Gliwice used to be a borderland city, as it was governed by different countries, which is clearly indicated by its rich history. The city was afflicted by wars whereas plagues and fires were commonplace here. However, due to its favourable location at the junction of strategic trade routes, the city continued to keep abreast of the times, which was revealed in its readiness to accept challenges and adopt novelties.
The first of the routes connected Cracow and Wrocław, while the second one - widely known in Europe as the "amber route - led from the south of Europe to the Baltic Sea. The city was first referred to as early as in 1276. The city was at that time included within the Polish boundary lines, and its location was related to the proximity of Bytom. According to the historians, in the XIV century Gliwice was a defensive city, and it was governed by Siemowit, titled the Duke of Gliwice.
During the reign of Mieszko Plątonogi, the grandson of Bolesław Krzywousty, Gliwice constituted the Duchy of Opole and Racibórz. However, as early as in 1289, after the Duchy had been divided up among the four sons, the area of Gliwice became a separate duchy, which was soon ruled by Wacław II, the King of Czech. At that time the land was famous for fish-culture, flour-milling, hop-growing and consequently the production and sale of beer. At the times of the Teutonic Knights' hegemony when Kazimierz Wielki relinquished his rights to the territory of Poland, Gliwice was ruled by Duke Władysław and Siemowit respectively. The period of relative peace was interrupted by the Hussite invasion.
Obviously the city of Gliwice was occupied. Having plundered the area and spread fire over the city the Hussites established their movement centre in Gliwice. In 1431 Konrad VII Oleśnicki had craftily seized the opportunity of taking control of the city when the Hussite leader Zygmunta Korybutowicz arrived in Cracow to participate in a theological debate.
The city was then inhabited by about 1200 people who earned their living mainly from brewing. In 1532 after the death of the last ruler deriving from the Piast line of descent, the city was governed by the Habsburgs. It was the beginning of the debilitating 30-year war, which was then vividly remembered for a long time. It was also the period of protracted religious conflicts, the teachings of Martin Luter, and great hopes of returning to the Polish boundary lines. During that time Gliwice changed noticeably. Fortifications were replaced by settlements and gardens which resulted in the greening of the city. The war between the Habsburgs and the Turks and the following lack or resources was the reason for leasing Gliwice (as so-called Gliwice State) to Fryderyk Zettritz, for the sum of 14 000 thalers.
The contract was originally concluded for 18 years, but it was prolonged twice: for another 10 years in 1580 and for another 18 years in 1589. In 1596 the city of Gliwice was sold to the city authorities for the sum of 27 thousand thalers thus becoming a free royal city. The villages of Knurów, Krywald, Ostropa, Trynek and Szobiszowice were also included.
In 1683 the city was honoured by the presence of Jan III Sobieski, who was on his way to relieve the besieged city of Vienna and had a brief sojourn in the Franciscan Order priory adjacent to the Holy Cross Church (at present it is the Redemptorist Order priory).
The main source of the residents' economic well-being was the brewing industry. However, as a result of successive fires in 1711, 1730 and 1735 the brewery was burnt down thus bringing this profitable business to ruin.
The years 1740-1763 marked the period of so-called Silesian wars waged between Austria and Prussia. Under the Prussian rule Gliwice witnessed the onset of capitalism. At that time there was the development of suburbia, where the housing estates for steelworkers were being located. The network of mining and steelworks offices was developed, with the Mining Institute (Wyższy Urząd Górniczy) at the forefront. Due to the authorities' efforts the trade routes were developed and the means of transport modified. At the time, the Kłodnica Canal (Kanał Kłodnicki) was also being built. Its purpose was to enable coal floating as well as protect the city against the exasperating seasonal floods. The construction of the canal took 30 years (1792 -1822). The coal from Gliwice was cheaper than the English one so it was frequently imported to the Berlin market.
In 1796 the state ironworks was opened. It won renown in Europe for the art casting as well as the military production as it was here that the first cannon was cast in 1804. During that time the first coke-fuelled metallurgical furnace, designed by John Baildon, came into operation.
In 1810 the Franciscan Order was dissolved. The priory buildings were appropriated by the state and the first grammar-school was opened there. In 1834 the post office was opened.
The element that largely contributed to the city development was the opening of the railway line connecting Wrocław to Gliwice in 1845, which was subsequently extended to Mysłowice.
In 1887 the administrative district was established in Gliwice. The city was self-governed and its economic and cultural progress was dependent exclusively upon its citizens. As a result of the economic growth, small factories were being developed and modernized with the new ones being opened at the same time. In 1883 the heirs of the founder of "Hermina" steelworks, Oskar and Georg Caro became the owners of "Julia" steelworks in Bobrek. In "Obereisen" company, which they had established together with Wilhelm Hegenscheidt, they exerted their control over the increasing number of factories, thus becoming an important power.
In those days in the vicinity of Gliwice there were: 14 alcohol distilleries, 2 breweries, 5 mills, 7 brickyards, 3 sawmills, a shingle factory, 8 limestone quarries and 2 glass-works. In addition to that, there was a gas-works, stove factory, beer bottling works, 4 printing-houses, asphalt and building paper factory. At the same time various financial institutions such as: banks, bank exchange offices, savings banks and provident funds were being established.
In 1892 the first horse-drawn tram line was opened, which was then extended as far as to Piekary Śląskie. Three years later, first electric trams appeared in Europe. In 1899 the theatre was opened, where actors from all parts of Europe, especially Germany, performed until the World War II.
During World War I the economy and industry centred on the military production. Some factories were closed and the employment was reduced. The years 1919 - 1921 were marked by three Silesian uprisings and the plebiscite, whereby the residents were to decide if they wished to be considered Polish or German citizens. The residents of Gliwice were in favour of the German nationality, whereas 88 out of 102 communes of Toszek and Gliwice administrative district were in favour of the Polish nationality. In 1922 the disputed territory was divided between the two countries. In 1928 the modern Hotel was built ("Oberschlesien Haus"). At present it is the seat of the Municipal Office (present Zwycięstwa Street).
On 31 August 1939 there was a simulated attack upon the radio station (present Tarnogórska Street). The event was supposed to give the German army a pretext for invading Poland. During the war years the city was entirely concentrated on military production. In Gliwice there were four labour camps, branches of the Oświęcim concentration camp, which were the source of cheap labour force. In 1945 the city was occupied by the Red Army. Peace conventions settled the dispute of the national status of Gliwice. The decision was to incorporate to Poland some of the German territories, including Gliwice. Therefore the city of Gliwice was back within the Polish boundary lines.
After World War II Gliwice became an important centre of science and economy. The Silesian Technical University was established here. Professors of the Lvov Polytechnic and Lvov University comprised the majority of the staff. Institutions and design offices are created. The chemical industry was dominant. Gliwice became the chemical capital with the Chemical Industry Central Management at the forefront. Afterwards, the Anti-Cancer Institute, the Silesian Operetta and the museum were opened. In 1992 Gliwice became a seat of the newly-created Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1998 there was an opening ceremony of the Opel Poland plant - the biggest foreign investment in Poland.
Source: Municipal Council