History of this land’s heart, that is, the history of the castle and the town adjoining it, goes back to the beginnings of Piasts’ Poland. According to the 19th-century prince’s registrar Schaeffer, the first castle of Piast princes was to be found here in 12th century, while the beginnings of the town date back to the turn of 14th century. It was then that at the main trade route leading from the Ukraine through the Lesser Poland and the Moravian Gate to the south of Europe there stood a castle surrounded with walls and moat, adjoined by the town – being a fair and a guardhouse at the same time. The land was boggy as the river flowing slowly to the Vistula made numerous pools here. This is allegedly where the name of “plsczyna” originated from, as it stood for the region abounding in standing water and marshes. According to the linguist, Professor Jan Miodek, the town’s name derives from the Pszczynka river (formerly written as Blszczynka, from the verb “błyszczeć”, that is “shine”). In those days of old the land of Pszczyna belonged to the Lesser Poland. It became a part of Silesia only in 1178 when it was taken over by Piast prince of Opole and Racibórz. Pszczyna being “CIVITAS”, that is, a town founded beside the existing borough, is first mentioned in 1327 in the document of paying tribute to King John of Bohemia by Piast prince called Leszek, the last independent ruler of the Duchy of Opole and Racibórz. Following his death in 1336, Pszczyna was taken over by the princes of Opava from the Czech dynasty of Premyslids.
One of the Czech princes, John II of Opava, separated the area known later as the land of Pszczyna from the duchy’s territory (1407), as a life-estate for his wife Helena Korybutówna, composed of Pszczyna, Mikołów, Bieruń Stary and Mysłowice (until 1536). During the princess’ regime, in the first half of 15th century the hunting palace was replaced with a Gothic building surrounded with walls and moat. Thanks to this fortress, the town managed to force back the Hussites whose attacks were ravaging the area. In 1548 Hungarian magnate John Thurzo sold the Duchy of Pszczyna to Wrocław bishop Baltazar von Promnitz from Żary. In this way the duchy was governed by one of the most prominent Silesian families for over two centuries. During the governance of Promnitzs and later Anhalt-Köthen princes related to them, there were close relations maintained with the Wawel Royal Castle. The owners paid much attention to the development of cultural life. In 1704-1708 outstanding composer of the German Baroque, Georg Philip Telemann, was the court bandmaster.
In 1846 the estate of Pszczyna was taken over by the counts of Hochberg whose family seat was the castle in Książ near Wałbrzych. This was one of the richest magnate families in contemporary Europe. In 1848, after receiving the prince title, they assumed the name “von Pless”, that is the princes of Pszczyna. The Hochbergs modernised their summer and hunting estate throughout the entire 19th century. They brought European bison to the woods of Pszczyna to make hunting events, to which kings from the entire Europe were invited, more splendid. The town became an important trade centre: there were numerous cloth, tanning, metallurgical plants, brick factories, oil mills and tileries. Also, weapons were manufactured here. In the first half of 19th century two printing houses were founded. The first one was opened by Karol Beniamin Feistel[E1] in 1805, while the other in 1843 by Kristian Schemmel who published, among others, Tygodnik Poświęcony Włościanom[E2] , the first paper in the Upper Silesia in the Polish language.
During World War I, Pszczyna housed the main headquarters of the German army fighting in the east. In 1916 a German and Austrian proclamation concerning the creation of the “independent” Kingdom of Poland, the so-called Act of 5th November, was prepared here. In August 1919 the First Silesian Uprising broke out in the land of Pszczyna. The rebels gathered in the park at Three Oaks.
The inhabitants’ participation in three Silesian Uprisings and the final results of the 1921 plebiscite (74 per cent of the poviat inhabitants voted to remain in Poland) made the land of Pszczyna return to Poland. In 1922 the town was entered by the Polish army led by general Szeptycki. This ceremony was attended by the leader of the Silesian Uprisings, Wojciech Korfanty.
September 1939 witnessed a heroic defence of the town by combatants of the Silesian Uprisings and scouts, as well as heavy fights of the Krakow Army troops. At the turn of 1945 Pszczyna saw the “death marches” of Auschwitz prisoners. The town, liberated in February 1945, luckily did not suffer any serious damage. Its priceless historical buildings were preserved and may be admired by Polish and foreign visitors today.