European city boom

The 13th century was the time of the development of crafts, trade and farming in Western Europe, which allowed the inhabitants of many cities and villages to enjoy prosperity. However, over time, the population growth resulted in many craftsmen, merchants and peasants travelling abroad to seek fortune.

At the same time, when Poland was suffering from fragmentation, another problem arose. Although dukes and bishops owned plenty of ploughland, they lacked people who could farm it.

Thus, these two powers shared a similar need. Silesian dukes had been inviting German settlers to their lands already at the beginning of the 13th century. Thanks to them dozens of new cities such as Wrocław and Opole emerged in Silesia. They brought profit for both their founders as well as inhabitants.

The idea proved to be successful. Soon the rulers of the Wielkopolska Region followed suit. It is possible that the agents in this process were princesses from the Piast dynasty, many of whom were of German and Silesian descent. For instance, it was Silesia that Elżbieta Wrocławska, the wife of Poznań’s founder, Duke Przemysł I, came from.

Cities founded under the German law (e.g. the Magdeburg Law) in the 13th century

Main photo - European city boom

Brother, we’re making a city!

‘In the name of our Lord, amen! (…) we, Przemysł and Bolesław, brothers by birth, by the grace of God dukes of Poland, of our own accord and uncompelled, having taken the advice of our barons and with the consent of the whole chapter of the Poznań church and of our bishop Boguchwał, honourable father in Christ, hereby bestow the esteemed man, Tomasz, and his descendants the city commonly known as Poznań so that it can be founded under the German law…’

 With these words begins Poznań’s foundation charter written in 1253, which started an enormous settlement and construction project.

Before the city, there was a ducal settlement and a cathedral in the area by the Warta River. These were surrounded by hamlets specialising in trade, farming and craft. The hamlets’ potential in terms of trade convinced the rulers to found a new city in their place. Its first inhabitants were local people, for example, from the nearby Śródka. However, the majority of the city dwellers were German settlers who arrived from the Lubuskie Region, Saxony and Silesia. This is how the first Poznań community was created – it consisted of newcomers and local people.

At first, due to the presence of settlers, German language was widely used, even for official purposes. Over time, however, the settlers underwent Polonisation and the Polish language and Latin began to be used more often in official documents.


Poznań and the surrounding hamlets at the time of the city’s foundation in 1253