Biecz is a town in south-eastern Poland, in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship with a long, rich history and is home to a number of culturally and historically significant monuments and buildings in addition to many preserved medieval city walls.
The town is often referred to as “little Kraków" or the “pearl of the Carpathians." During the mid-16th century, Biecz was one of the largest cities in Poland with a royal city status.
Biecz enjoyed a cultural and economic renaissance during the 14th and 15th centuries. Starting in the mid-17th century, the city began to decline due to the stationing of foreign troops, alterations in trade routes, and numerous natural disasters, including flooding, fires, and a plague which killed all but 30 inhabitants. Further devastation was caused by the Deluge, a series of disastrous wars with Sweden that left the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in ruins. The invading Swedes razed houses, farms, peasant buildings, hospitals, and three wooden churches on the outskirts of the city.
The town suffered heavy population losses during World War II, including a public massacre of 200 local Jews in the market square in 1942.
There’s a lot to see in Biecz, the must-sees are the 14th century Corpus Christi Church, the 15th century town hall bell tower, and the 14th century hospital of the Holy Ghost. There are also a few good restaurants in the area. See a list of things to do in Biecz.
Corpus Christi Church is one of the most important churches in Poland, it houses the relics of Queen Jadwiga. The church is built of stone and brick, and decorated with patterns of strongly fired bricks. The oldest part of the church is the presbytery, which was completed before 1480. This date was inscribed on a support beam, and probably indicates the year in which expansion was begun. According to the monument registry of the Kingdom of Poland, construction first began in 1326. The presbytery entrance is framed by a 15th-century painted screen of the Passion of Jesus Christ. To the sides are 17th-century stalls. A music pulpit that dates back to 1633, and which is the oldest such monument of its kind in Europe, can be found on the altar.
Historically, a trumpeter played the hejnał from the bell tower when the city gates were opened, morning, noon, and night. This tradition ended with the collapse of the old bell tower in 1569, which killed the town trumpeter. In 2005, the tradition was restarted, and today the hejnał is played every day at noon.
The Hospital of the Holy Spirit is the oldest preserved hospital in Poland. On 25 July 1395, Queen Jadwiga signed a royal edict ordering the construction of the hospital, granting tax breaks for the duration of construction. The budget provided by the queen was one of the largest of its kind in the country.
The Biecz city walls date back to the beginnings of the 14th century, when approximately 1,200 meters of walls protected the city. During the course of history, the city's defense systems altered to reflect the changing technologies of war, and today there remain only fragments of the original defenses. These fragments can be seen near Corpus Christi Church and the hospital of the Holy Ghost. Of the seventeen original towers, only three remain standing.