Pułtusk is a town in Poland by the river Narew, 70 km north of Warsaw. Pułtusk has about 19.000 inhabitants. It was founded already in the 10th century and was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1875. The old market square is reputedly the longest in Europe.
The town existed since at least 10th century. In the Middle Ages it was one of the most important castles defending Masovia against the attacks of Prussians and Lithuanians. According to a legend, the town initially was known as Tusk. After an earthquake destroyed half of the city it was renamed to Pułtusk (Pół- or puł- being a Polish prefix for a half). However, scientists assume that the town got its name after a small river named Pełta.
Since the early Middle Ages (11th century) the town belonged to bishops of Płock. Thanks to a ford on the river located nearby, Pułtusk became an important centre of trade and commerce. In 1440 an Academy was founded in the town, one of the most influential schools of higher education in Poland. Among its professors were Jakub Wujek, Richard Singleton, Marcin Łaszcz and Piotr Skarga. By 1595 there were more than 600 students, and their number reached 900 by 1696.
The town was destroyed several times. The first was due to Lithuanian raid in 1262. In 1324 the town was yet again seized - this time by Lithuanians - looted and burnt to the ground. In 14th century Pułtusk became the seat of all bishops of Płock. The town was again burnt by Lithuanians in 1368, but after the Union of Krewo the Lithuanian raids were stopped and the town quickly recovered. By 15th century Pułtusk merchants became one of the most important and rich in Poland. The town (located on the Chełmno Law in 1257) was granted with a privilege of organizing 9 grand markets a year and 2 small markets a week. The city also gained much profit from exporting wood and grain to Gdańsk, as well as from mead and beer production.
Around 1405 the Mayor House was constructed. In 1449 the gothical church was added to the city's facilities. In 16th century the castle was rebuilt by many famous Italian architects, among them Giovanni Babtista of Venice and Bartolomeo Berecci and Giovanni Cini of Siena.
In 1566 one of the first public theatres in Poland was opened. In 16th century the town was visited by many notable persons, among them Jan Kochanowski, king Zygmunt III Waza and Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski. In 1530 the first printing house in Masovia was opened there.
On April 21, 1703 a decisive battle was fought in Pułtusk, where the Swedish army under Charles XII defeated, and captured a large part of, the Saxonian army under Graf von Steinau. The town and the castle were then conquered by Polish forces under Marshal Wincenty Gosiewski, but were then recaptured by the Swedish forces who looted and destroyed it. After the Partitions of Poland the town was annexed by Prussia. The Polish forces of Gen. Antoni Madaliński stationed in Pułtusk in 1794 declined to obey Prussian orders and started their march towards Kraków. This marked the start of Kościuszko Uprising.
Yet another Battle of Pułtusk was fought on December 26, 1806, between forces of Russia and France. The battle became so famous that its name is inscripted on Arc de Triomphe in Paris. After the fall of Warsaw in 1809 Pułtusk became the temporary capital of the Duchy of Warsaw. After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte the town was annexed by Russia.
During the November Uprising the town changed hands several times. However, in 1831 the Russian forces brought a cholera epydemic to the town. Pułtusk inhabitants took part also in the January Uprising. Afterwards the town was utterly destroyed and many prominent citizens were sent to Siberia. On January 30, 1868 a meteorite fell in Pułtusk. It was one of the biggest to fall in Europe and large chunks of it (9 kg each) are nowadays present at the British Museum.
The heavy fire in 1875 destroyed most of the city and was depicted by Nobel Laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz in his novel Quo Vadis as the great fire of Rome.
The town was also a battleground for heavy fights in the Polish-Russian War of 1920, at the eve of Battle of Warsaw. In 1931 the town had some 16.800 inhabitants. As a result of the September Campaign it was incorporated into Germany. During the German occupation approximately 50% of the city's inhabitants were murdered. In the battle of Pułtusk during the World War II over 16.000 soldiers of the Red Army fell. As a result of the battle approximately 85% of the city was destroyed.
Currently Pułtusk is one of the most picturesque towns of Masovia. Located at the Bugonarew river, it is one of the most popular weekend places for inhabitants of Warsaw. Tourist attractions include:
- Gothical church (Bazylika Zwiastowania NMP)
- Small gothical church with unique renaissance stuccos
- The old town market
- Town Hall
- The castle (nowadays a hotel and seat of Dom Polonii)
- Ogródek Jordanowski (one of the first children playgrounds in Poland)
- Wyższa Szkoła Humanistyczna im. A. Gieysztora
- Municipal Website (http://www.info.pultusk.pl/) (Polish)
- Photos of Pułtusk - Part 1 (http://www.ga.com.pl/pultusk1.htm)
- Photos of Pułtusk - Part 2 (http://www.ga.com.pl/pultusk2.htm)