The history of Kościelisko Commune.

The history of Kościelisko Commune.

Kościelisko commune, sometimes called the gate to the Western Tatras, was established in 1867. Over the years the commune has changed its administrative area. Kościelisko created a single settlement with Zakopane until 1867. In 1960s Kościelisko  together with the villages of Witów, Dzianisz and Chochołów created Kościelsko-Witów commune. After a few years the commune joined Tatra Commune. The current Kościelisko commune, consisting of Kościelisko, Witów and Dzianisz, was re-created in 1994.

The landform of the commune was not only affected by nature, but also by coal miners and gold seekers. The additional influence came from Vlachs, Eastern Romance-speaking people who originally lived in  the Balkans.


Highland robberies are associated with the legend of the Tatras, they are an inextricable part of the history and culture of the Carpathians. Highland robberies were one of the forms of peasants' opposition with historic, settler, economic and social origins.  The archetype of the legend about the Tatra hero Janosik was the historic figure of the Slovak outlaw, Juraj Janosik, who was executed in Liptovský Mikuláš  in 1713. The Polish legend assigns to Janosik such values as justice, courage, honour, supernatural powers and  cunning - the qualities typical of an ideal hero. The myth of such an outlaw is the main theme of traditional songs, stories, performances which, in turn, inspired many works of literature, music, art, theatre or film. In the Kościeliska Valley one can find rock formations, the names of which are associated with the outlaw history, for example: Outlaw Windows, Outlaw Alps, Outlaw Table. The legends about treasures hidden in the mountains  accompanied seekers and explorers of the Tatra alps leading to the industrial exploitation and processing of iron and silver ore in the Kościeliska Valley, inter alia.

Gmina Kościelisko

Stanisław Staszic was the first person to explore and climb the Tatras from 1802 to 1805. The period of exploration of the Western Tatras in  search of coal contributed to the growth of Kościelisko village.

Kościelisko is a big village, sometimes called 'the heart of Podhale'. It is located on the southern slope of the Gubałowskie Range offering an excellent view of the Tatras. It consists of 21 settlements, formerly of shepherd character, so called Polany (clearings). Hence the etymology of the first name of Kościelisko. The current settlements in Kościelisko are Antałówka, Blachówka, Budzówka, Butorów, Chotarz, Czajki, Górkówka, Gronik, Groń, Karpielówka, Kierpcówka, Kiry, Nędzówka, Pająkówka, Pitoniówka, Rysulówka, Sobiczkowa, Staszelówka, Sywarne, Szeligówka and Wojdyłówka.

The first historical mentions of the separate shepherd settlements date back to 1623. At that time there were ironworks in Kościelisko, which were connected with Zakopane by so called Iron Road, currently Droga pod Reglami. The 18th century documents called Kościelisko a state (Herrschaft Kościelisko), the name referred to the part of Zakopane landholdings including Stare Kościeliska in the Kościeliska Valley and most of the forests in the precinct of the later village. The name Kościelisko or Kościeliska, meaning 'the place where there used to be a church' appeared in the period between World War I and II. There is also a possibility that the name came from the Kościeliska Valley, a geographic area.


The Kościeliska Valley was the destination of more and more numerous trips initiated by early tourists and patients. The trips contributed to the development of the Tatra area. The valley, which is considered the most beautiful one in the Polish Tatras, has been a source of inspiration for artists. It was visited, inter alia,  by a painter Walery Eliasz Radzikowski, a doctor from Warsaw Tytus Chałubiński, also known as  the king of the Tatras, Wincenty Pol, the first Zakopane parson Józef Stolarczyk, a painter and writer Stanisław Witkiewicz, a general and traveller Mariusz Zaruski.

They were followed by patients who were looking for a remedy for lung and nerve diseases. The construction of spa buildings and guesthouses marked the new chapter in the development of Zakopane and Kościelisko. One can still stay in a spa building located in Kościelisko, built in a local Witkiewicz style by Bronisława and Kazimiera Dłuscy at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1928 it was converted to the Military Spa in Zakopane, later the Military Holiday House in Kościelisko, currently Rewita Holiday House. A wooden building constructed in the vicinity of the brick spa called 'Dyrektorówka' was visited by Presidents Ignacy Mościcki, Józef Wojciechowski and Marshal Józef Piłsudski. This place is also connected with Maria Skłodowska-Curie. Barbara Dłuska was her sister and the Polish   Nobel Prize Winner visited her in the spa in 1916.


It was in Kościelisko where the great tradition and culture of the Rocky Podhale were created by such figures as Jan Krzeptowski Sabała, Stanisław Nędza Kubiniec, or Andrzej Stopka Nazimek.

The history of Witów is much different. It is the village of the largest area (65 square kilometres) in Kościelisko Commune. It borders with Slovakia in the south and west. The bigger part of the village is located in  Tatra National Park, in the precinct of the Western Tatras.

The biggest and the longest Tatra Valley – the Chochołowska Valley is located in Witów as well as the highest peak of the Western Tatras: Starorobociański Wierch (2176 m a.s.l.). Magura Witowska (1231 m a.s.l.) is the highest peak located in the part of the village beyond the Tatra Region. The Czarny Dunajec River, the largest river of Kościelisko Commune, flows through Witów; it is created by two streams: the Kirowa Woda and the Siwa Woda.

The first historical mention of the existing settlement in the upper Czarny Dunajec River dates back to 1606 while the name of the village derives from a Krakow governor and Nowy Targ district head Stanisław Witowski. Witowski initiated the largest settlement activity in Podhale and gave the village its foundation charter.


These days Witów is a big, developing village with a few quaint hamlets:  Kojsówka, Płazówka and Roztoki and a lot of shepherding clearings with chalets of original character: Biały Potok, Siwa Polana, Baligówka, Cicha, Zdychałówka, Hawryłówka, Molkówka, Kosarzyska. There is also an archaic way of forest management in Witów. The forest has been a joint property of the village inhabitants who have specified shares, so called The Forest Association of Eight Entitled Villages.

Dzianisz is located at the foot of magical Mount Ostrysz in the Gubałowskie Range. The name of the village situated by the Dzianiski stream originates from the Vlach expression ' Dzea-nysz', which means 'a river in a valley'.

Dzianisz was established at the beginning of the 17th century when Walenty Pietrzykowski got a permission from Nowy Targ district head Stanisław Witowski  to establish a village. There were a mill, a fulling mill, an inn and a sawmill in the village. The village together with Dzianisz voytship belonged to Józefa and Barbara Wojnarowscy from 1765; later it was sold to baron Borowski. The voytship changed its owners in the 19th century but the owners always were noblemen. The noblemen's property was gradually  transferred to highlanders from the mid-nineteenth century till 1930.