Towns and Villages - Łeba

ŁEBA -a known health and tourist resort as well as a fishing port; a town by the mouth of the Łeba River, situated between two lakes: the Łebsko and the Sarbsko. On the east side of the town a forest-dune sanctuary "Mierzeja Sarbska" is situated, whereas on the west, there is the Slovinski National Park with moving dunes unique in the worldwide scale. In the documents, the name of the Łebsko lake was the earliest registered: 1252 Lebsco, 1281 Lebesco, 1313 Lebezk, and even before there was the name of the Łeba River - in 1140. Presumably, already in 1286, there was the first resources reference on Łebia, registered in a document from 1377 as Lebe, and from 1583 Leba. This onomastic complex with the base not entirely lucid >Łeb-< is certainly indigenous. What is its derivation, anyway? A striking enough is the authentic transmission of Długosz from XV century, which was recurrently grounding the information on the terrain, announcing the common parlance, authentic, and not a deformed paper issue: ex lacu Leyba, also Lebsko lacus, flurio Leba. Hence, one must accept Łeba, since it was defined as Lye-!, therefore, a correct structure would be >Leba=Luba< from the base >lub-< in a topographic meaning. In Kaszubian language, Leba, lebina, lebizna - exuberant, hard grass, bulrush. Near Wejherowo, there is Łebno that might be Lubno, originally! In this way, Kaszubian Łebsko would be a counterpart of Lubuski Lubsko and such topographic names as: Lubna (then Lubnia), Łubna, Lubno and Lubno. The alteration of "L" into "Ł" can be hypercorrect.
In the region of the Łeba mouth, there existed human settlements already a few thousands years ago. This is testified by the excavations originating still from the stone age from 5000-2000 year B.C. Following, in 1935 in Nowęcino near Łeba, a stag horned hatchet was found, however in 1937 a fisherman caught a bronze hatchet at the depth of 6 m and 200 m away from the sea-shore. In 1938 while the restoration of a dairy in Łeba a stone and flint axes were found.
Historical sources mention Łeba in 1286 as an old Slovinian settlement. So-called, Old Łeba was situated on the western bank of the river, 1,5 kms away from the modern town. Old Łeba was covered up by sand. It was also destroyed by numerous storms that occurred in the years of 1558 and 1572. A new town was commenced to be built on the right side of the river. In the years of 1310-1466 the town was under Teutonic Knights' auspices, and it received civic rights in 1367. After 1466 Łeba returned to Poland. The town belonged to Pomeranian dukes, and then, it was ruled by Brandenburgian elector (from 1665). For centuries, Łeba has been inhabited by Slovian population that was continually germanised. In the second half of XVIII century, Prussian King pursuing to cultivate the marshy grounds spreading from Rowy to Łeba, ordered to lower the water level of the Łebsko Lake and build a large harbour. Newly digged passage linking the lake with the sea (Brackenhoff Channel - by the master-builder's name) was destroyed by an unexpected storm. The dwellers of Łeba covered the channel up being afraid of washing away the Łebsko Spit and further floods. The poor master-builder did not avoid king's anger and was disciplinary conscripted. In the years of 1807-1812 during the continental blockade of England introduced by Napoleon, the Lebians were enriching by smuggling English merchandise. Troubles with natural elements were ceased at the moment of building up the breakwaters and regulating the river-flow. Preaching the sermons in Kaszubian was relinquished in Łeba church in 1850. The existence of Łeba as a health and tourist resort commenced with building up the railway and road connections. Beautiful villas, pension houses and hotels started to come into being. After the World War I, Łeba became a favourite summer spot of German Bohemians. Max Pechstein, one of the greatest German expressionists, tied himself permanently with Łeba. In 1935 Łebsko Spit was transformed into military racket experimental field. Currently, the town is a well-known seaside resort. In 1984 r. the largest campsite in Poland was opened "Intercamp", and the town hosted the participants of international rallies "Rally FICC" twice. In 1998 a new yacht-port was opened and there was the rebuilding of the sea port. By dint of tourism, current Łeba is a wealthy town. Presumably this fact influenced the idea of establishing the principality of Łeba, what has made an excellent advertising catch attracting many tourists to Łeba.

Old building structure of Łeba derives from the turn of XIX and XX centuries. The ruins of St. Nicholas Church are the oldest structures and remains of the old Łeba. Centuries ago, this church was situated in the very heart of the old town. Currently existing church in Łeba comes from the XVII century. Initially, it was a little chapel made of materials regained from the old church. When in 1682 the chapel had burned down, the temple - existing until today, was built. Until the mid of XIX century the sermons here were preached in a native language of the residents. Inside the church there is a painting of Max Pechstein presenting the Virgin Mary. The gem of the architecture is the castle from the turn of XIX and XX century situated by the sea - at present "The Neptun" Hotel. There is an interesting group of fishing houses at Kościuszki Street which derive from the mid of XIX century.

Source: "Historical Dictionary of Towns and Villages of the Slupsk Province",
authors: A. Świetlicka - E. Wisławska

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