It can be said that Piekary Slaskie has two faces: on the one it is an industrial and mining town, on the other the spiritual capital of Upper Silesia. Piekary is one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in the country, boasting a tradition that goes back to the 17th century, and as one of the most frequented it sees several thousand people making pilgrimages annually.
For the Silesian people Piekary Slaskie is the centre of the Virgin Mary cult. Not only them, but also Catholics from all over the country and abroad come here to pray before the Miraculous Picture of the Holy Mary of Piekary, the greatest treasure of the Basilica.
Somewhat surprisingly for a Silesian town, Piekary has lots of greenery. The verdure of the housing estates, parks, greens and lawns are taken good care of. The Centre of Sport and Recreation, beautifully situated in an area of some 10 ha, has become a much-frequented place. Several walking trails leave the town in different directions.
There is a 30-meter mound in Piekary, to commemorate the Silesian Uprisings. The idea for constructing it dates back to 1930, a year which marking the 10th anniversary of the Second Silesian Uprising. Among those who took part in the building were commanders of troops of the Third Uprising, Wielkopolska insurgents as well as participants of the January Uprising.
Piekary Slaskie is ideal for short excursions to Rogoznik Lake, lying only 5 km outside the town and providing ample opportunities for leisure activities. You may also like to include Swierklaniec on your itinerary, due to the magnificent “Bachelor Palace”, built in the 19th century.
The town of Piekary Slaskie is situated in the northern part of the Industrial Region of Upper Silesia in south-western Poland. Its economy has always been based on the mining of hard coal and zinc and the working of lead. Piekary’s population is approximately 60,000 within an area of 3,967 ha.
Located just 5 km from Bytom and 20 km from the Katowice-Pyrzowice airport, this town is easy to get to and from. It has good road connections – which continue to be developed – with such cities like Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw and Poznan and also with all the border crossing points in southern Poland.
The first written mention of Piekary dates from the 12th century. According to it, the settlement had a small, Romanesque church under the invocation of St. Bartholomew as early as in 1303. A painting of Our Lady, by an unknown artist, was at the time placed on the side altar.
The zinc and lead mining industries developed in the 15th century and the settlement process began in earnest. The dawn of the 17th century marked the beginning of the extraordinary worship of Our Lady in Piekary. In his writings, the local parish priest J. Roczkowski talks about numberless miracles that occurred soon after the picture of Our Lady was taken from the side altar and placed in the main altar (in 1659). The news of these miracles quickly became known throughout the whole region.
When a plague struck the Tarnow Mountains in 1676, the people followed the Jesuits’ advice and gathered in pilgrimage before the painting of Our Lady and the plague started to die down. Just four years later the Austrian Tsar, Leopold I, asked for the painting to be brought from Piekary to a plague-stricken Prague. This took place and the miracle was repeated.
King Jan III Sobieski made a brief stop in Piekary on his way to Vienna in 1683 to pray in front of the Miraculous Picture of the Holy Mary. In 1697 August III the Strong paid a visit to Piekary and while there he converted to the Catholic faith and swore to observe the pacta conventa. Over the centuries many prominent figures in history have stayed in Piekary, and apart from the above this included King August II and Emperor Frederic Wilhelm IV.
The colonisation and germanisation of Piekary grew more intense in the 18th century, which resulted in a powerful movement towards maintaining the Polish roots of the town and the area. In 1842 Piekary’s rector, priest Alojzy Ficek, started to build a neo-Romanesque temple, in accordance with Daniel Grotschel’s design, to serve as a home to The Miraculous Painting of the Virgin Mary.
Only in 1934 was the name Piekary Wielkie changed into Piekary Slaskie. The present shape of Piekary Slaskie is the result of uniting it with the neighbouring towns of Kozlowa Gora, Dabrowka Wielka, Kamien and Brzeziny Slaskie, which took place in 1975 as part of a national administrative reform.