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City of Pułtusk
City of Pułtusk
Flag of Pułtusk
Coat of arms of Pułtusk
Coat of arms
Pułtusk is located in Poland
Coordinates: 52°42′N 21°5′E / 52.700°N 21.083°E / 52.700; 21.083
Country Poland
Voivodeship Masovian
County Pułtusk County
Gmina Gmina Pułtusk
Established 11th century
Town rights 1257
 • Mayor Krzysztof Nuszkiewicz
 • Total 22.83 km2 (8.81 sq mi)
Elevation 80 m (260 ft)
Population (2006)
 • Total 19,229
 • Density 840/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code 06-100
Area code(s) +48 023
Car plates WPU
Website www.pultusk.pl

Pułtusk ([ˈpuu̯tusk]; German: Ostenburg) is a town in Poland by the river Narew, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Warsaw. It is located in the Masovian Voivodship and has about 19,000 inhabitants.

In 1339 Pułtusk was granted town rights and throughout the 15th and 17th centuries, it was one of the most important economic centres in the Masovian region. The favorable placement of the town on the Narew River, where grain and other goods were transported to Gdańsk, contributed to the town’s growth and importance. Moreover, the construction of Europe’s longest paved market square (380 meters in length) was a sign of the town’s economic success.[1]

During the millennium of its existence, Pułtusk was possibly the most invaded town in Poland. Despite the extent of the destruction, especially during World War II, the town was reconstructed, and is now one of the most recognized and admired tourist destinations in the north-eastern part of the country because of its historical and unique architecture.[1] It is one of the most popular weekend places for the inhabitants of Warsaw.

Pułtusk is one of the oldest towns in Poland and, due to its beauty and floating gondolas, it is known as "Little Polish Venice".[2]


Middle Ages[edit]

The Interior of the Gothic Church of Bazylika Zwiastowania at Pułtusk

The town has existed since at least the 10th century. In the Middle Ages, the Castle in Pułtusk was one of the most important defensive forts in northern Masovia against the attacks of Old Prussians and Lithuanians. According to a legend, the town initially was known as Tusk, however, after a flood that destroyed half of the city it was renamed to Pułtusk (Pół- or puł- being a Polish prefix for a half). However, historians assume that the town got its name from a small river named Pełta.

From the 11th century onwards, the town belonged to the bishops of Płock. Thanks to a ford on the river located nearby, Pułtusk became an important centre of trade and commerce. It received its civic charter based on that of Chełmno in 1257 (Kulm law). In 1440 an academy was founded in the town, becoming the most influential schools of higher education in the Polish Kingdom. Among its professors were Jakub Wujek and Piotr Skarga. By 1595 there were more than 600 students, and their number reached 900 by 1696.

The town was destroyed by Lithuanians in 1262 and 1324. In the 14th century Pułtusk became the official seat of Płock bishops. The town was again burnt by Lithuanians in 1368, but following the Union of Krewo the Lithuanian raids were stopped and the town quickly recovered. By the 15th century Pułtusk's merchants were among the richest in Poland. The town was granted a privilege of organizing nine grand markets a year and two 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.

In around 1405, the Mayor's House, today known as the "Polonia House" or "Polonia Castle", was constructed. In 1449 a Gothic church was added to the city's facilities. In the 16th century the castle was rebuilt by several renowned Italian architects, including Giovanni Battista of Venice and Bartolommeo Berrecci, and Giovanni Cini of Siena.

In Poland-Lithuania[edit]

In 1566 one of the first public theatres in Poland was established in Pułtusk. In the 16th century the town was visited by many notable individuals, such as Jan Kochanowski, King Sigismund III, and Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski. In 1530 the first Masovian printing house was opened.

On 21 April 1703 during the Great Northern War, a decisive battle was fought in Pułtusk where the Swedish army under Charles XII defeated and captured a large part of the Saxon army under Graf von Steinau. Although the town and the castle were initially conquered by Polish forces, they were later recaptured by the Swedish army, which looted and destroyed it.

After the Partitions of Poland, the town was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia. The Polish forces of General Antoni Madaliński stationed in Pułtusk in 1794 declined to obey Prussian orders and started their march towards Kraków. This marked the start of the Kościuszko Uprising. Prussian rule lasted only a few years.

Under the partitions[edit]

Yet another Battle of Pułtusk was fought on 26 December 1806, between forces of Imperial Russia and Imperial France. The battle became so famous that its name is inscribed on the 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 Napoléon 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 epidemic 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 30 January 1868 a meteorite fell in Pułtusk. It was one of the biggest to fall in Europe and large chunks of it (9 kg (20 lb) each) are nowadays present at the British Museum.

The great 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.

20th century and World War II[edit]

The Pułtusk Town Hall is standing in the central part of the longest paved market square in Europe

The town was also a battleground in the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, at the eve of the Battle of Warsaw. In 1931 the town had some 16,800 inhabitants. As a result of the invasion of Poland in 1939 it was incorporated into Nazi Germany; from 1941-1945 it was known in German as Ostenburg. During the German occupation approximately 50% of the city's inhabitants were forcibly deported, some to concentration camps.[3] In the battle for Pułtusk during World War II over 16,000 soldiers of the Soviet Red Army were killed. As a result of the battle approximately 85% of the city was destroyed.

There was also a strong Jewish presence in Pułtusk before the Holocaust. The first Jews here settled in the 15th century, but the community only started to flourish in the 19th century. At the start of the 19th century, only about 120 Jews lived in the city. Throughout that century, though, the Jewish population increased rapidly to nearly 7,000 in the mid-19th century. By the year 1900, around 6,000 called Pułtusk home, but the population had been decreasing because of factors such as World War I, which caused many to migrate to nearby Warsaw. Following the war, the pre-Holocaust population rose to about 7,500 accounting for roughly half of the total population of the town. On September 7, 1939, the city became under the control of Nazi Germany. On September 27, the Jews were forced to leave and some eventually made their way to the Soviet border. The descendants of Pułtusk Jewry are now found mainly in Israel, the United States, Canada, and Argentina.

Points of interest[edit]

Collegiate Church of Annunciation in Pułtusk
Saints Peter and Paul Church in Pułtusk
The Polonia Castle

Currently Pułtusk is one of the most picturesque towns of Masovia. Located on the Narew river, it is one of the most popular weekend places for inhabitants of Warsaw. Points of interest include:

  • Collegiate Church of Annunciation
  • Small Gothic church with unique Renaissance stuccos
  • The Old Town market (reputedly the longest market square in Europe)[4]
  • Town Hall
  • Polonia Castle (now a hotel named Dom Polonii)
  • Ogródek Jordanowski, one of the first children playgrounds in Poland
  • Monument to murdered Jewish residents of Pułtusk. The population of Pułtusk included approximately 9,000 Jews in 1939 before the Holocaust in Poland
  • Soviet military cemetery


International relations[edit]

Twin towns — Sister cities[edit]

Pułtusk is twinned with:

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Local history - Information about the town - Pułtusk - Virtual Shtetl". Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "Pułtusk – atrakcje i kosmiczna historia mazowieckiej Wenecji". 25 April 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Gilbert, Martin (15 May 1987). "The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War". Macmillan. Retrieved 30 March 2017 – via Google Books. 
  4. ^ (in Polish) Nasze Miasto - Pułtusk (History of Pułtusk), Pułtusk Academy of Humanities (Akademia Humanistyczna im. Aleksandra Gieysztora in Pułtusk)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°43′N 21°06′E / 52.717°N 21.100°E / 52.717; 21.100