Local Government of the City

According to the principles of the foundation charter of Kraków under Magdeburg Law from 1257, the supreme authority in the city was held by a hereditary Wójt [Latin:advocatus; originally a hereditary superior of the municipality acting on behalf of the sovereign of the city], who chaired the bench [ława: elected city judicial body], which performed judicial functions. After Wójt Albert’s revolt in the years 1311-1312, the role of the Wójt was limited. The post of Wójt was purchased by the city council in 1457.
The more official local government representing the inhabitants of the city was the council. It is mentioned for the first time in documents from 1264. The post of a city councillor (rajca miejski) was very prestigious and profitable indeed the ceremony of the election to the city council was a great festival in the city. Since the 14th century, the Town Hall was the seat of the city authorities. The city council’s power was used in any issues connected with trade and market jurisdiction as well as jurisdiction concerning trespass of the laws laid down by the council, the so-called city wilkierze. The council however, gradually expanded its powers, taking over the majority of the responsibilities of the bench. The council also summoned the burghers’ assembly, was responsible for the city’s defence, the safety of its citizens and approved guilds’ statutes. At first, it was chosen by the wójt, then by the retiring council and, since the 14th century, by the voivode of Kraków. The crowning achievement of the measures taken by the council to obtain the greatest autonomy and power in the city was the decree by King John III Sobieski (Jan III Sobieski) (1629-1696) of 30 December 1677, which granted the free choice of city councillors to the council itself.

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