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Katowice

Katowice

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Katowice – the capital of the Upper-Silesian region and formerly - a town identified exclusively with heavy industry and workers' houses is today a real European city where tradition meets modernity.

Nowadays, Katowice with the population of 320 thousand residents is a city of dynamic transformations, open to changes, attracting young people who associate their future with the city. In the first place it is them to who the city authorities address their projects of social and town planning reconstruction. 

The city whose origin goes back but to the nineteenth century prides on the possession of numerous objects registered as historical monuments. Among them there stand out art nouveaux tenements in the city centre, neo-baroque and Neo-Gothic buildings with architectural details restored with reverence, as well as the workers' housing estates in the Giszowiec and Nikiszowiec quarters that constitute examples of unique architecture.

As remains of a few, already inactive, coalmines and steelworks there have survived some interesting monuments of industrial architecture and specimens of restored unique machines.

Katowice is also a powerful academic and cultural centre on the national scale. A lot of artists and scientists famous and recognized all over the world come from the city where they made first creative steps in order to leave the place then to “win” worldwide famous scenes and galleries.

The city is situated at the crossing of transport routes and impacts of several cultures, i.e. the Polish, the German, the Jewish and the regional Silesian ones intermingle here. They all have left a firm mark on the image of the city whose history includes both splendid and tragic moments. Its monumental buildings, such as the pre-war seat of the Silesian Seym, remind of the past years' glory of Polish Katowice. On the other hand, emerging at a hectic pace office buildings, seats of companies, trade centres, cultural centres and great arterial roads are signs of the new builders' dynamics.

Katowice is the heart of one of the largest population centres in Europe. Along with the neighbouring towns and cities it constitutes a huge market to be developed by economic subjects, and it is from the economic viewpoint that Katowice has a great future ahead. The present authorities of the city take care of developing a favourable background for investments. Katowice is considered to be one of the best developed Polish cities in terms of a modern infrastructure involving traffic systems, preparing land for investments, water supply, sewage disposal system and appropriate environment for economy in the form of housing undergoing the development process, sporting and recreational facilities, commercial facilities, catering industry, modern cinema halls, libraries, museums, etc. It is worth mentioning that 40 % of the area in Katowice is covered by forests and greenfields including 2 nature reserves. Everybody can appreciate values of our city's natural environment during a long cycle tour of signposted routes.

The significant position of Katowice on the maps of Poland and Europe is strengthened by its role of the Silesian Voivodship administrative centre – the seat of the voivodeship authorities constituting along with Wroclaw and Opole the main centres of the transfrontier and multicultural Silesian Euro-region. All the characteristics decide of a strong position of Katowice as the European leader of sustainable development.

Do you think that Katowice is still a city of coal and steel?

Although the city of Katowice owes its development to heavy industry, on the edge of XXI century these traditional regional trades are being replaced by modern economy branches. Different enterprises representing different industries are residing at the postindustrial areas, creating many workplaces. These changes, together with the modern infrastructure, ensure a brisk development of the city and the increase of its attraction for both citizens and investors.

Today Katowice is:

City of investments

Every year, 30% of the communication and technical infrastructure of the city, is spent on developing settlement, modernisation and building of both educational and sport objects, as well as for the improvement of the citizens’ security. New communication set (DTŚ) is being built, as well as new sewage system in the City Centre (the project co-funded by the European Union – ISPA) along with many other enterprises.

Friendly atmosphere for investors in Katowice is confirmed by the number of foreign investments located in the city. Since 1995 foreign firms have invested in Katowice about 2,5 billion PLN. The cost of projects currently realised is estimated to be higher than 2 billion PLN.

Academic centre

Today, 23 high schools exist in Katowice, educating about 80 thousand students on almost twenty subjects. The number of people studying in Katowice has raised four times through the last 15 years, which is a great potencial for the city development.

Cultural centre

For a dozen years or so, Katowice has already been an important cultural centre. Here exists the base of the best symphony orchestra in Poland – National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio (NOSPR), as well as a few theatres (such as S. Wyspiański Silesian Theatre, „Ateneum” Theatre, Korez Theatre), Silesian Philharmonic, and galleries like BWA and many others. Remarkably active is the Cultural Centre of Upper Silesia (GCK). Katowice is host to many important festivals and competitions, such as the G. Fitelberg Contest of Conductors or the Festival of Directing Art „Interpretacje”. The city symbol – Spodek, attracts thousands of people eager to see the most important cultural and sporting events.

Green city

Our city is located among the most green cities in Poland.
More than 40% of the city’s area in covered by forests, and together with other green areas this level increases up to 60%. A part of the forests are nature reserves with protected species of both flora nad fauna. Hence, Katowice doesn’t lack places with the possibility to rest surrounded by the nature.

City of sport and recreation

Each year in Katowice, new sporting objects are created. In most schools already exist modern sports fields and gymnasiums. Numerous sporting objects, such as Sporting Centre „Słowianin” or sports hall „Jantor” with modern ice rink, present possibilities for both active recreation and physical improvement.

Along over 80 km of traced and signed bicycle routes, all bicycle admirers will find something special for themselves.

Katowice is the city with a number of water sports centres, body building gyms, fitness clubs, and even a place to practice skiing.

In 2005 Our City celebrated its 140th birthday. Municipal rights were given to Katowice on the 11th of September 1865.

Visit us, you will find out how does it really look like!

History

The first mention of Katowice goes back to 1598 and is found in notes made by the Reverend Kazimierski who visited the Bogucice parish. However, the history of the city was marked by fates of several much earlier Slavic agricultural settlements dating from the 14th and 16th centuries as well as smithies which now make up the city quarters. It is the smithies, emerging in place of shallowly buried iron ore bodies, that influenced development in the areas which until recently have still been covered by swamps and woodland crossed by a dense network of rivers. Obviously, along with the smithies the settlements came into existence – and this is how the origin of present Katowice looks like. The Bogucice Smithy situated on the bank of the Rawa River was mentioned for the first time in 1397 and it was one of the oldest plants of this type in Poland. It operated until the eighteenth century when huge metallurgical furnaces appeared. Apart from the smithy in Bogucice (Bogucka Kuźnia) there still existed three similar plants in Załęże, Szopienice and Roździeń quarters. The latter one is linked to Walery Roździeński – the author of the poem entitled “Officina ferraria”. A similar origin is ascribed to some other quarters of Katowice.

Nevertheless, the oldest one is Dąb mentioned in some documents as early as in 1299, which was for several hundred years the property of the Monastery of Guards of God’s Grave in Miechów.

It is difficult to trace back the origins of the name “Katowice”. Probably, it is derived from the name or nickname of the first settler – i.e. the leaseholder Kat, or from “kąty” which was an old word for huts dwelt by workers who felled trees and transported wood to the smithy in Bogucice.

In the latter half of the 16th century in the area granted to smiths there appeared agricultural settlements which took the nature of farms. In about 1580 Andrzej, a smith from Bogucice, founded on his land a farm village named Katowice and described as “villa nova” in the Bogucice parish inspection report of 1598 – a new village. For the next several centuries the two settlements – the agricultural one and the blacksmith’s one co-existed in harmony.

The development of Katowice village began with construction of the railway line from Berlin to Mysłowice (1848). Taking over the land property by the Winckler family was a breakthrough in the development process of Katowice. Rapid industrialization and development of communication lines fostered urbanization of the village. There also could be observed a rapid increase in population (especially in the non-agricultural one) and more and more inhabitants wanted the village to be transformed into the city. Great credit in this field goes to Friedrich Grundmann - the contemporary general manager of the Tiele-Winckler property and to Dr. Richard Holtze. Their aspirations came into fruition in the latter half of the 1960s of the 19th century: on 11 September 1865 a document granting municipal rights to Katowice was signed. Before long Katowice acquired the status of a poviat too. In the period of Grundmann’s governance a first monumental object was erected, i.e. the Evangelical Church at Warszawska Street (1856-1958), next Our Lady’s Church in the neo-Gothic style at Mariacka Street (1870), the Brothers of the Order of St. John of God’s monastery and hospital, the convent and orphanage conducted by the Nuns of the Order of St. Hedwig as well as St. Stephen’s Church in Bogucice. In 1989 a resilient group “Kattowitzer Aktiengesselschaft” set up its head office in Katowice and next 5 well-known banks did the same. Under the Prussian Annexation (since 1742) in the area of what is now Katowice, and particularly in the 19th century, industry was developed - especially steelworks and coal-mines. At the end of the 19th century several institutions that decisively influenced the development of the young economic centre were set up here, i.e.: the Upper Silesian Coal Convention, the Association of Coal and Iron Industrialists, miners’ guilds, the State Post Directorate, the District Court, the Directorate of Prussian Royal Railways. 

At the beginning of the 20th century Katowice was enriched by the Municipal Theatre constructed at the Market Square in the years 1905-1907 according to the design by Karl Moritz – an architect from Cologne. The new century brought to the city the third railway station in its history, preserved to this day, though used for a different purpose). The outbreak of World War I did not cause damages and losses, in Katowice but it contributed to industrial development and prosperity of the city in particular to iron and steel works. Military activities did not affect the population, and large participation in the three Silesian Uprisings as well as in the Plebiscite action were the factors that determined incorporating Katowice into the reborn Polish state (20 June, 1922). Soon the city became the capital of the autonomous Silesian Voivodship, the seat of the Silesian Parliament and the Upper-Silesian Mixed Commission.

The interwar period was characterized by intensive development and Katowice underwent transformation from an industrial centre somewhere in the Prussian province into the greatest economic centre in Poland and the capital city of the richest region in the country. In 1924 there were seated as many as 53 banks, 14 foreign diplomatic missions and several international concerns. Along with the influx of capital new objects and quarters arose - particularly the southern part of the city was well-developed. There were constructed exclusive residential estates and monumental sacred buildings. Since 1926 a modern airport in Muchowiec provided a permanent connection to Warsaw.

At the beginning of 1939 the Polish Army withdrew from Katowice while fights between German troops and Polish boy and girl scouts in the area of the Parachuting Tower at Tadeusz Kościuszko’s Park took place on a scale that has been unexplained till now. On 8 September 1939 the entire territory of Upper Silesia was incorporated into the Third Reich. It was then that the Nazi burnt the magnificent building of synagogue at Mickiewicza Street and demolished the building of the Silesian Museum, which has not been reconstructed by now. 

After 1945 the city regained its former prominence of the inustrial and administrative centre. Changing the name of Katowice into Stalinogród in the years 1953-1956 constituted a three-year episode in its history. It regained its reputation of the scientific and cultural centre and became a university town too. Great housing estates and a few elegant buildings were constructed. 

Nowadays Katowice is a regional and national investment leader. It entered the 21st century with a huge capital and signs of the deep transformation can be perceivable at every turn. Since the self-government was reconstituted in 1990 the city has no longer been associated with industry and it creates its new identity.

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