Płock (pronounced [pwɔt͡sk] ( listen)) is a city on the Vistula river in central Poland. It is located in the Masovian Voivodeship (since 1999), having previously been the capital of the Płock Voivodeship (1975–1998). According to the data provided by GUS on 30 June 2009 there were 126,675 inhabitants in the city. Its full ceremonial name, according to the preamble to the City Statute, is Stołeczne Książęce Miasto Płock (the Princely or Ducal Capital City of Płock). It is used in ceremonial documents as well as for preserving an old tradition.
Płock is now a capital of the powiat (county) in the west of the Mazovian Voivodeship. From 1079 - 1138 it was the first historical capital of Poland. Its cathedral contains the sarcophagi of a number of Polish monarchs. It is the cultural, academic, scientific, administrative and transportation center of the west and north Masovian region.
The first Jewish settlers came to the city in the 14th century, responding to the extension of rights by the Polish kings. They built a community and constituted a large portion of the population through the 19th century, sometimes more than 40%. Jews contributed to expansion of trades and crafts, and helped the process of industrialization. In 1939, they made up 26% of the city's population. After the 1939 invasion of Poland, the German Nazis established a Jewish ghetto in Płock in 1940. They deported many of the Jews to other areas but exterminated most of them in the Holocaust. By the war's end, only 300 Jewish residents were known to have survived, of more than 10,000 in the region.
The area was long inhabited by the pagan peoples. In the 10th century, a fortified location was established high of the Vistula River's bank. This location was at a junction of shipping and routes and was strategic for centuries. Its location was a great asset. In 1009 a Benedictine monastery was established here. It became a center of science and art for the area. In 1075, a diocese seat was created here for the Christian church. Płock was the capital city during the reign of the Polish monarchs Władysław I Herman and Bolesław III Wrymouth (1079–1138). It was also a seat of several of the dukes of Masovia.
During the rule of the first monarchs of the Piast dynasty, even prior to the Baptism of Poland, Płock served as one of the monarchial seats, including that of Prince Mieszko I and King Bolesław I the Brave. The king built the original fortifications on Tumskie Hill, overlooking the Vistula River. From 1037–1047, Płock was capital of the independent Mazovian state of Masław. Płock has been the residence of many Mazovian princes.
From 1079 to 1138, the city was the capital of Poland, then earning its title as the Ducal Capital City of Płock (Polish: Stołeczne Książęce Miasto Płock). It served as the medieval capital during the reigns of the Polish monarchs Władysław I Herman and Bolesław III Wrymouth.
The city suffered major losses in population due to plague, fire, and warfare, with wars between Sweden and Poland in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. At that time, the Swedes destroyed much of the city, but the people rebuilt and recovered. In the late 18th century, it took down the old city walls, and made a New Town, filled with many German migrants.
In the 19th century, the city was included within the region controlled by the Russian Empire, when Poland was divided among it, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary. It was a seat of provincial government and an active center; its economy was closely tied to major grain trade. It laid out a new city plan in the early 19th century, as new residents continued to arrive. Many of its finest buildings were constructed in this period in the Classical style. It had a scientific society before mid-century, and in the late 19th century began to industrialize.
Germany attacked Poland in 1939, and began to take over its government. It impressed people as forced laborers for German factories, treating them harshly. During the German occupation of Poland (1941 to 1945), after the Soviets and Germans were at war, the city was named Schröttersburg, after the former Prussian Upper President Friedrich Leopold von Schrötter.
The Museum of Płock Mazowiecki provides exhibits and interpretation of the city and region's history. Płock is the oldest legislated seat of the Roman Catholic diocese; the Masovian Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral was built here in the first half of the 12th century and houses the sarcophagi of Polish monarchs. It is one of the five oldest cathedrals in Poland.
From the visions of Feliksa Kozłowska in 1893, the Mariavite order of priests originated, originally working to renew clergy within the Roman Catholic Church. Despite repeated attempts, they were not recognized by the Vatican and in the early 20th century established a separate and independent denomination. This site is the main seat of the Mariavite bishops. Their most important church was built here in the beginning of the 20th century; it is called Temple of Mercy and Charity and is situated in a pleasant garden on the hill on which the historical centre of Płock is built, near the Vistula river. Poland in total has about 25,000 members of the Old Catholic Mariavite Church, as it is now named, with another 5,000 in France. A smaller breakaway church, the Catholic Mariavite Church, which has an integrated female priesthood (since 1929), has 3,000 members in Poland.
The Jewish presence in Płock (Yiddish: Plotzk) dates back many centuries, probably to the 13th and 14th centuries, when records include them. The Polish kings extended rights to them in 1264 and the 14th century, and provided continued political support through the centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century, their more than 1200 residents comprised more than 48% of the city's population in what is considered the cit's Old Town; through the century, their proportions ranged from 30s and 40 percent. It varied as German migrants were arriving in the region, and the area was becoming urbanized, as more people moved to the city. As in other parts of Poland, they were restricted to employment in trades and crafts.
In the late 19th century, Jews established two factories to produce farm machines and tools, and the first iron foundry in the city. They had two synagogues and two cemeteries (dating to the 15th century), religious and secular schools, and established a library and hospital. They contributed strongly to the economy and culture of the city. In the early 20th century, they had two newspapers, representing active political parties.
In 1939, Płock had a Jewish population of 9,000, an estimated 26% of the city's total. It had one of the highest proportional Jewish populations in Poland. After Nazi persecution began in 1939, about 2,000 Jews fled the city, with half going to Soviet-controlled territory. They were assigned to locations far from the front. In 1940, the Nazis established a ghetto in Płock. They started actions against the Jews, killing those in an old people's home and sick children, and transporting others to be killed at Brwilski Forest. Ultimately, they transported the Jews to 20 camps and sites in the Radom district, where most died. By 1946, only 300 Jews survived in Płock. While they were active in the new politics, gradually the Jews left, and by 1959 three remained. Herman Kruk, a survivor and notable chronicler of life inside the Nazi concentration camps, was born in Płock in 1897.
The small synagogue, built in 1810, was one of the few to survive World War II in the Mazowsze region of Poland. The Great Synagogue was destroyed during the Holocaust. The small synagogue was designated as a historic building about 1960, but deteriorated in physical condition while vacant. It was renovated and adapted for use as a museum, opening in April 2013 as the Museum of Masovian Jews, a branch of the Museum of Płock Mazowiecki.
The main industry is oil refining, which was established in 1960. The country's largest oil refinery (Płock refinery) and parent company, PKN Orlen, are located here. It is served by a large pipeline leading from Russia to Germany. Associated industrial activities connected with the refinery are servicing and construction. A Levi Strauss & Co. factory is located in Płock and provides manufacturing jobs.
Bus service covers the entire city, with 41 routes.
Members of Parliament (Sejm) elected from Płock constituency
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Płock is twinned with:
St. Bartholomew's Church.
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