Koszyce, the royal city
The first source of information about Koszyce is contained in the data on Peter’s pence from the year 1328, where a record states: “Peter’s pence was donated jointly by the parish of Witów–Koszyce”.
A breakthrough in written sources regarding the city took place in 1374. That year, a city charter under Magdeburg law was granted to Koszyce by Elizabeth, daughter of Władysław I the Elbow-high.
Granting a city charter under Magdeburg law to Koszyce meant that it had already become a developed city by that time. On the one hand, the location privilege granted by Elizabeth under Magdeburg law could have been a confirmation, and, on the other hand, an extension of an earlier charter which is unknown to us. When bestowing the charter upon Koszyce, Queen Elizabeth established weekly markets on Mondays. After receiving the privileges, Koszyce became a royal free city, i.e. a state city.
It comes as a surprise that, in 1421, 47 years later, Koszyce received its second city charter under Magdeburg Law, granted by King Władysław Jagiełło. It is difficult today to provide a definite answer to the question of why Koszyce received two city charters under Magdeburg law. Two versions are considered. The first one assumes that the document from 1374 could have been lost and had to be renewed. According to the second version, the first city charter was not given by the crowned head, but by the regent who was then Elisabeth of Poland, and it was necessary that the king had it renewed.
In any case, Koszyce underwent rapid development during that time. Of significant influence, apart from the introduction of Magdeburg law, which contributed to the city’s boom, was the fact that there were three trade routes running through the royal city: the so-called royal route Kraków–Sandomierz, the Kiev route Kraków–Sandomierz–Lublin–Kiev, and the river route along the Vistula (in the town of Morsko near Koszyce, the fifth largest river port was located, from which salt from Bochnia, grain, and timber were floated down the river).
Koszyce as a city had a coat of arms, a market square, and a city hall. The coat of arms was a legal and political attribute of the city and appeared on its seal. The procedure and date of endowing the coats of arms are unknown. According to Prof. M. Gumowski, Koszyce had two coats of arms. The first one showed two baskets in a blue field. The second coat of arms showed the figure of St. Stanisław of Szczepanów in golden robes, and this type of civic identification mark appears on the seal presented on the portal.
During the initial period after the introduction of Magdeburg law, the power on behalf of the king was held by the vogt. Sources from 1382 state that the power in Koszyce was held by a vogt named Paweł, and, in 1412, they mentioned Wojciech, a village mayor from Jawiszowice, who was a town councillor. Along with the development of the city, city councillors appeared. The first information about city councillors from Koszyce dates back to 1399. Over time, the vogt’s authority was replaced by that of the mayor and city council, which held extensive authority. It could, among others, enact statutes for guilds, such as the statute of the grand guild in Koszyce presented by us, which later had to be approved by the king.
Koszyce belonged to cities with a craft and trade profile. According to the register from the end of the 17th century, there were 70 craftsmen in the town, as well as 12 traders, and 46 people were engaged in agriculture. For comparison, at that time, there were 56 craftsmen in Proszowice. This testifies to the rapid development of Koszyce, which also had its own measurement unit: i.e. 1 Koszyce bushel equalled ¼ of a Kraków bushel.
The 17th century saw a progressive decline of the Małopolska’s cities, including Koszyce. Then, along came the partitions, the Napoleonic wars (Koszyce were within the boundaries of the Duchy of Warsaw) and the January Uprising of 1863, which was important for Koszyce. The city then became a crossing point for movement of troops and weaponry, and the residents became allies of the insurgents. After the suppression of the uprising, severe repressions commenced on the tsar’s orders, who – through the Committee Ordering the Kingdom – on June 1, 1868, revoked the city rights of Koszyce and several dozen other cities. For the time being, irreversibly.
Elaborated by The Stanisław Boduch Koszyce Land Museum, © all rights reserved
Seal of Koszyce