that was deployed in Poland. Its copper processing traditions were resurrected in 1950. In 1993, the last Russian soldier left Legnica.
Legnica Tourist Information
The dynamic town of Legnica is mostly known as a minor industrial center with several copper processing plants. It has over 100,000 inhabitants, being the third largest city in the province. Legnica is also visited as a transit town with the A4 Motorway and E65 running through it.
However, Legnica also has many historical sites that are traces of its long history. Among them, the most interesting are the Medieval castle and Lubiaz Abbot House, which hosts the Museum of Copper. There are also many old churches, including St. John’s, St. Peter’s and Paul’s and St. Mary’s. The Old Town district of Legnica has a nice market square with a Baroque Town Hall in its middle. Another noteworthy building is the Jesuits’ College.
Piast Castle in Legnica
The Piast Castle in Legnica is one of the oldest polish castles. Prince Henryk Brodaty (Henry the Bearded) erected it at the beginning of 13th century. It was rebuilt in Gothic style. In the 1530's the castle was modernized as a Renaissance residence, and again in 1835, it received a neoclassical look. In the middle of the courtyard there is a glass pavilion where are the foundations of the 13th-century Romanesque Castle Chapel.
It's a brick three-tier structure built on an oblong rectangular plan. The chapel of Saint Benedict and Saint Lawrence and the defensive tower of Saint Peter are also in that part of the site. The chapel is built on a dodecagon plan with the chancel closed with an apse. On the area of the former grad suburbium, by the second yard, the administrative and farming houses were grouped together, i.e. the house of the castellan. The second tower (of Saint Hedwig) soars over this part of the site. The whole is enclosed by wooden-earthen ramparts, part of the wall, with Lubińska Tower, and the moat.
The castle underwent many alternations over the centuries. By Duke Louis II of Brieg, the stone towers are from the early 15th century. The most significant changes were carried out during the rule of Frederick II in the early 16th century. A thorough remodeling was conducted in the Romanesque palatium, the original arrangement of storeys changed, a two-nave hall was built on the first floor. The late Gothic portals, the window framing, and the allegorical decoration of the Green Chamber (known also as the Rose Chamber) in the tower of Saint Hedwig, also date back to the time of those alternations. The inner walls of the Green Chamber are covered with paintings depicting models of chivalry and nobleness. The portrayals of Hector from Troy, Alexander III of Macedon and King Arthur, are decorated with stylized floral motifs
Frederick II modernised the fortifications arrangement, by adding the oblong, multilateral bastion tower with gun emplacement. The important part of the site is the main entrance to the area of the castle, which leads through the early Renaissance portal of the gate house, with the Piast coat-of-arms and the roundels with the busts of the ducal couple, Frederick II, and his wife Sophie of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Kulmbach. It was probably Georg of Amberg who created the portal in 1533.
In the early 17th century the chapel was demolished and the Wieża Zegarowa (Clock Tower) was erected. In the 19th century the castle was reconstructed after a fire, in the Neo-Gothic style. After another fire in 1945, it fell into ruin.
In the 1960's the relics of the chapel – the remnants of the walls, the ceilings and the exquisite architectural details – were discovered in the yard. Currently, they're covered by an exhibition pavilion and they form a subsidiary of the Museum of Copper in Legnica. Moreover, the castle houses educational institutions. The old castle park, now converted into a town park, is also included in the palace complex in Legnica.