In the period of creating Polish statehood the land of Żory, as it is now, was inhabited by Golęszyców tribe. In the second half of the 9th century this land was lying within the big-moravian borders and then, in 1921, within Czech. At the end of the 10th century Silesia region was joined to Poland by the prince Mieszko I.
On 24th February 1272 Wladyslaw, the prince of Opole, bought the merchant settlement of Żory from the knight Chwalisz and bestowed the municipal rights upon it. The document which confirmed that fact was signed in Racibórz in the presence of the knights. At that time Żory had around 300 inhabitants. The document was not preserved and it is known only through its facsimile. Probably then, the erection of defensive walls started.
Żory belonged to Silesian princes from the Piast Dynasty since it became the town and it was connected with them until the 15th century despite its dependency on other monarchies long after that. In 1327 as a result of a tribute paid by Leszek – the prince of Racibórz to Jan Luksemburski – the king of Czech, Żory lost its connetion with Poland and found itself under the Czech reign. In 1345, during the war in Silesia region, Żory was besieged by the army of Casimir the Great- king of Poland. However, he did not manage to conquer the town. During the Hussitian war in Silesian region in 1433, Żory was besieged by Hussitian army. Due to the inhabitants’ dedication and excellent fortifications, Żory did not surrender.
In 1526 Żory, as well as the rest of Silesia, became a part of Habsburg monarchy. At the same time, the Reformation started to spread across the country. In 1569 the Lutherans took over catholic temple in Żory and occupied it until 1629.
In 1742, after Silesian war Żory became a part of Prussia and since 1871 a part of German territory. Within The Third Partition in 1795 the independent state of Poland ceased to exist and its territory was divided among Russian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia and Habsburg Austria.
After 123 years of slavery Poland gained its independence in 1918. The inhabitants of Silesia and Żory decided to fight to become a part of Polish territory again. That is why, between 1919-1921 there were three uprisings - so called Silesian Uprisings. Finally after 6 centuries, on 4th July 1922, the town of Żory becomes a part of Polish territory again.
On the 1st September 1939, Germany attacked Poland. The Second World War started. Nazi occupation in Żory lasted over 5 years. At that time many inhabitants from Żory died in prisons, concentration camps and on the battlefield. Just before the liberation (19th & 20th January 1945) Żory witnessed the march of Oświęcim prisoners, so called „Death March”. After two-month siege, on 24th March 1945, the town was liberated by Russian and Czech army. During one single day Żory was destroyed in 80% and many of its ihabitants died under the ruins of the buildings.
After the war the reconstruction of the town started. In the 70s and 80s of the 20th century there was an intensive demographic growth in Żory connected with the development of the mining industry and the development of the town itself. At present, after a big shakeup in the mining industry, the town has changed its character from the industrial into commercial and service oriented.
Bird’s – eye view of Żory The plan of the town and its housing estates
Numerous fires are the unique part of the town’s history: 1552 – half of the town was burnt down 1661 – Saint Mary’s Assumption Church (made of wood) was destroyed by the fire 1702 – the wooden part of the town burnt down utterly 1807 – medieval wooden church – Saint Mary’s Church was destroyed by the flames For over 300 years, on 11th May, Żory commemorates the great fire of 1702. The Fire Festival is a unique event which is celebrated only in one part of Europe – in the town of Żory.