Market Square filled with baroque and neoclassical architecture
CC BY-SA 4.0
A settlement of the Lusatian culture people existed in the 8th century B.C. Around the 5th century B.C. After Celtic invasions beyond upper danube basin the area of Legnica was inhabited by their tribes. Tacitus and Ptolemy recorded the Germanic Lugii in the area, and mentioned their town of Lugidunum, which has been attributed to both Legnica and Głogów.
Slavic Lechitic tribes moved into the area in the 8th century.
The city was first officially mentioned in chronicles from 1004, although settlement dates to the 7th century. It is mentioned in 1149 when the High Duke of Poland Bolesław IV the Curly funded a chapel at the St. Benedict monastery. Legnica was the most likely place of residence for Bolesław and it became the residence of the High Dukes of Poland in 1163 and was the seat of a principality ruled from 1248–1675.
Battle of Legnica
Legnica became famous for the battle that took place at Legnickie Pole near the city on 9 April 1241 during the Mongol invasion of Europe. The Christian army of the Polish duke Henry II the Pious of Silesia, supported by feudal nobility, which included in addition to Poles, Bavarian miners and military orders and Czech troops, was decisively defeated by the Mongols. The Mongols killed Henry and destroyed his forces, then turned south to rejoin the rest of the Mongol armies, which were massing at the Plain of Mohi in Hungary via Moravia against a coalition of King Bela IV and his armies, and Bela's Kipchak allies.
Duchy of Legnica
As the capital of the Duchy of Legnica at the beginning of the 14th century, Legnica was one of the most important cities of Central Europe, having a population of nearly 16,000 residents. The city began to expand quickly after the discovery of gold in the Kaczawa River between Legnica and Złotoryja .
Unfortunately, such a growth rate can not be maintained long. Shortly after the city reached its maximum population increase, wooden buildings arising during this rapid growth has been devastated by, a huge fire which decreased number of inhabitants and halted any significant further development for many decades.
Holy Roman Empire
Legnica, along with other Silesian duchies, became a vassal of the Kingdom of Bohemia during the 14th century and was included within the Holy Roman Empire. The Protestant Reformation was introduced in the duchy as early as 1522 and the population became Lutheran. After the death of King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia at Mohács in 1526, Legnica was inherited by the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria. The first map of Silesia was made by native son Martin Helwig.
In 1676, Legnica passed to direct Habsburg rule after the death of the last Silesian Piast duke, Georg Wilhelm (son of Duke Christian of Brieg), despite the earlier inheritance pact by Brandenburg and Silesia, by which it was to go to Brandenburg. Silesian aristocracy was trained at the Liegnitz Ritter-Akademie.
War of the Austrian Succession
In 1742 most of Silesia, including Liegnitz, became part of the Kingdom of Prussia after King Frederick the Great's defeat of Austria in the War of the Austrian Succession. In 1760 during the Seven Years' War, Liegnitz was the site of the Battle of Liegnitz when Frederick's army defeated an Austrian army led by Laudon.
Congress of Vienna
In 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars, the Prussians, under Field Marshal Blücher, defeated the French forces of MacDonald in the Battle of Katzbach nearby.
After the administrative reorganization of the Prussian state following the Congress of Vienna, Liegnitz and the surrounding territory were incorporated into the Regierungsbezirk (administrative district) of Liegnitz, within the Province of Silesia on 1 May 1816. Along with the rest of Prussia, the town became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the unification of Germany. On 1 January 1874 Liegnitz became the third city in Lower Silesia (after Breslau and Görlitz) to be raised to an urban district, although the district administrator of the surrounding Landkreis of Liegnitz continued to have his seat in the city. Its military garrison was home to Königsgrenadier-Regiment Nr. 7 a military unit formed almost exclusively out of Polish soldiers.
The 20th century
The census of 1910 gave Liegnitz's population as 95.86% German, 0.15% German and Polish, 1.27% Polish, 2.26% Wendish, and 0.19% Czech. On 1 April 1937 parts of the Landkreis of Liegnitz communities of Alt Beckern, Groß Beckern, Hummel, Liegnitzer Vorwerke, Pfaffendorf und Prinkendorf were incorporated into the city of Liegnitz. After the Treaty of Versailles following World War I, Liegnitz was part of the newly created Province of Lower Silesia from 1919 to 1938, then of the Province of Silesia from 1938 to 1941, and again of the Province of Lower Silesia from 1941 to 1945.
After the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II, Liegnitz and all of Silesia east of the Neisse was transferred to Poland following the Potsdam Conference in 1945. The German population was expelled from between 1945 and 1947 and Poles took their place. As the medieval Polish name Lignica was considered archaic, the town was renamed Legnica. The transfer to Poland decided at Potsdam in 1945 was officially recognized by East Germany in 1950, by West Germany under Chancellor Willy Brandt in the Treaty of Warsaw signed in 1970, and finally by the reunited Germany by the Two Plus Four Agreement in 1990. By 1990 only a handful of Polonized Germans, prewar citizens of Liegnitz, remained of the pre-1945 German population. In 2010 the city celebrated the 65th anniversary of the "return of Legnica to Poland" and its liberation from the Nazis.
The city was only partly damaged in World War II. After 1965 most parts of the preserved old town with its town houses were demolished, the historical layout was abolished, and the city was rebuilt in modern form.
From 1945 to 1990, during the Cold War, the headquarters of the Soviet forces in Poland, the so-called Northern Group of Forces, was located in the city. This fact had a strong influence on the life of the city. For much of the period, the city was divided into Polish and Soviet areas, with the latter closed to the public. These were first established in July 1945, when the Soviets forcibly ejected newly arrived Polish inhabitants from the parts of the city they wanted for their own use. The ejection was perceived by some as a particularly brutal action, and rumours circulated exaggerating its severity, though no evidence of anyone being killed in the course of it has come to light. In April 1946 city officials estimated that there were 16,700 Poles, 12,800 Germans, and 60,000 Soviets in Legnica. The last Soviet units left the city in 1993.