Písek (German: Pisek) is a town in the district of the same name
in the South Bohemian Region, 44 km northwest of České Budějovice,
on the Otava River. Approximately 30,000 people live here. Písek was
founded in 1243 and its historic core is a city monument zone.
From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, it was a regional town, the seat of the Prácheň region. In Písek there is a stone bridge from the 13th century, which is the oldest Czech standing bridge. Other sights include the royal castle, the Gothic Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary with the clock tower, which is the dominant feature of the city, and several sections of preserved walls, most of which were demolished during the Industrial Revolution.
Due to the relatively high number of secondary schools, Písek is sometimes said to be a university town. There is no real university in the city, but since 2003 there has been a private university, the Miroslav Ondříček Film Academy, established from the VOŠ. Písek has two theaters, a cultural house, a hospital, a football stadium and an important provincial stud farm. The city center together with the wider area is largely renovated. To support the developing tourism, there is an information center in the city center, namely in the building of the former malt house together with facilities for children.
Prehistory and the Middle Ages
People first appeared in the Písek basin at the end of the Early Stone Age and settled north of today's town. The first people to enter the site of the later medieval city were the Celts. Two mounds with Celtic treasure were found in the field between Hradiště and Putimí. The rarest was a metal wrought-beak teapot, followed by several gold bars and gold and silver ornaments.
The impetus for the founding of Písek was mineral wealth in the form of gold-bearing sand. Probably since the end of the 12th century, the Rice village was standing on the right bank of the river Otava. The resulting settlement was called "Na Písku". Later, the settlement became a market village with the church of St. Wenceslas. Písek's gold mining ended in the 16th century, and several attempts to resurrect it did not live up to expectations. The name of the town is thus derived from panning for gold-bearing sand.
The town of Písek was first mentioned in the date form of a document of King Wenceslas I issued in 1243, which began to build a castle near the settlement on a rocky bank. The location of the town could have taken place at the end of the reign of Wenceslas I, but the actual construction was due to his son Přemysl Otakar II.
The city was not founded just for gold mining. At the same time, it was to protect the trade Golden Route, which crossed the Otava in these places, and also to be the base of royal power. All the main buildings (the town castle, the stone bridge, the parish church, the Dominican monastery, the rychta) grew up together with the fortifications, perhaps in just two decades, during which the king stayed here several times; in 1258–1265, with one exception annually. This was the heyday of Písek, which at that time was one of the foremost cities in the kingdom and reached a significance that never happened again.
When the king founded Nový Písek on the left bank of the river, the settlement of Starý Písek did not explicitly wish to be associated with Nový Písek, and therefore the king guaranteed independence to the inhabitants of Starý Písek. In the 13th century, however, Nový Písek took over the role of the seat of the Prácheň region, which until then had been filled by Prácheň Castle. Starý and Nový Písek only merged after centuries.
In 1327 (another source states the year 1308), Jan of Luxembourg granted the city the city rights of the Old Town of Prague (the right to collect tolls, exemption from customs duties and tolls, the right to miles, to establish a salt warehouse, granaries - the largest in Bohemia at that time, etc.). Both John of Luxembourg and Charles IV stayed in Písek for a short time, confirming Nový Písek as the capital of the Prácheň Region. King Wenceslas IV. he often visited the city and was the last ruler to stay at the local castle. During the Hussite wars, Písek played an important role and stood on the side of the reform movement from the very beginning. The people of Písek were one of the first to join the Hussite movement.
On August 20, 1419, the Píseč family successfully attacked the Dominican monastery and subsequently became one of the first to join the Unity of Tábor. Like in Tábor and Písek, vats were placed in which the citizens handed over their wealth for the benefit of the city. Písek has the lead over Tábor over these vats.
During the Hussites, Jan Žižka was a frequent guest in the town. At that time, the Hussite governor Matěj Louda from Chlumčany became the ruler of Písek. The people of Písek remained true to the ideas of the Hussites until the end. The first and last bishop of the fraternity, Mikuláš of Pelhřimov, also worked at the parish in the town. After the military defeat of Tábor by George of Poděbrady, an agreement was reached after the threat of the Píseks.
In the following period, there was an unprecedented prosperity of the city, which allowed the city to buy the royal castle in Písek and the royal estate in 1509. Písek's property and influence ranged from Mirotic to Protivín. In 1532, a large fire engulfed the town, which destroyed a large part of the town.
Under the Habsburg scepter
After the Prague defenestration in 1618, Písek joined the Estates Party. This resulted in the burning of the Písek suburbs and surrounding villages by imperial troops in March 1619. During the Thirty Years' War, the city was besieged, shelled and eventually looted by General Buquoy, Mansfeld and a year later by Maximilian of Bavaria. During each conquest, the city was burned and the population almost killed.
In 1623, the imperial general Martin de Huerta, popularly nicknamed "Poberta", was appointed as the administrator of the town. One year after the administrator's death, the town was re-established as a regional town, and in 1641 some royal privileges were returned to it, but with the explicit addition that only the Catholic population of the town could use them. At the beginning of the 18th century, there were financial problems of the city and the plague raging in the area. As a token of gratitude that the city was protected by the plague, the Píseč family had a Marian sculpture built in Malé (Alešov) Square.
Písek was again affected by the war in the years 1741 to 1742,
when a French garrison was stationed here, returning from Prague,
against which the Austrian army set out. The people of Písek were
afraid that the city would be reconquered, burned and destroyed, so
they promised the Virgin Mary that if the city was spared, they
would run a city festival every year. It then took place for many
centuries (during the communist regime it was banned, but restored
after 1991). In 1778 a grammar school was established in the town,
in 1860 a Czech real school was added and in 1866 a Czech office was
established at the town hall. In 1861 the first Czech higher girls'
school was established, in 1870 the first peasant school, in 1884
the district school and in 1899 the first forestry school.
The national revival in Písek was very intense thanks to outstanding personalities. The magazine Poutník od Otavy was even published here, which then replaced Otavan. The establishment of the Sokol gymnastics unit in 1868 also contributed to the encouragement of national consciousness.
At the end of the 19th century, Písek underwent industrial development, industrial production of fezzes, a paper mill, a tobacco factory were established here, and roads were built around the town. In 1875, Písek was connected by rail with Prague. The town museum was founded in 1884, and in 1887 Písek introduced electric lighting with František Křižík's arched lamps as the third town in Bohemia. The following year, the municipal hydroelectric power plant was put into operation. During this period, Písek was a regional town in the Prácheň Region, but due to the distance from the main railway line, it did not become an important town. In 1891, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk became a member of the Austrian Imperial Council with the help of Písek voters.
20th and 21st centuries
An independent republic was proclaimed in Písek, similarly to some other towns, on October 14, 1918, when a general strike took place. Subsequently, however, the railway workers from Prague brought information that the republic had not yet been officially declared, so the Písečs parted ways. The Hungarian (Hungarian) military garrison was relocated to the city and an investigation into the coup attempt began. For the duration of the first Czechoslovak Republic, Písek continued its pre-war traditions. It remained a popular place for students, summer guests and retirees who intended to spend a quiet old age here.
The German occupation of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia and the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia brought Písek great hardship. Many people perished in execution sites and concentration camps; some residents took part in both domestic and foreign resistance. The occupation ended with the arrival of American troops on the evening of May 6, 1945. Soviet troops did not arrive in the city until May 10.
After the Second World War, especially after the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia seized power in February 1948, the face of Písek began to change. National companies such as the Jitex, Kovosvit and Elektropřístroj textile plants were established in the city. A slaughterhouse was built, the timber industry developed, etc. The construction of new buildings and housing estates also began (South and Dukla, development on Nábřeží 1. máje). During the so-called socialist era, a statue of Panning for Gold was erected on Nábřeží 1.Máje. A footbridge was created connecting the Dukla housing estate and buildings on the waterfront, constructed of concrete panels and conceived as a self-supporting suspended footbridge over the Otava River.
During the floods in August 2002, the stone medieval bridge was severely damaged, but due to the fact that it was anchored in the rock below the river in 1995, the onslaught of water generally withstood. Not only the Stone Bridge was hit, but also the footbridge near the housing estate: at night during the floods, the water reached its structure, while the stream of water tore down the railing and dangerously twisted the footbridge. After the floods, it was rebuilt and received several cosmetic changes. On the site of today's parking lot in the Dukla housing estate stood an old factory for fezzos (nicknamed "fezovka"), which had to be demolished due to broken statics; before the floods it was largely unused.
On May 8, 2006, a memorial to Czech pilots in England, mostly
natives of Písek or its vicinity, was unveiled in Písek. Písek has a
good infrastructure, especially it is one of the few cities where a
comprehensive camera system is built. The town of Písek plans to
rebuild the Otava embankment, in the place between the Old and New
Bridges, which was once built by Fischergasse Street (Rybářská
Street), into the open-air recreational and cultural center of the
town. This waterfront, which lies opposite the newly built right
waterfront in Portyc (the name of the site refers to it very similar
to the northern Italian city), is today a busy but not very
well-maintained place. However, the city councils do not support the
winning proposal of the commission, however, the probable winner
will come from the first three places in the public tender. At the
end of 2013, the reconstruction of Fügner Square in the city center
was completed, and part of the cost of the project was also
financially supported by the AISIN company located in the
Písek-Sever industrial zone.
The town of Písek is doing relatively successfully at the beginning of the 21st century. One of the recognitions was the Diamond Prize for the best living conditions in a survey conducted by KPMG Czech Republic in 2012, in strong competition in the category of medium-sized cities in the Czech Republic. After the municipal elections held in the autumn of 2014, Eva Vanžurová from the Jihočeš 2012 group became the mayor of the city. She replaced Ondřej Veselý in this position.
Jews in Písek
The Jews lived in Písek from the end of the 14th century until 1424, when they were expelled. They began to settle here again at the beginning of the 17th century, they experienced their greatest prosperity after the middle of the 19th century, in 1880 449 of them lived here and thus formed a large part of the urban population. In 1872, a synagogue was built on the site of the original prayer house, documented from the beginning of the 18th century, which still stands in Soukenická Street. The synagogue, built in the pseudo-Moorish style in 1872, was closed to the public in 1953–1996. During communism, the building fell into disrepair as a warehouse for wholesale textiles. After the return of the Jewish community, it is gradually being repaired today, the reconstruction is now relatively close to completion. There is also a Jewish cemetery from 1876 near the town, about 60 tombstones have been preserved, and the buildings were demolished in 1968–1969. The original older cemetery has not been preserved.