Olesnica is a town in the Lower Silesia, situated on the left bank of the Olesnica river. Its name is derived from quagmires and backwaters, on which probably many alders (Polish: olcha) grew, that surround the town. This picturesque place is called by its inhabitants “the town of towers and roses,” for Olesnica is famous for its medieval monuments with tapering towers and beautiful landscapes.
Olesnica attracts tourists with its local character. Its close proximity to the southern and western country boarder makes the town a perfect place for a one day stay for foreigners heading for Polish mountain resorts or Krakow. The town may boast of numerous tourist attractions, like Olesnica’s Castle, which is one of the largest and best preserved castles in the Lower Silesia. It was built in the 14th century in the place of a burgwall surrounded by the river. Throughout centuries it has been rebuilt and used to be a medieval building, a Gothic castle and a Renaissance residence for princes. Other valuable monuments in Olesnica are: Pentecostal Church, which in the Middle Ages served as a synagogue, a baroque Trinity Church and St. John the Evangelist Minor Basilica. The Basilica is claimed to be one of the oldest churches in Silesia. It existed already in the 12th century. Then it was a wooden chapel, which was transformed into a brick three-nave basilica. A very interesting building in Olesnica is also a town hall, which was built in 1410. It was a brick, Gothic-style building with adjoining square tower. As a result of war-caused devastations the town hall was many times rebuilt and renovated. In the 19th century it adopted the classicist style and after the WW2 it became a seat of local authorities. A characteristic element of Olesnica’s architecture is the remainders of the town’s walls and Wroclaw Gate Tower. At first, the fortification was composed of curtain walls and four gate towers. In 1868 three out of four town walls were dismantled. Only Wroclaw Gate remained as the emperor-to-be Frederic III did not agree to dismantle it. Olesnica, however, is not only monuments and history but also entertainment as it holds numerous cultural events, like Olesnica Days, Olesnicki Wyskok or Jazz Festival. Sport enthusiasts may use a recently built sport and recreation complex and a modern sports hall.
Olesnica lies in Olesnica County, on the Silesian Lowlands, approximately 150 metres above sea level. The town has a total area of 20,96 km2 and is populated by 40 thousand people. It is located in a close proximity to Wroclaw, Kluczbork and Opole and has a convenient transport connection with such cities as Katowice and Poznan. Through Olesnica run a country road and Voivodeship roads, which allow for a convenient transportation.
The first records about Olesnica are from 1230. On 22 February 1255 it obtained town rights and in 1294 was joined to the Duchy of Glogow. Because of Olesnica’s location by important trade route, the town became a famous trade settlement. Nearby the settlement there existed a curtain burgwall and St. John church.
In 1313 the Duchy of Olesnica came to being. Olesnica beame its capital and the residence of Prince Konrad Namyslowski (sometimes also called Konrad I of Olesnica). He was the one who ordered to extend the town boarders and build the curtain walls with four gate towers. In 1492 the last emperor of the local Piast dynasty line gave the duchy to the Poděbrady family, a noble family in Bohemia. This was the beginning of the town’s “golden age.”
In 1505 a mint started to operate in Olesnica and in 1529 a printing house and later junior high school building came to existence. The town boarders and curtain walls were extended and Olesnica’s Castle modernised. The thirteen years war brought the end to the “golden age” of Olesnica. In 1649 the Württemberg family start to reign in the town. Prince Sylwiusz tried to help the town recover. The next “golden age” of Olesnica was in the second half of the 19th century. It was then that a garrison and a strategic railway line were built and the buildings of a new post office, court, local hospital and junior high school were erected. In the 1870s barracks are built and in the beginning of the 20th century the building of a military airport began. Unfortunately the Second World War, as well as the march of the Red Army destroyed the town. After 1945 Olesnica was joined to Poland and German population were displaced. The renovation and modernization of the town began.