History of Sambir
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The history of the cities Sambir and Staryi Sambir, which are both situated in Halychyna (which is now part of Ukraine), in the Lviv Oblast by the Dnister river, begins in a place currently known as Staryi Sambir. This was founded in the 12th century and served as an important center of the Halych Princedom. In the 13th century, the Tatars destroyed it, and in the year 1241 it was burnt down.
Staryi Sambir (Stari-Sambor) to Novyi Sambir (Novi-Sambor)
Part of the Stari-Sambor population, especially the weavers, moved to a village called Pohonich, at a distance of some twelve kilometers from the old town, and it was called Novi-Sambor (new Sambor) to distinguish it from old Sambor. The latter began to be called Stari-Sambor, or the old city.
The foundations of the future city of Sambor were laid in 1390 by the governor of Krakow, Spytek of Melsztyn, a companion and adviser to the Polish king Wladyslaw Jagiello (1396–1434) in his war expeditions. The king granted his loyal companion, for his military services, enormous pieces of land, from Dobromil to Stri.
Spitko, evaluating the importance of Pohonicz, left a document dated 13 December 1390 addressed to the Wojt (Mukhtar), Henrik from Landshut, permitting him to establish a city in Pohonicz to be called Novi-Sambor, granting it the rights of Magdeburg.
It is not possible to determine exactly when the village of Pohonicz was founded because of the lack of historical sources. It may be assumed that, it being on the important commercial and strategic crossroads near the Dniester and its tributary Mlinuvka, it served as a worth center for fortification and defense. Despite the fact that the village of Pohonicz was raised to the status of a city and its name changed to Novi-Sambor, we find in official documents up to the year 1450 that the city was called by two names: Sambor or Novi-Sambor, formerly Pohonicz.
Sambor is situated on what is almost an island formed between two parallel rivers, the one distant from the other by a few kilometers – the Dniester on one side and the Strwiaz on the other – which come together after Sambor in the vicinity of Dolubova. In the pre-historic period the Dniester, at a distance of about three kilometers from Sambor, created a special kind of tributary called Mlinuvka, which, separating completely from the Dniester, falls into the river Strwionz. The Dniester and the Mlinuvka add a natural charm to Sambor.
The grant of municipal rights led to people flocking to the city – Poles, Germans, Russians and Jews.
From the city's founding, Spytko saw to its development and granted it many rights. In January 1394, King Wladyslaw Jagiello, at Spytko's request, exempted the inhabitants from paying various taxes. Not for very long, however, did Sambor benefit from his actions for the good of the city. In 1399 Spytko participated in the war against the Tatars, in which he was killed on 12 August 1399 near the river Worskla (see: Battle of the Vorskla River). After his death, the Sambor properties passed to his wife, Elzbieta Melsztynska.
In the earliest times, Sambor had natural conditions for development of commerce, lying as it did on the important commercial route where the Baltic Sea, through the river San, and the Black Sea, through the river Dniester, are connected. The Dniester had already played an important role as a natural water route leading to Akerman near the Black Sea. From there, the Greek merchants reached the land of Scythia with their products. Through Sambor, an important dry land route also led to Hungary, and by this passage to the borders of Poland, merchandise was brought such as timber, salt, cattle, fox and bear skins, honey, and from Hungary, particularly wines. The Sambor merchants would purchase from the Hungarian merchants wines, horses, leather, cloth and various fruits.
From Sambor there was also a road to Lviv through Rudki and Komarno, which connected it with the commercial center of goods from the east, making Sambor an important commercial juncture.
Sambor was rebuilt several times. In 1498, when Poland was attacked by the Turks and the Tatars, it was burnt down completely. And before the population had recovered from this disaster, the city was threatened, in 1515, by an invasion by the Tatars. In the 16th century, a new Sambor was established on the ruins of the burnt-out wooden houses.
In 1530, in view of all the invasions and attacks on the city, the Starosta (district governor) Krzysztof Odrowaz Szydlowski surrounded it with a thick wall and deep trenches, to enable it to be defended. For two hundred and fifty years, Sambor, thus enclosed, was compelled to shrink, limiting itself to narrow streets, without any possibility of expanding and developing naturally. The city was frozen into restricting borders until the first years of the Austrian conquest in 1772 (see: Partitions of Poland).
The city's walls, gates and towers were of much concern to the city fathers, who imposed heavy taxes on the population to cover the costs of safeguarding them for defense. Furthermore, each of the eleven artisans' guilds in the city had to take upon itself the obligation to guard and defend a certain part of the wall, as well as provide arms at its own expense.
In the center of the market place stood Ratusz (City Hall), with a clock tower on it. This building, the most important in the rebuilt city, was entirely destroyed in 1637 in a fire that wiped out almost all of Sambor. The new Ratusz was completed only in 1668, and then, for the first time, at the top of the tower the city emblem was unfurled: a deer with an arrow in its throat.
The Royal Palace
Second in importance for defense was the royal palace, which was situated outside the city walls, in the suburb of Blich. At first it was built of wood and was burnt down in 1498. When the Starosta Shidlovski rebuilt it in 1530, near the Dniester, he built it as a fortress, surrounded by moats, behind which were earthen walls. In the royal palace, which was the seat of the Starosta, there was, besides the service workers numbering sixty-five in 1569, a garrison composed of infantry and cavalry. This army was intended not only to protect the palace, but also to safeguard the peace and security of Sambor and the vicinity. Furthermore, it was needed to stamp out gangs which would infiltrate from Hungary and spread panic in the neighborhood.
The royal palace of Sambor had the honor to host within it almost all the kings of Poland and heads of state; many splendid receptions were held there with the participation of the city's notables.