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Polish Kingdom (1025-1795)

Beginnings of Polish Kingdom

The first documented ruler was Mieszko I (from Piast dynasty) in the 10th century. In 966 duke Mieszko I converted to Christianity and by baptism brought Poland to the community of Western nations. The first coronation took place in 1025 when Mieszko’s I son Bolesław I the Brave became King in Gniezno. This was the time, when the Kingdom of Poland began to take shape.

In 1320 Władysław I Łokietek (the Short) became the first king of a reunified Poland since 1296 and the first to be crowned at Wawel Cathedral in Kraków. He was the also the king, who granted Magdeburg town rights to Tarnów, a town founded by Spycymir Leliwita.

The Jagiellonian dynasty phase brought close ties with the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania. In 1385 Lithuania accepted Christianity from Polish hands and the King of Lithuania became in march of 1386 in personal union also the King of Poland. This Polish-Lithuanian union lasted for more than 400 years.

Over time a new threat emerged. The Teutonic Order directed their campaigns against Lithuania and Poland. In 1410 at the Battle of Tannenberg (Grunwald) the united forces of Poland and Lithuania completely destroyed the Teutonic Knights. It was one of the biggest and most important battles of medieval times.

Polands Golden Age

The 16th century was Poland’s “Golden Age”. The Renaissance currents brought about country’s flourishing, Poland advanced culturally, arts and science developed. Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), formulated the first modern heliocentric theory of the solar system and gave a start to modern astronomy. While Europe was absorbed with religious turmoil, Poland proclaimed a policy of religious tolerance which attracted many refugees from religious persecution (Christians, Jews, Muslims). The country also expanded territorially.

This was also a golden age for the polish army, who after a reform became one of the strongest in the region. One of the of the first Hetmans of the Polish Army was Jan Tarnowski (he was the owner of Tarnów), who led the polish army to many victories among others against the Muscovites and Ottoman Empire. The last great victory of the polish army was in 1683 when the allied armies of Europe led by the Polish king John III Sobieski save Europe from invasion of Islam in the huge battle of Vienna.

In 1569 the Union of Lublin was signed forming the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. From this time on Poland and Lithuania were known as the Republic of Both Nations and prospered together on the territory of almost 1,000,000 square kilometers of central and eastern Europe. The Union was largely run by the nobility but led by elected kings. This early democratic system (“a sophisticated noble democracy”) was untypical and in contrast to the absolute monarchies prevailing at the time in the rest of Europe.

In 1596 king Zygmunt III Waza moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw as the city was more centrally located.