The picturesquely located city of Plock (Płock) was the first capital of the Mazovia province and for a short period it was even Poland’s capital. It is one of the oldest towns in Poland with a thousand years' worth of history, and today is a significant center of the oil industry.
Famous for possessing the oldest Polish high school, the oldest museum, the sarcophagus of two of Poland's rulers as well as the Wisla Plock handball and football teams, it still attracts many tourists visiting Masovia.
History of Plock Poland
Plock obtained municipal rights in 1237 but it existed before this as a fortified burg – even as early as 10th century. In the beginning it was a seat of Masovian bishops. During the years 1079-1138 Plock became a capital city of Poland.
After the death of Boleslaus III, the dukes of Masovia established their seat in the city. Through the many decades that followed, Lithuanians and Ruthenians attacked and burned Plock several times, but when Casimir the Great took control over the city in 1351 it gained a new Gothic castle, a parish church and new fortifications. During the 15th century, Plock was one of the most important supply bases in the war against the Teutonic Knights.
The following centuries brought fires and epidemics that weakened the city, especially from the Swedes in the 17th - 18th century, the French in 19th century, and the Russian and German armies that robbed and destroyed it until the end of World War II.
The last 100 years has been a time for the city to regain its full strength. The cultural activity, industrial development and rapid changes towards modernity with respect for history and tradition make today's Plock a leading city of the region and a very interesting place for tourists.
Tumskie Hill Plock
Tumskie Hill, situated more than 40 meters above the extensive valley of the Vistula River (Wisła), is an advanced, vast point scarp, creating a place convenient for settlement. The oldest found traces of the settlement date back to the period of the Lusatian Culture, the hill was probably not inhabited after that.
Plock's development involves creation of foundations of the state of the first Piasts. The stronghold surrounded by earth embankment in the north emerged during the reign of Mieszko I. In the first half of the 11th century, the defensive fortifications covered the whole hill. Already at that time, at the place of the future cathedral, there was a church and a small stone rotunda nearby. Plock was one of "stations" of Boleslaus Chrobry, who was continuously traveling around his state. Probably it's from where St. Bruno of Kwerfurt set out to Prussia with his last Christianization mission.
Capital of the Mazovian Episcopate
From the second half of the 11th century, Plock gained importance when, in 1075, it became the capital of the newly created Mazovian episcopate and the seat of the rulers of Poland - Władysław Herman and Boleslaus the Wry-Mouthed. Residences emerged for the bishop, for the duke, his family and many court. Stone buildings emerged - the first cathedral and the duke's chapel. After a devastating invasion of the Pomeranians in 1126, when an outstanding organizer and patron of the arts, Alexander of Malonne became the bishop, construction of a new cathedral began.
At the place of the previous one, an impressive Romanesque temple from granite masonry emerged, the largest building in than Poland. Consecrated in 1144, in the next decade it obtained decorated doors of bronze from Magdeburg. Currently, their faithful copy is in the porch. In 13th century, they were probably robbed during one of the Lithuanian-Russian invasions and brought to Veliky Novgorod. A stone mansion also emerged. A several-floor residential tower, the relics of which, visible until today, were the basis for the future castle donjon. The great temple and seat of the bishop much improved Plock's importance when, after division into provinces, it was nothing more than the capital of the Dukes of Mazovia.
End of the Golden Century
The first period of "the golden century" ended finally in the early 13th century with the intensified attacks of Prussians, Yotvingians and Lithuanians. Within this century the town was conquered and burnt five times. In the late 13th century, Duke Boleslaus II started erecting of defensive walls at the place of embankments, which soon saved the castle three times against the armies of Władysław the Short, Czechs and Teutonic knights.
Also a new Gothic mansion emerged at the wall from the side of the Vistula River. When Duke Boleslaus III deceased without descendants, in 1351 Plock passed for 20 years under the reign of King Kazimierz the Great. At that time, defensive walls surrounded the town, and the whole castle hill was strengthened with a second ring of gigantic walls with turrets and a high gate tower (Noblemen's Tower), the symbol of the royal authority. In the next century, a more convenient access was created to the castle through a new double gate in walls next to the tower, which, over time, began to serve as prison.
Finally, John I Albert incorporated the kingdom into the Crown in 1495, after the decease of Janusz II, the last Duke of Plock. The castle lost much of the former splendor of the duke's residence, royal governors managed it until the partitions. Its area, apart from representative buildings, housed many wooden farm buildings and small houses for officials and lower level cathedral clergy. At least from the 15th century, the episcopal curia and houses of canons were near today's Narutowicza Square.
Destruction and Reconstruction
In 1530, a thunderstorm caused a great fire and destruction of the cathedral. The reconstruction began and soon another disaster occurred. In spite of repair-construction works in the castle, conducted from 1517, because of washout and sliding of the scarp, "the most beautiful part of the castle along with the hill tumbled down to the Vistula River". In such words bishop Krzycki wrote to Queen Bona, who, at that time, received from Sigismund the Old the Plock land in annuity.
The remnants were the former, grand Gothic mansion of the Dukes of Mazovia between the walls, connected through galleries with an Italian style tenement house with a viewing terrace over the Vistula River. Apart from Bona, Queen Ann Jagiellon was a frequent guest for years. Also kings stayed there for a short period: Sigismund August, Sigismund Vase, Władysław IV and Jan Kazimierz. Wars with Sweden brought about breathtaking effects. During "the Swedish Deluge" the castle and town were seized, robbed and devastated twice. in 1705, combats of Russians with Swedes in the castle resulted in ruined buildings and walls. Walls being gradually dismantled from 1840's remained in substantial fragments from the side of the town till the early 19th century.
Benedictine Abbey and the Mazovian Museum
The second important building on the Tumskie Hill is a former Benedictine abbey, which dates back to the beginning of the Christianization of Mazovia. in the 11th century, they owned St. Laurent's Church, and in the 12th century they created a new St. Adalbert's abbey. Probably they created also the first cathedral chapter of the Plock diocese, established in 1075. In 1538, they received from King Sigismund the Old the area with the oldest buildings of the town from the 12th century. They erected a new abbey with a late-Gothic church next to the Noblemen's Tower as well as monastery buildings along the defensive wall. In the early 17th century, a wing between the church and the Clock Tower closed the yard.
St. Adalbert's Church
The St. Adalbert's Church was given a rich early Baroque decor with marble, monumental main altar and portal, designed by the royal architect, Mateo Castello. Wars with Sweden did not spare the abbey, either. It suffered particularly great losses in 1705, when it was completely robbed, and the library and the archive burnt down. In 1781, the Benedictine monks moved to Pultusk. The seminary transferred from the House under the Horns was in the buildings. in 1856, to expand the school, the church was dismantled and divided into three storeys.
The altar transferred into the parish church, and the portal to Bądków Kościelny. After the January Uprising, Russian authorities took the buildings over. They established a state female secondary school there, which operated until World War 1. In the inter-war period, it housed a music school for organists and private apartments.
In the 1960's, after a thorough refurbishment and adaptation, the Mazovian Museum came here and opened to the public in 1973. Since 2005, the museum has been in an Art Nouveau tenement house at 8 Tumska Street. After another refurbishment, the former Benedictine abbey, along with a small building next to the cathedral, erected in 1903 for museum purposes, became the Diocesan Museum.
Starting from 16th century, the area being property of the church was increasing systematically. Finally the whole area of the castle hill became the property of the bishop. The remnants of the old medieval castle are only the Clock Tower - former turret, raised and reconstructed about in 1492 to a cathedral bell tower, in the late 17th century covered with a Baroque cupola, and the Noblemen's Tower, lowered by half until the first half of 1796. Also a part of the wall to which the wing of the Benedictine monastery was adjacent has been preserved. In the 1820's, the area of the hill was leveled and arranged, a park planted with horse chestnuts emerged, called by the Plock inhabitants as "Za Tumem".