Tarnowskie Góry

Coordinates: 50°26′40″N 18°51′30″E / 50.44444°N 18.85833°E / 50.44444; 18.85833
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Tarnowskie Góry
Market Square (Rynek)
Bird's eye view of the town center
Historic Silver Mine
Flag of Tarnowskie Góry
Coat of arms of Tarnowskie Góry
Tarnowskie Góry is located in Silesian Voivodeship
Tarnowskie Góry
Tarnowskie Góry
Tarnowskie Góry is located in Poland
Tarnowskie Góry
Tarnowskie Góry
Coordinates: 50°26′40″N 18°51′30″E / 50.44444°N 18.85833°E / 50.44444; 18.85833
Country Poland
Voivodeship Silesian
CountyTarnowskie Góry
GminaTarnowskie Góry (urban gmina)
Town rights1526
 • MayorArkadiusz Czech
 • Total83.72 km2 (32.32 sq mi)
 (31 December 2021)
 • Total61,842 Increase[1]
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
42-600 to 42-609, 42-612 and 42-680
Car platesSTA
Primary airportKatowice Airport

Tarnowskie Góry [tarˈnɔfskʲɛ ˈɡurɨ] (German: Tarnowitz; Silesian: Tarnowske Gōry) is a town in Silesia, southern Poland, located in the Silesian Highlands near Katowice. On the south it borders the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union, a megalopolis, the greater Silesian metropolitan area populated by about 5,294,000 people.[2] The population of the town is 61,842 (2021).[1] As of 1999, it is part of Silesian Voivodeship, previously Katowice Voivodeship.

The Historic Silver Mine of Tarnowskie Góry, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the town.

Names and etymology[edit]

The name of Tarnowskie Góry is derived from Tarnowice, name of a local village and word góry which in Old Polish meant "mines". In a Prussian document from 1750 (published in the Polish language in Berlin by Frederick the Great [1712–1786]), the town is mentioned, among other Silesian towns, as "Tarnowskie Góry". The German name Tarnowitz was introduced in the late 18th century, after the Third Silesian War (between Austria and Prussia). As a result of Germanization of the area, all Polish names received German equivalents (usually closely resembling the original, like Kattowitz for Katowice).



The earliest settlements around Tarnowskie Góry date back to over 20 thousand years BC. Traces of the Upper Paleolithic inhabitants were found in village of Rybna, within present-day town borders. During the Bronze Age people lived along the banks of river Stoła (Polish) or Stola, (name derived from German Stollenwasser Adit water earlier this river was known as "Rybna" (derived from a Polish word for "fish"), their tools, jewelry and weapons were excavated here, dating from between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. Silver, lead and zinc were bountiful in these grounds and the evidence of an early metal production dates back to at least 3rd century AD.

Medieval and Renaissance[edit]

A 1930 plaque commemorating the alleged discovery of the silver deposit in 1490 in the place of the current Florczak House at the Market Square

In the Middle Ages the region was inhabited by Lechitic Polish tribes, and in the 10th century it became part of the emerging Polish state under its first ruler Mieszko I of Poland. Repty Śląskie, a village, now within Tarnowskie Góry's town limits, was mentioned in an official papal document dating from September 12, 1201. The present-day district of Stare Tarnowice was the location of a motte-and-bailey castle from the 14th century, which is now an archaeological site.[3] According to legend, the source of silver ore (solely responsible for the town's existence) was first discovered in 1490, when local peasant-farmer named Rybka found a strange, heavy, metallic stone while plowing the field near village of Tarnowice. He presented his find to a local priest and within less than three decades this place became the largest silver mining center in the area. Its population rivaled in size some of the major cities of the Renaissance world and prospectors were coming from all corners of the continent, some as far as Spain, all of this fueled by the massive amount and quality of ore, so high that on many occasions it was said to be practically pure, metallic silver.

Initial growth can be attributed to Jan II the Good, the last Duke of Opole and Racibórz of the first Polish dynasty of Piast, and George, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach (from the House of Hohenzollern), both of whom, in 1526, gave the town special privileges called "Akt Wolności Górniczej" (The Miners’ Freedom Act). This revolutionary document awarded freedom to any peasant who chose to become a miner in the area; the same year new settlement was officially elevated to the town-status, christened Tarnowskie Góry and received additional set of town privileges and rights, cote of arms and official seal followed few decades later in 1562.

16th-century Gwareks' bell-tower (Dzwonnica Gwarków) in the town center

In 1528, "Ordunek Górny" (the Mining Ordinance) strongly promoting farther exploration and offering a high percentage of profits to miners, was proclaimed and sparked a period of an explosive growth and prosperity. Many other associated businesses like trade, manufacturing, crafts etc., were rapidly developing and most of the old-town was already in place by 1540, including many of still existing brick and stone buildings and Protestant church. By the mid-16th century Tarnowskie Góry became the largest mining center in Upper Silesia and one of the largest in Europe; the combined length of main tunnels (main tunnels were the passages with clearance of over 2 metres (6 feet 7 inches) in height) constructed under the 1sq mile of old town alone, exceed 160 km (99 mi), still, representing only a small fraction of a total underground system.

Arcade houses at Gliwicka Street, dating back to the 16th century

Many Protestants found refuge in Tarnowskie Góry, and after the death of John II the Good (1532) town was ruled by the family of Hohenzollern, supporters of reformation movement. The first Protestant, wooden church was built in 1529 and two years later a stone structure was erected to replace it. In 1531, Szkola Różnowiercza (The Reformation School) was created and at the end of the 16th century was run by Daniel Franconius, famous scholar, educator, poet, and a propagator of Arianism.


16th-century Gwarek House, in which in 1744 the first Lutheran service was held after the end of Habsburg rule, as mentioned by pastor Samuel Ludwik Zasadius

The prosperity of Tarnowskie Góry was abruptly halted by the Thirty Year War (1618–1648), and in 1676–77 its population was farther decimated by an outbreak of plague (which two years later reached the Austrian capital). In 1683, Polish King John III Sobieski rested in town on his way to the Battle of Vienna (where he led the famous Hussars branch of Polish cavalry to victory in defeating the Ottoman army and stopping the progress of their European invasion). In Tarnowskie Góry, Polish nobility welcomed the newly elected kings Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III of Poland, in July 1697 and January 1734, respectively, when they were heading for their royal coronations to Kraków.[4][5]

December 16, 1740, was marked by the Prussian army entering the town during the first of the Silesian Wars; in 1742, Austrian domination ended and Tarnowskie Góry fell under Prussian rule. In 1742, after the end of Austrian rule, a Lutheran parish was established, whose first pastor was Polish religious writer and author of popular prayer-books Samuel Ludwik Zasadius.[6] Around 1780 Friedrich Wilhelm von Reden opened a government-controlled mine as well as silver and lead foundry named "Frederyk" after Frederick William II, the king of Prussia.

Jews, with a few exceptions, were restricted or altogether banned from the area throughout the years; yet still they managed to have a great impact on the entire region's progress. Salomon Isaac, Jewish trade-agent and mining entrepreneur, was one of the greatest contributors to the development of the Sillesian metallurgical and mining industries and, ultimately, become one of the managing officers of the newly formed Prussian Office of Mining in Tarnowskie Góry.

Industrial Revolution[edit]

Railway station

In 1788, sparking the onset of the Industrial Revolution the first steam engine in continental Europe (and only the second one in the world) was imported from England and installed with a purpose of draining the underground waters. This was not a small task, miles of a deep adit or drainage-tunnel. A 600-metre part of former Fryderyk adit is a tourist route named Black Trout Adit. Its tunnels were cut through a solid bedrock and one of the system outlets, near Repty, became the main contributory of river Drama.[7]

Although Napoleonic Wars damaged and put a burden of heavy taxation on it, the town experienced another boom of growth and prosperity in the 19th century. In 1803 one of world's first schools of mining was initiated and, during following few decades, many new factories and businesses opened including: paper mill, iron foundry, printing shop, brewery, soap factory and natural gas production plant. During that period, the town square and two main streets were paved, gas lighting illuminated the town and a sewage system was installed. "Górnośląska Spółka Bracka" (The Upper-Silesian Brotherhood Cooperative) was organized with its headquarters in Tarnowskie Góry; (this revolutionary institution functioned as an insurance company for miners and covered the entire Upper Silesian region with 17,821 initial members). In 1857 the first railroad, leading to Opole, reached the town and eight years later Warsaw–Vienna line cut-through as well. Throughout the next few decades, because of its strategic location, the number of railroad lines grew rapidly, and by the end of the 19th century Tarnowskie Góry was well on its way to becoming the second largest marshaling yard in Europe. Poles smuggled large amounts of gunpowder through the town to the Russian Partition of Poland during the January Uprising in 1863.[8] In 1873 a new county was formed in the area with Tarnowskie Góry as its capital; a hospital and court building were opened soon after.


Fryderyk Smelting Works in interwar Poland

In the beginning of the 20th century, the source of the silver ore dried out and the mining stopped completely. After World War I ended, between 1919 and 1921 three massive anti-German uprisings[9] took place in entire Upper Silesian region and many of towns residents fought and supported the cause.[10] Soon after the end of the third one, mandated by the Versailles Treaty, the Silesian Plebiscite was held, and an overwhelming majority of the Upper Silesia region voted for integration with newly independent Poland; in Tarnowskie Góry however, 82% of the participants favored Germany in large part due to "imported" votes.[11] In 1922, after over 300 years of Austrian and Prussian domination, Tarnowskie Góry was returned to Poland.[12] In the interwar period the 11th Infantry Regiment of the Polish Army was stationed in Tarnowskie Góry.

Polish Army barracks in the 1930s

At the onset of World War II in September 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany and Nazi German occupation began. On September 6–8, 1939, the Einsatzgruppe II entered the town to commit various crimes against Poles.[13] Mass searches of Polish organizations, offices and houses,[14] and mass arrests of priests, teachers, intelligentsia and fighters of three anti-German, Silesian Uprisings (1919–1921) took place. The synagogue was burned while German minority enthusiastically welcomed invading Nazi forces. Already in September 1939, the Germans murdered over 20 Poles in the present-day districts of Lasowice, Strzybnica and Repty Śląskie.[15] Among the victims were miners, former insurgents and a school principal from nearby Chorzów.[15] Germany established and operated a prison for Poles in the town.[16] During the occupation, the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, the leading Polish underground resistance organization) undertook a sabotage campaign against Nazi forces, railroad-transport and local industry. The Germans operated two forced labour subcamps of the Stalag VIII-B/344 prisoner-of-war camp in the town.[17] Liberation of Silesia came in early 1945; in order to save the industrial infrastructure of the region, the Red Army opened an offensive supported by massive numbers of troops with minimal use of heavy artillery and air-bombardment. According to witnesses, the entire operation was extremely fast; countless, shoulder-to-shoulder, crowds of Russian soldiers passed through the town in matter of minutes followed by almost complete still.


Districts of Tarnowskie Góry

The decades following the end of World War II saw an influx of immigrants from other parts of Poland (including its former eastern provinces) to take over property of expelled German inhabitants, and as a result of planned-economy developments. Several large factories opened in Tarnowskie Góry's area including: FASER (the largest manufacturer of safety equipment and mining lamps in Soviet bloc), FAZOS (the manufacturer of automated mine-wall reinforcements), ZAMET (manufacturer of metallurgical equipment), CHEMET (manufacturer of chemical equipment), and Lead and Zinc Mill Miasteczko Slaskie (the second largest facility of this kind in Europe). All of these "Molochs" employed thousands of workers and emitted countless pollutants into the surrounding environment. For decades the railroad industry remained one of the largest local employers, however, due to an aging infrastructure, it slowly decreased in volume and other cities of the area begun to handle more and more of the rail traffic in terms of both cargo and passenger trains.

The fall of Iron Curtain in 1989 brought freedom back to Poland accompanied by the chaos of restructuring and privatization, which led to a small but steady decline of population, beginning in mid-1990s and lasting throughout the first decade of the 21st century. Today, Tarnowskie Góry is an industrial, cultural, educational, and technological center and tourist destination.[citation needed]

Places and attractions[edit]

Historic sights of Tarnowskie Góry (examples)
Sedlaczek Wine House
old well at the Market Square
Town Hall
building of the town's oldest pharmacy
park in Repty
Stare Tarnowice Castle
Rybna Palace
St. Martin Church
Church of the Savior
  • Historical Mine Of Silver Ores, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Black Trout Adit, one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments, as designated May 1, 2004. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
  • Town Square (Rynek), adorned by string of old romantic Renaissance arcade buildings, a 17th-century Protestant church, the building of the town's first pharmacy and crowned by an impressive town hall; it is spotted with shops, bars, restaurants etc., including the Sedlaczek Wine House, a charming restaurant and tavern opened in 1786, located in a 16th-century building which hosted many renowned people including Polish kings John III Sobieski, Augustus II the Strong, Augustus III, Russian tsar Alexander I and German poet Goethe, also housing the Tarnowskie Góry Museum, opened in 1958.
  • Upper Silesia Narrow Gauge Railways – the world's oldest narrow gauge railway in continuous service since 1853 [1]
  • 16th-century Gwareks' bell-tower ("Gwarek" an old-Polish reference to miners).
  • Church of Saints Peter and Paul, built in the 16th century in the Renaissance style, and later rebuilt in Romanesque Revival style.
  • Renaissance Stare Tarnowice Castle, located in the Stare Tarnowice district
  • Baroque architecture-Classicist Rybna Palace, located in the Rybna district
  • Gwarki Tarnogórskie – since 1957 this annual event and out-door fest, held in first half of September, commemorates and celebrates mining-culture of the region; including: historical-costume parade, outdoor concerts, regional food-concessions and other entertainment and sporting events.
  • Water Park, large recreational complex which includes in and outdoor pools, sports pool, sea-wave pool, rapid river, water slides, Jacuzzi and brine bath.
  • Park Repty Ślaskie and river Drama Valley (pl:Park w Reptach) - over 1,000 acres (405 ha) of park complex. Originated in the mid-19th century by Donnersmarck family in an effort to create private hunting grounds and to preserve natural ecology of the region; (due to rapid industrial and agricultural expansion the environment of Upper Silesia was dramatically changing and disappearing; plant species from entire Silesian region were brought-in to recreate the original pre-industrial landscape along the banks of romantic Drama river valley. The park includes Black Trout Adit with two entrances, "Ewa" and "Sylwester" available to the public, Upper-Silesian Rehabilitation Center "Repty", and variety of plant and animal habitats that are unique to the region.
  • Classicist Karłuszowiec Palace Complex, located in Karłuszowiec, within the Śródmieście-Centrum district, now housing an art school
  • Castles, palaces and historical churches – Tarnowskie Góry is surrounded by such a structures that include: Brynek, Kamieniec, Kopienica, Łubie, Miedary-Kopanina, Nakło Śląskie, Szałsza, Świerklaniec, Tworóg, Wilkowice and Zbrosławice. Many of lavish residences and palaces belonged to Donnersmarck family (after Krupp the second richest in 19th and early 20th century Europe)
  • Świerklaniec – located within a bicycle-trip distance from Tarnowskie Góry, this 380 acres (154 ha) spectacular park claims to be the only, pure English-style Park in continental Europe; once a home to a 19th-century palace, the main residence of Donnersmarck family, and fully preserved Piast dynasty medieval castle (both structures destroyed during World War II and the post-war Soviet era). Grandiose palace sometimes called "miniature Versailles" was built by Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck for his mistress Pauline Thérèse Lachmann, the most successful of 19th-century French courtesans, also known as "La Paiva", who later became his wife Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck and died here in 1884. All building materials as well as artists, sculptors and labor involved in erecting this structure were imported from France. Today Świerklaniec Park is open to public however only romantic guest house and set of magnificent fountains and sculptures remain from palatial complex that once stood here. During the sixties large, man-made lake was added to the north.

Notable people[edit]

Liberty Square
Municipal office

Twin towns – sister cities[edit]

Tarnowskie Góry is twinned with:[18]


  1. ^ a b "Local Data Bank". Statistics Poland. Retrieved 17 August 2022. Data for territorial unit 2413041.
  2. ^ European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) "Project 1.4.3". Archived from the original on 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
  3. ^ Michał Bugaj. "Gródek stożkowaty z XIV w." Zabytek.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  4. ^ "Król August w Tarnowskich Górach". Montes Tarnovicensis (in Polish). Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Ostatnia wizyta polskiego króla". Montes Tarnovicensis (in Polish). Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Historia Parafii w Tarnowskich Gorach" (in Polish). Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  7. ^ pl:Sztolnia Czarnego Pstrąga
  8. ^ Pater, Mieczysław (1963). "Wrocławskie echa powstania styczniowego". Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka (in Polish) (4): 418.
  9. ^ Czesław Madajczyk, Tadeusz Jędruszczak, Plebiscyt i trzecie powstanie śląskie ("Plebiscite and Third Silesian Uprising") [in:] Historia Polski ("History of Poland"), Vol.IV, part 1, PAN, Warszawa 1984 ISBN 83-01-03865-9
  10. ^ T. K. Wilson, "Frontiers of Violence: Conflict and Identity in Ulster and Upper Silesia 1918–1922". London: Oxford University Press, 2010
  11. ^ T. Hunt Tooley, National Identity and Weimar Germany: Upper Silesia and the Eastern Border, 1918–1922. Lincoln, NE: The University of Nebraska Press, 1997
  12. ^ Kazimierz Popiołek, Historia Śląska od pradziejów do 1945 roku ("History of Poland since prehistory until 1945", Śląski Inst. Naukowy (Silesian Science Institute) 1984 ISBN 83-216-0151-0
  13. ^ Wardzyńska, Maria (2009). Był rok 1939. Operacja niemieckiej policji bezpieczeństwa w Polsce. Intelligenzaktion (in Polish). Warszawa: IPN. p. 118.
  14. ^ Wardzyńska, p. 119
  15. ^ a b Wardzyńska, p. 135-136
  16. ^ Wardzyńska, p. 139
  17. ^ "Working Parties". Lamsdorf: Stalag VIIIB 344 Prisoner of War Camp 1940 - 1945. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  18. ^ "Współpraca z zagranicą". tarnowskiegory.pl (in Polish). Tarnowskie Góry. Retrieved 2020-03-19.

External links[edit]