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Gniezno ( ) is a city in central-western Polandmarker, some 50 km east of Poznańmarker, inhabited by about 70,000 people. One of the Piasts' chief cities, it was the first capital of Poland in the 10th century. Its Roman Catholic archbishop, the Archbishop of Gniezno, is the primate of Poland. These historical facts make its position in Polish history similar to Canterburymarker or Rheimsmarker.

Gniezno is located in the Greater Poland Voivodeshipmarker (since 1999), previously in Poznań Voivodeship. The city is the administrative capital of the Gniezno Countymarker (powiat).


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 with 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 Russiamarker and Ukrainemarker).

Cradle of the Polish state

In 10th century Gniezno became one of the main towns of the early Piast dynasty, founders of the Polish state.

Congress of Gniezno

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 Polish duke celebrated the foundation of the Polish ecclesiastical province (archbishopric) in Gniezno, with newly established bishopric in Kołobrzegmarker for Pomerania; Wrocławmarker for Silesia; Krakówmarker for Lesser Poland and later also already existing since 968 bishopric in Poznańmarker for western Greater Poland.

Royal coronation site

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 Krakówmarker. The archiepiscopal cathedral was reconstructed by the next ruler, Boleslaus II of Poland, who was crowned king here in 1076.

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.

Regional site of Greater Poland

The city was destroyed again by the Teutonic Knights' invasion in 1331, and after an administrative reform became a county within the Kalisz Voivodeship (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 Voivodeship in 1768.


Gniezno was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussiamarker in the 1793 Second Partition of Poland and became part of the province of South Prussia. It was included within the Duchy of Warsawmarker 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 Posenmarker and the later Province of Posenmarker. On January 20, 1920 after the Treaty of Versailles, the town became part of the Second Polish Republicmarker.

World War II

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.

Archbishops of Gniezno

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 Warsawmarker. 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.

Royal coronations in Gniezno cathedral

Panorama of Gniezno.
19th century

Historical population
Year Number of inhabitants
1912 25 339
1980 62 400
1990 70 400
1995 71 000

People from Gniezno


Arts and culture

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Gniezno is twinned with:


See also

External links

  • Gniezno homepage (English and German version also available), The official site of the Gniezno City's Administration, from which much of the above was taken and adapted.
  • Gniezno Poviat The official site of the Gniezno Countymarker, (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian version also available)

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