The town was established by Duke of SilesiaHenry IV Probus as Frankenstein in the early 13th century, following the Mongol invasion. It was sited on a piece of land that belonged partly to the episcopal lands of Procan (German Protzan, modern Zwrócona) and partly to the Monastery at Trzebnica (German Trebnitz). The town was located exactly halfways between the sites of two previously existing towns that had failed to attract enough settlers: Frankenberg and Löwenstein, and inherited its German name from both.
Its positioning on the so-called Königstraße (King's Road) between Prague and Breslau, not too far from the commercially important city of Glatz would favour the development of the town. The town received municipal rights around 1280, the first mention of civitas Frankenstein is dated January 10, 1287. As from 1335 it belonged to Bohemia, and from 1742 to Prussia.
In the early 17th century the plague killed about one third of the population, and it has been speculated that events at that time may have inspired the Frankenstein story.
In 1858 the town burned down and had to be rebuilt. On this occasion, the upper part of the 15th-century leaning tower was reconstructed in a straight manner. The town was a county seat from 1816 to 1945. After World War II the town passed to Poland (along with most of Silesia) and was renamed Ząbkowice Śląskie in 1946, after the German population had fled or been expelled.