Lubiąż – a place overshadowed by the monastery towers
Lubiąż is situated on the right bank of the Odra River, which makes a bend here on turning from the north to the west. In the vicinity of the village, on the old trade route leading from the east to the west, there used to be a passage, allowing one to cross the river and connecting Legnica with Great Poland (Wielkopolska) via Wołów and Żmigród. The passage was protected by a settlement, established in early Middle Ages. Already in the foundation charter of the local monastery, dated 12th century, the settlement was referred to as old. Situated on the contemporary monastery hill, the settlement was surrounded by revetment consisting of pilings and ramparts. Gradually, a market, from which the later town of Lubiąż developed, was established at the junction of the trade routes.
Legendary accounts relate the foundation of the settlement and its name to the times of Julius Caesar. In historic sources one can find the names of Lubens, Lubes, Lubensia, Lewbis, Leubis, Leubbus, Leubes, Leubus and Lubiąż. There have been many attempts at explaining the etymology of the name Lubiąż. It might have derived from the word Lubięż, which is an alternant of Lubiąż or from the possessive form of the proper name Lubięga, or from the words Lubiesz or Luby, signifying a nice, pleasant place. One cannot exclude the topographic explanation, relating the name Lubiąż to the root lub-, meaning “a marshy area, covered with thick grass”.
The above-mentioned founding charter from 1175 enumerates the possessions of a newly established Cistercian monastery, which was granted, e.g. the passage on the Odra River, the village of Lubiąż and St John the Evangelist’s Church at the Lubiąż market place. Ever since, Lubiąż had been inextricably connected with the Cistercian abbey and, dependent on the monastery by means of legal bonds, paid various services to it. A charter which was granted in 1412 by Henry I the Bearded, Prince of Wrocław, exempted Lubiąż from the duties imposed on it by the Polish law, with the exception of duties to the hauliers and those concerning the trade in salt. Moreover, the abbot’s subjects could not be summoned to court without his consent or enlisted for war expeditions. In return, they had to work for the monastery for an unspecified period of time. The existence of a market place, where the local people could gather to purchase goods, was a mark of prestige for a given community. It was also a source of income for the rulers, who were able to discern the benefits of conferring new grants to the village.
On 15th June, 1249 Prince Bolesław II the Bald of Legnica issued a charter of incorporation, thus transforming the trade settlement into a town based on the średzkie law. The newly acquired urban rights involved the introduction of the German law, court system, trade law and a monetary system which replaced the earlier barter. The document stated: We have decided, agreed upon and granted by a decree that the inhabitants of the trade settlement which goes by the name of Lubiąż shall enjoy that same German law and that same freedom as the citizens of Środa Śląska. Hereby they shall relish the court system and all the values upon which the German law and freedom rely.
Shortly after, a monastery village of the same name was founded between the town of Lubiąż and the Cistercian abbey. The village and monastery were developing and expanding together, along the road connecting the monastery with the town.
In the 18th century, after Silesia was incorporated into Prussia, certain legal changes were imposed on the status of towns, which were thenceforth divided into excise and non-excise ones, the latter also termed market towns. Excise towns had their own municipalities and enjoyed a relative autonomy. Lubiąż, on the other hand, which was a market town, was subordinate to a landed starost. Since their inhabitants made a living off farming, market towns reminded of large villages rather than urban areas. Rapid development of the abbey and the adjoining village, whose inhabitants soon outnumbered the inhabitants of the town three to one, gradually deprived the town of its market and urban functions. In 1884, when the commune of Lubiąż failed to introduce its representative to the assembly of townships, the urban rights of the town expired.
The coat of arms of Lubiąż, which originated in the Middle Ages, features the image of a white Agnus Dei (The Lamb of God), against a red background. The Lamb is treading the green grass and carrying a white banner and a red cross, a golden halo above its head. The votive element (i.e. the image of Agnus Dei carrying the banner of Ressurection) might have symbolized the relationship of the town with the local monastery. The coat of arms was also present in the field of the court seal, which was still in use after the loss of urban rights by Lubiąż. The seal (25 centimetres in diameter) had the sign STAEDTEL LEUBUS GERICHT SIG around its rim.
Lubiąż the town and Lubiąż the village existed independently of each other. Each of them was a fully sovereign unit with its own local authority (the commune head), registry office, school, post office and a few lesser institutions. The official unification of the two localities took place as late as 1928. Interestingly enough, the loss of the urban status and the suppression of the monastery did not result in the downfall of the place which had depended on the abbey for so many years. The distance separating Lubiąż from the nearest urban areas as well as problems with transport, common in those times, facilitated the development of commerce and services. This process is best illustrated by the statistics showing a significant increase in the number of inhabitants in the years following the secularization of the monastery. In 1810 Lubiąż had 2,000 inhabitants but at the beginning of the 20th century there had already lived 2,730 people there and as many as 4,250 were attested in the 1939 census. The establishment of a stud farm in 1817, the foundation of an asylum for the mentally ill in the post-monastic complex and the building of a new hospital and a farm in the years 1902-1910 must have had a great impact on the development of the village. The establishment of a railway connection with Wołów and Malczyce between 1918 and 1923 was a milestone in the history of Lubiąż. Following the railway enterprise, a new bridge was erected, which allowed the inhabitants of Lubiąż a convenient access to the places situated on the right bank of the Odra River.
According to a census dated 1939, the commerce and services in Lubiąż employed: 9 merchants, 8 hotel-keepers, 8 cobblers, 7 butchers, 5 men’s tailors, 3 women’s tailors, 4 men’s hairdressers, 1 women’s hairdresser, 4 bakers, 2 confectioners, 3 painters, 3 sheet-metal workers, 3 blacksmiths, 2 roofers, 2 locksmiths, 2 bricklayers and 2 saddlers. There was also a cooper, a miller, a watchmaker, a porter, a wickerwork craftsman, a photographer, a haulier and a taxi-driver.
Lubiąż could boast a high standard of health service, comprising not only people (4 physicians, 3 dentists and 3 midwives) but also institutions like 2 psychiatric hospitals and “The Eagle” chemist’s in Willmana Steet. The events of World War II did not affect Lubiąż directly, with the exception of the bridge on the Odra River, which was blown up by the German army, withdrawing before the approaching Soviets. On 26th January, 1945 the Red Army entered Lubiąż, not encountering any resistance. The soldiers occupied the monastery complex and the northern part of the village, including the hospitals and the three churches. It was the beginning of the most tragic period in the history of the place. The Soviets remained in Lubiąż up to 15th March, 1948, which impeded the effective establishment of the Polish administration and the settlement. In effect, until 1951 the seat of local authorities was in Mojęcice and St Valentine’s Parish could be established as late as 1957. Since the Red Army also occupied the school buildings, at the end of 1946 some private lodgings were adopted for school purposes.
The first representative of the Polish government in Lubiąż was Roman Ławiński, nominated as the clerk responsible for the action of settlement. The representative of the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers in Silesia came to Lubiąż to establish its first company – a distillery, which started production on 25th May, 1945. In the lack of Polish settlers, the company employed Polish forced labourers, who remained in Lubiąż. The functioning of the distillery was of crucial importance because its products were used as a currency in contacts with the Soviets.
In the autumn of 1845 the first group of people displaced from the eastern city of Żyrardów arrived in Lubiąż. Another group, from Poznanka in the province of Tarnopol, came to the village in June, 1946 and May, 1947 was the time of the arrival of the repatriates from France. First settlers, due to housing problems, lived with the German families, displaced in 1946. After the Soviets left Lubiąż, a considerable number of buildings were pulled down to provide materials for rebuilding the capital.
In 1957 the psychiatric hospital resumed its functioning. Three years later the railway was closed.
The gradual development of Lubiąż started anew in the 70’s and 80’s of the 20th century. It was then that the Odra was bridged and new buildings were erected, including a school, police station, health centre, blocks of flats and a few detached houses.
The contemporary Lubiąż has more than 2,000 inhabitants and possesses numerous historic and natural values which favour the development of tourism.