Sandomierz – a poviat town in The Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, in the borderland of the Sandomierz Upland and the Vistula River Lowland, on the left bank of the Vistula river; laid on seven hills, hence the name “Small Rome”. It is an important economic, cultural-scientific and tourist-touring centre; a capital of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sandomierz.
The tracks of the first human presence at this area come from the Neolithic Age. It was in the 10th century that a settlement was formed on the castle hill and from the 11th century, there were successively established: a stronghold, then a prince’s seat and a province capital. The first ruler of the town was Henryk Sandomierski: the son of Boleslaw III Krzywousty. The settlement was made in the 13th century and it is from that time that one can notice a rapid development of Sandomierz in such areas like trade, craftsmanship, cultural life and spatial development. XV-XVII centuries are a period of frequent visits of the king (including Zygmunt II August) along with the court as well as the time of rallies of nobility. The Swedish Wars in the 17th century brought the town down: it was during annexation period that Sandomierz was a border town between the Congress Kingdom of Poland established in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna and Galicia. After the World War I, it started to develop rapidly, being supposed to become the capital of The Central Industrial District and the capital of the new voivodeship, unfortunately the outbreak of the World War II foiled the plans. Fortunately, the town was spared from the devastation of the war.
The present time
Today, it is a town of an average size with a considerable tourist importance, having about 25 thousand residents. There is a well-developed food and glass industry, as well as the second centre of the fruit-vegetable region in terms of the size in Poland here. The higher education is represented by: Studium Generale Sandomiriense Higher School of Humanities and Nature in Sandomierz, State Higher Vocational School in Sandomierz, Higher Spiritual Seminar, Theological Institute of The Name of Blessed Vincent Kadlubek or The Teacher Training College. There are regional scientific and cultural societies as well as foundations, artistic teams, museums (e.g. Regional, Diocesan) and galleries (e.g. Cathedral Basilica) operating in the town.
There are many monuments in Sandomierz. There are both remains of secular buildings, old tenements and buildings that belonged to former authorities as well as many churches of higher and lower rank here. The XIV century town hall, ranked among the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in our country, is the most interesting one. The town hall is situated in very centre of the market. Besides the town hall, it is worthwhile to visit the castle in Sandomierz: the building also dates back to the 14th century, was rebuilt several times but is in an excellent condition today and houses the seat of the Regional Museum. A compulsory point of any visit is the Opatowska Gate from the same period. It belongs to the best preserved complexes of this type in the country. There are also some fragments of old municipal walls in the neighbourhood and the Dominican Gate sometimes called “Eye of a needle”. It is out of the bourgeois buildings that it is worthwhile to mention the House of Długosz with the rich collection of the Diocesan Museum. The house belongs to best preserved Gothic buildings in the town. Round the Marketplace of The Old Town, there are tenements dating back to the 15th century. The granary from the 17th century is also an interesting building: the only such preserved in Sandomierz as well as very beautiful in its shape Collegium Gostomianum, i.e. the oldest secondary school in the country.
The churches in Sandomierz are represented primarily by a cathedral. It was built in the Gothic style in the 14th century and has retained its original architectural layout till today. The inside has been also unchanged for a few hundred years, preserving beautiful murals, paintings and altars. There is a historic belfry from the 18th century located at the cathedral. The Dominikan Monastry Complex and the Church of St. Jacob are also very interesting. These are the oldest monuments in Sandomierz, dating back to the turn of the XII and XIII centuries. The monastery was built in the very interesting, decorative way of two kinds of bricks. The complex of the St. Paul Church was built in XV/ XVII century and has a rich stucco decoration as well as baroque equipment inside. The Church of the Saint Spirit along with the complex of the former hospital of the Saint Spirit, founded in 1292, was raised in the 14th century and rebuilt in 19th century. On the other hand, the Church of the Saint Joseph with a monastery complex belongs to the youngest monuments, which were built in the 17th century. The use of bricks coming from the dismantlement of the castle for its construction is its curiosity. It is worthwhile also to mention the Church of St. Michael along with the complex of the former Benedictine Monastery and the Bishop Palace.
There are some tourist trails running through the town, like: St Jacob, Cistercian (delineated on the territory of Europe, including monasteries of the Cistercian Order), Via Jagiellonica, Wooden Architecture (of a total length of 1202 km, divided to 9 tracks) trails. It is in the south-west part of the town that there is a 0.5 km long loess ravine of St. Queen Jadwika, which is dominated by broadleaved trees: it is the starting point of the yellow bicycle trail to Opatów as well as green one to Ujazdów: the town is also crossed by the red tourist trail leading from Gołoszyce to Piotrowice. Sandomierz has a large number of monuments and the Old Town is created by a historic architectural and landscape complex. It is at the place that the series “Father Matthew” with Artur Żmijewski in the lead role is filmed.
Sandomierz is a well-known town but only few persons know where its name comes from. It comes from the Old Polish expression “San is getting closer to Vistula”. It is obviously a place, where one river connects with another. Sandomierz is entered in the monuments’ register as an architectural and landscape complex and is recognized as a world class monument. A spacious protective zone has been also established, within borders of which there are the town, old town hills, Opatowskie and Zawichojskie suburb along with surrounding orchards and ravines. Due to the peculiar settlement, Sandomierz was called the town on seven hills, or “Small Rome”. In 1910, it was in the town that the original crown and the sceptre belonging to Kazimierz Wielki were found. The monks of the Monastery and the Jesuits Hospital, founded by Hieronim Gostomski in 1604, were trained in bringing help for victims of the Vistula river. They contributed to creation of water rescue teams in Poland.