This is a town that people tend to overlook, although undeservedly so. With a history dating back nearly one thousand years, Raciborz is one of the oldest towns of the Silesian Voivodship. A number of historic buildings have been preserved to give tribute to the town’s rich past. Moreover, Raciborz stands out as a green oasis in the industrial region of Silesia with its environs flooded with gorgeous forests, inviting all to come and take contemplative walks.
Even if you have little time to spend in the town, the Raciborz Museum is a must. Its collection contains many curiosities, two of which ought to be mentioned. The first is the oldest Polish late-Gothic tiled stove, dating from the 15th century, which was discovered in the Piast castle. The other, considered the town’s biggest draw, is a genuine mummy of an Egyptian woman that is more than two thousand years old and was brought to Raciborz in the mid-19th century. While visiting the ruins of the 13th century Piast Castle, the oldest one in Silesia, try not to miss that real masterpiece of Silesian Gothic – the castle chapel, reminiscent of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
Another pride of Raciborz, gracing its centre, is the longest Turkish hazel avenue in Europe. Beyond the borders of the town is a marshy forest and lake natural reserve, known as Lezczok where 400 hectares give shelter to different species of birds, like black storks, cormorants and grebes.
Raciborz is situated in the south-western portion of the Silesian Voivodship, at the Moravian Gate and just a short drive from the border crossing with the Czech Republic. Lying in the upper Odra River basin, it covers an area of 75 km 2 and has a population of 60,000.
The town has many significant roads passing through it, including the Katowice – Bielsko-Biała – Rybnik – Raciborz – Klodzko road, the Gliwice – Raciborz – Opava – Olomouc road and the Opole – Raciborz – Ostrava road. Besides these, Raciborz is a railway junction, providing connections to many destinations throughout Poland.
Visitors are attracted by the mild climate and the diverse landscape created by glacial activity.
Raciborz has been defending a trade route linking the Moravian Gate to Poland since as early as the 9th century. It was located at the meeting point of major routes passing from the lands of Czech Republic and Moravia to Krakow, Silesia and Russia. Historic documents mention the town as being the capital of the German tribe of Quadi. Initially a castellan’s residence, from 1172 Raciborz served as the capital of the Duchy of Raciborz, founded by Duke Mieszko I. An early chronicler, Gall Anonym, noted that it was captured by the knights of King Boleslaw III (the Wrymouthed). The town, temporarily taking on the role of a stronghold, resisted the Tatar onslaught twice in 1241, while Krakow was overrun.
In the 13th century, the town experienced a period of prosperity and had great influence on other Polish lands in terms of culture. From 1299 Raciborz was able to rule itself with its own council.
The advantageous location of Raciborz allowed it to develop rapidly. The town used to host the largest Silesian cereal fairs, and at the same time it had a good reputation for its well-developed crafts and other industries, like clothing and weaving.
Up to the year 1336 Raciborz was ruled by the Piast Dynasty, when it then passed into the hands of the Przemyslids, the Czech dynasty of Dukes. Some time prior to 1413, Raciborz managed to repurchase a hereditary voytship, for which it paid for its own tender, Raciborz Heller.
After Walenty Przemyslid died without an heir, Raciborz was governed by Jan II Dobry, Duke of Opole. In 1551 the Habsburgs overtook control over Bohemia and Raciborz.
Between 1618 and 1648, during the Thirty Years’ War, Raciborz was repeatedly to suffer damage and destruction. In 1683, local citizens cheered King Jan III Sobieski, who was passing through on his way to his greatest victory, in Vienna.
After the two Silesian Wars, the town was incorporated into Prussia. This was a time marked by swift economic development, enhanced even more in 1846 with the opening of a new railway line that would within two years link Berlin to Vienna).
Despite the proximity of the Polish-German border, in the second half of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century, the town played an important role as a centre of national activity. The townsman participated in all three Silesian Uprisings, and then the result of the plebiscite of 1921 meant that Raciborz remained in Germany.
According to estimates, approximately 80% of the houses, factories and public works were destroyed by the Second World War. Since then, the marks of war have been washed away and the town is now once more a gem in its region.