The Land of Biecz is a picturesque area in South-Eastern Poland situated in the hilly Carpathian Plateau, by the Ropa River. Due to its rich history, the town of Biecz is often referred to as ‘’little Kraków’’. Owning to the partially preserved medieval city walls and buildings, as well as to the unchanged urban layout, Biecz is also called ”Polish Carcassonne’’. Biecz is the town of the Executioner – the Master of Holy Justice, who taught many successors of the executioner’s profession.
Thanks to Bolesław Wstydliwy, Biecz gained its civil rights in the 13th century. Defensive walls with the barbican and towers surrounded the city. Moreover, the city was known of its defensive function. In that time, Biecz was one of the largest and most important cities in Poland with many trading routes passing through the area, in which over 30 kinds of skilled craftsmanship thrived and developed. Amongst many other crafts the fastest developing businesses were linen and drapery industries and the trade in Hungarian wines. The town was a royal property. During their visits, the kings organized political meetings and signed important documents here. Over the course of its history, in Biecz there were three castles, which were visited by kings and princes especially from the Jagiellonian and Piast dynasty.
Cultural advancement followed the development of industry and trade. The first school was set up in Biecz in the late 14th century. Biecz has been home to many important figures in the Polish history, including: Marcin Kromer – a historian, geographer, diplomat and bishop of Warmia, Wacław Potocki – the greatest Polish 17th century poet, a deputy of the District Governor, and a judge in county court. In Biecz, he wrote ‘Wojna Chocimska’.
Biecz experienced its major development between the 14th and 17th century. During this period, the town was the seat of the Judge of the German Law and county court. In 1616 Biecz was granted the ‘right of the sword,’ that was a right to sentence prisoners and carry out public executions. In that time, Biecz had its own office for the executioners. The period of apprenticeship for an executioner was short. A lot of thieves and robbers were caught in the whole area of Biecz. They lived in the mountains and robbed merchants – travelers to Hungary and Poland. Captured criminals were immediately executed. This allowed the executioners from Biecz to practice and get experience. For this reason they were employed and paid by other towns. According to the legend, there lived an executioner named “Jurko” (his surname is unknown). Jurko was thought to have aristocratic roots. He was well educated and spoke several languages. Jurko was an authority on medical and law cases. He had a great passion for collective executions. He quoted Homer, Ovid and Horace while torturing people.
In the 17th century, Biecz started losing its prominence, due to the development of new trading routes and the deteriorating economic situation of the country. Biecz was under Austrian rule after the First Partition of Poland. The authorities abolished the county of Biecz and all the courts. In the 18th century Biecz came under private ownership and lost its royal status.
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