Last modified: 2011-05-14 by andrew weeks
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There are archaeological traces of human settlement since the late Paleolithic. Early Slavonic settlements on the Lech Hill and the Maiden Hill are dated to 8th century. At the beginning of the 10th century this was the site of several places sacred to the Slavic religion. The ducal stronghold was founded just before AD 940 on the Lech Hill, and surrounded by some fortified suburbs and open settlements.
Legend of Lech, Czech and Rus:
According to the Polish version of legends: three brothers Lech, Czech and Rus were exploring the wilderness to find a place to settle. Suddenly they saw a hill with an old oak and an eagle on top.
Lech said: this white eagle I will adopt as an emblem of my people, and around this oak I will build my stronghold, and because of the eagle nest [Polish: gniazdo] I will call it Gniezdno [modern: Gniezno].
The other brothers went further on to find a place for their people.
Czech went to the South (to found the Czech Lands) and Rus went to the East (to create Russia and Ukraine).
In 10th century Gniezno became one of the main towns of the early Piast
dynasty, founders of the Polish state.
It is here that the Congress of Gniezno took place in the year 1000 AD, during which Boleslaus I the Brave, duke of Poland, received Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. The emperor and the duke celebrated the foundation of the Polish ecclesiastical province (archbishopric) in Gniezno, with newly established bishopric in Kołobrzeg for Pomerania; Wrocław for Silesia; Kraków for Lesser Poland and later also already existing since 968 bishopric in Poznań for western Greater Poland.
The 10th century Gniezno cathedral witnessed royal coronations of Boleslaus
I in 1024 and his son Mieszko II Lambert in 1025. The cities of Gniezno
and nearby Poznań were captured, plundered and destroyed in 1038 by the
Bohemian duke Bretislav I, which pushed the next Polish rulers to move
the Polish capital to Kraków. The archiepiscopal cathedral was reconstucted
by the next ruler, Boleslaus II of Poland, who was crowned king here in
In the next centuries Gniezno evolved as a regional seat of the eastern part of Greater Poland, and in 1238 municipal autonomy was granted by the duke Władysław Odonic. Gniezno was again the coronation site in 1295 and 1300.
The city was destroyed again by the Teutonic Knightś invasion in 1331, and after an administrative reform became a county within the Kalisz Voivodship (since the 14th century till 1768). Gniezno was hit by heavy fires in 1515, 1613, was destroyed during the Swedish invasion wars of the 17th-18th centuries and by a plague in 1708-1710. All this caused depopulation and economic decline, but the city was soon revived during the 18th century to become the Gniezno Voivodship in 1768.
Gniezno was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in the 1793 Second Partition of Poland and became part of the province of South Prussia. It was included within the Duchy of Warsaw during the Napoleonic Wars, but was returned to Prussia in the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Gniezno was subsequently governed within Kreis Gnesen of the Grand Duchy of Posen and the later Province of Posen. On January 20, 1920 after the Treaty of Versailles, the town became part of the Second Polish Republic.
Gniezno was annexed into Nazi Germany on 26 October 1939 after the invasion of Poland and made part of Reichsgau Wartheland. The town was occupied by the Red Army in January 1945 and restored to Poland.
Gniezno's Roman Catholic archbishop is traditionally the Primate of Poland (Prymas Polski). After the partitions of Poland the see was often combined with others, first with Poznań and then with Warsaw. In 1992 Pope John Paul II reorganized the Polish hierarchy and the city once again had a separate bishop. Cardinal Józef Glemp, who had been archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw and retained Warsaw, was designated to remain Primate until his retirement, but afterward the Archbishop of Gniezno, at present Henryk Muszyński, would again be Primate of Poland." (wiki)
Gniezno, the first capital of the Polish State, doesn't have a flag,
But this will be corrected in the near future, as the city's ruling party, Platforma Obywatelska (PO) - (Citizenś Platform) presented a project of new Arms and flag last September.
Author of the proposal, Janusz Malinowski - a graphic artist - is making it even easier for the city and providing his work free of charge.
And public support for the new symbols is running quite high as of now - about 77%.
Besides the new flag, the existing Arms have to be changed as well, following a heavy critique by the Heraldic Commission of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Administration, which questioned the shape of the shield and looks of the eagle and crown as not conforming neither to the rules of heraldry nor to the tradition.
Mr.Malinowski choose an early Piast eagle, crowned, for the Arms and designed two versions of the city's flag, simple tri-band for the civic flag and, more elaborate one for the ceremonial use.
The full set of proposals can be seen here.
The present Arms, long time in existence, were legally adopted on May 30, 2003 (resolution # X/95/2003).
Chrystian Kretowicz, 17 Nov 2008