Sochaczew is first mentioned in 1138, in connection with the death of Prince Boleslaus III the Wry-mouth in the Benedictine monastery of the Holy Trinity there. In the fourteenth century, Sochaczew was granted a town charter, which created favourable conditions for growth. The fact that a conference, organised by Prince Siemowit III, in which the Dukes of Mazovia devised a body of common law for all of Mazovia was held in Sochaczew in 1377 bears testimony to the importance of the town. Sochaczew was placed under Russian governance, albeit within the putatively autonomous Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland), by the Congress of Vienna (1815).
Chopin passed through Sochaczew on his way to Szafarnia, where he spent his 1824 and 1825 summer holidays, and to Duszniki, in 1826. It is a fair bet that Chopin frequently went to Sochaczew when he visited his birthplace at Żelazowa Wola, as they are only around 7 km apart. In the summer of 1830, he and Michał Skarbek (the younger brother of his godfather, Fryderyk Skarbek) stayed in the home of Gen. Piotr Szembek, Commander of 3 Infantry Brigade. The army was probably stationed at a former Dominican monastery that had been converted for military use in 1820–1822. Gen. Szembek was very musical and took great pride in his military band. Chopin was no doubt unable to display his musical prowess, as there was no instrument available. The dejected Gen. Szembek therefore did whatever he could to get him to stay at his camp in Sochaczew again.
Chopin wrote about this to Tytus Woyciechowski (in Poturzyn) in a letter dated 31 August 1830: ‘The day before yesterday, I was in General Szembek’s camp for the second time. You should know that he always sets up camp in Sochaczew, and that he made an arrangement with Michał to bring me to him. But when this didn’t occur, he sent his adjutant, Czaykowski, the brother of that Miss Czaykowska, the one who plays and fogs over, and they took me there to see him. Szembek is very musical. He plays the violin well. He studied at one time with Rode and is an out-and-out Paganinista, and thus he belongs to that good caste of musicians. He ordered his band to perform, which had practised all morning, and I heard strange things. This is all on trumpets called bugle horns; you wouldn’t think that they could play chromatic scales, as quickly as can be, and with a descending diminuendo. I just had to praise the soloist, who, poor fellow, as I see it, will not be able to serve long, because he looks like a consumptive, and he is still rather young. It gave me great pause when I heard the cavatina from The Dumb Girl on those trumpets, with all accuracy and shading. He has a piano in the camp, and I don’t know how, but he understood me. Upon my word, he wasn’t pretending. The Adagio made the greatest impression upon him’.
Chopin wanted to see the premiere of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia [The Turk in Italy] at the National Theatre that evening. Gen. Szembek, however, greatly admired the brilliant young Chopin and wanted to hear him play for as long as he could. In the event, Chopin was kept in Sochaczew and missed the performance in Warsaw.
In 1926, the Sochaczew Chopin Committee was established as a branch of the Society for the Friends of Chopin’s Home in Warsaw. In 1928, the Society purchased Chopin’s birthplace in Żelazowa Wola from its private owners. In 1961, Sochaczew commemorated Chopin with an obelisk with his bust. It was unveiled in the park at the intersection of ul. Warszawska and ul. Romualda Traugutta.
The recently revitalised ruins of the Castle of the Dukes of Mazovia is one of Sochaczew’s most valuable heritage sites. The stone building was erected in the mid fourteenth century during the reign of Siemowit III. It replaced a wooden castle settlement that was burnt down during a Russian-Lithuanian raid in 1286.