The Early Chapters in the History of Polaniec (From the 12th until the mid-17th Century)
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The origins of Polaniec, a small town on the Vistula to the north east of Cracow, can be traced, on the basis of rather scanty source material, to a marketplace settlement destroyed by the Mongol raids in 1241 and 1260. Further progress, especially in identifying the site of the earliest castellan's town, cannot be made without enlisting the help of archaeologists. Yet, even at this point, it can be assumed that some form of incorporation preceded the 1264 presentation of Mikolaj, son of Bartek, with the bailiwick (wójtostwo) of Polaniec. Jan Dlugosz reports that in the 14th century (an information was confirmed by later sources) Polaniec was moved from its original site to a more convenient location on the banks of the River Czarna, a tributary of the Vistula. The move was followed by two centuries of growth, sustained by local manufacture, trade (which reached out as far as Russia) and agriculture. In the 14th century Polaniec had over 1,000 inhabitants, in the following century their number rose to c. 1,300. The town became an ambitious ecclesiastical and cultural centre with more than 1,500 inhabitants in the 17th century. The popularity of the Polaniec markets and fairs is well attested by the Sandomierz urban chronicles. The Polaniec men had a significant presence on the Vistula trade route, specializing primarily in salt, but also in the transport of corn and agricultural produce downstream to Torun and Gdansk and of barrels of salted herring in the opposite direction. They are also known to have been busy buying and selling oxen. Polaniec was an ethnically homogeneous community from its medieval beginnings until the end of the Jagiellonian Age. The first Jewish families came to stay in Polaniec in the second half of the 16th century and from that time the Jewish population of the town was growing steadily. The clergy and the educated people (the teacher, the cantor, the organist) gathered round the church, the school and the almshouse, while the families of the deputy constable (podstarosta), officials from the Royal Estate of Polaniec and manorial clerks looked to the manor house as their natural rallying point. The size of its urban substance (exclusively timber) and population made it equal to Koprzywnica and Osiek, and well ahead of Bogoria, Iwaniska, Lasocin, Ozarów, or Tarlów.
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