Gorlice - City of Light

Gorlice Market Square, bird’s eye view of townhouses, square and tree-lined avenues.
Gorlice is a picturesque town founded around 1355 by Dersław Karwacjan, located at the gates of the Low Beskids. A place not yet so crowded, where there are no crowds of tourists queueing up to see the local attractions. However, there are plenty of natural gems, architectural wonders and reminders of events that have made a lasting mark on history. As the unofficial capital of the Low Beskids, the town, has been a meeting place of religions as well as of Polish, Lemko and Jewish cultures for centuries. This cultural landscape was always painted with diversity, which of course has influenced the community, but it has also influenced the urban layout and architecture of the town.

In addition to natural and architectural gems, the Gorlice region also hides another treasure: ‘black gold’, i.e., oil. In the 19th century, the landscape of the Beskids forests was criss-crossed by hundreds of oil drilling towers, and Gorlice became the cradle of the local oil industry. It was here that Ignacy Łukasiewicz settled: the world-famous oil industry pioneer, pharmacist and explorer, inventor of the world’s first oil lamp which, in 1854, illuminated the intersection of the busy Gorlice trade routes. This historic day is reminded by the chapel of the Sorrowful Jesus in the Zawodzie district located exactly where this landmark event took place. In the Gorlice PTTK Regional Museum you can see a rich exhibition of Ignacy Łukasiewicz’s memorabilia. A journey through the history of the oil industry will lead us to visit the Open-Air Petroleum Museum MAGDALENA, where you can see an authentic drilling tower, reconstructed oil ‘dig-holes’, and processing and distillation machinery as well as equipment and many souvenirs of the pioneers of oil production.

The dynamic development of the town was interrupted by World War I. On 2 May 1915, the great offensive of the Central Powers against the Russian army began. Battle of Gorlice was regarded as one of the largest on the Eastern Front: more than 20,000 soldiers were killed and artillery bombardment destroyed more than 80% of Gorlice’s buildings. A reminder of this are the numerous war cemeteries, with beautiful architecture, including necropolis No. 91, where more than 800 soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian, Prussian and Russian armies rest ‘on eternal watch’. Every year during the May Day weekend, the Gorlice region celebrates successive anniversaries of the memorable battle with the participation of historical re-enactment groups recreating parts of the fighting. In the PTTK Regional Museum in Gorlice you can see a rich exhibition of memorabilia, including elements of weaponry and uniforms, as well as an interactive mock-up and a cabinet of wax figures.

Gorlice is also an attractive base for hiking trails in the Low Beskids as well as historic churches and Orthodox churches listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It offers cycling trails, ski lifts and cross-country skiing trails. For those looking for sporting excitement, the Gorlice region offers the Petroleum Weekend, the New Year’s Eve Run and the Magura Małastowska Mountain Car Race. Electronic music lovers will be attracted by the international AMBIENT Festival, while lovers of good books will be drawn by the Zygmunt Haupt Festival. The city also celebrates its name day in the first days of May with concerts by the biggest stars of the Polish music scene.

While in Gorlice, the following places are worth a visit:

  • Gorlice Market Square – Gorlice boasts an urban layout preserved from the time of the town’s foundation in the 14th century. The 90 m x 95 m market square is surrounded by old historic townhouses. The town’s central market square is overlooked by the majestic Town Hall, which once housed Ignacy Łukasiewicz’s pharmacy.
  • Ignacy Łukasiewicz’s Bench – located in front of the Town Hall, a commemorative bench dedicated to the founder of the oil industry and inventor of the oil lamp, who lived and worked in Gorlice between 1853 and 1858. Łukasiewicz ran a pharmacy in the building of the current Town Hall. It was thanks to him that the first oil lamp in the world was lit in Gorlice, the City of Light, in 1854.
  • Minor Basilica in Gorlice – the church in its present form was built in the Neo-Renaissance style in 1885–1890 according to the project of Franciszek Pavoni and Maksymilian Nitsch. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged during World War I and had to be rebuilt in the years 1920–31.
  • Karwacjan Family Manor – the seat of the town’s founders, also known as ‘lumber-room’ because of its former functions. The ground-level part of the building is the remains of a defensive court built by Dersław II Karwacjan in the 15th century. The building was almost completely destroyed during the World War I and then partially rebuilt in the 1970s. Between 1982 and 1992, it was restored on the basis of archive photographs. It is currently the seat of the Karwacjan and Gładysz Family Manors Museum.
  • Chapel from the 17th c. – by Kręta Street you can see the oldest Gorlice chapel, which dates from the 17th century. It was founded in 1664 as a token of gratitude by one of the townspeople for having been saved from a conflagration during the invasion of George II Rákóczi’s army on 2 May 1657, at the time of the Swedish Deluge.
  • Military Cemetery No. 91 – a special place among the Gorlice necropolises is occupied by the Military Cemetery No. 91 situated on the Cemetery Hill. Most of the 913 soldiers resting here died on 2 May 1915 during  the Battle of Gorlice.
  • Chapel at Węgierska Street – this is the place where, in 1854, the town councillors lit the world’s first street oil lamp, manufactured by Ignacy Łukasiewicz. To commemorate this event, a chapel with a replica of the 16th century sculpture of the Sorrowful Christ still stands in the historical point of the town, and the promotional slogan Gorlice – City of Light – refers to the oil history of the Gorlice area.
  • Długosz Family Palace – once owned by Władysław Długosz, a pioneer in the development of the oil industry. The architecturally rich Art Nouveau estate stands on the site of two previous estates that burned down in fires in 1916 and 1923. It is situated on a steep escarpment sloping down towards the Sękówka River. It is surrounded by a charming park full of sculptures by the well-known Lviv artist Piotr Wojtowicz.
  • Open-Air Petroleum Museum ‘Magdalena’ – was established on the site of the former ‘Magdalena’ mine in Gorlice on Lipowa Street. The open-air museum includes a well with a wooden drilling and viewing tower, a forge necessary for drilling and equipment, machinery and tools for oil production.

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