Mine is situated in the town of Wieliczka in Southern Poland. This
industrial man made tunnels were dug to extract salt for preservation of
food. Wieliczka Salt Mine is most famous for its unique layout, giant halls,
underground chapel cut in the layers of salt.
Town of Wieliczka
stands on a site where 15 million old sea once splashed. After the water
retreated salt water was trapped and eventually water evaporated, leaving
layers of sea salt. These deposits were covered by soil, but due to close
proximity to Earth's surface it was fairly easily accessible even with
technology of the Medieval people.
First mention of
mining in the region of town of Wieliczka comes from 1044, when Polish King
Casimir the Great gave privilige to local residents to mine underground
"magnum sal alias Wieliczka".
Wieliczka Salt Mine was a source of salt for Poland and much of Europe since
13th century. In fact this massive ancient sea deposit was quarried for
several centuries until all operations ceased only in 2007. After centuries of
digging and cutting through deposits left by an ancient oceans people
managed to create a network of man made tunnels that reached
327 m deep and over 300 km of the corridors. However the main
feature of the salt mines is an underground cathedral with
adjacent rooms and chapels that were carved entirely out of
surrounding salt deposits.
Tourist route to
Wieliczka Salt Mine is divided into 3 parts and leads to the depth of 135
meters below surface level. It starts with Danilovich Mine that was used to
deliver salt to the surface. Excursion further goes to explore about 20
rooms and halls of various size. Some of these rooms are dedicated to
various historic figures from the Polish and World history including famous
astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, Casimir the Great, Jan Halushki and many
others. It is not the whole complex of artificial tunnels, but other parts
of Wieliczka Salt Mine are not secure for tourists and have no lighting.
Keep in mind that the temperature underground usually stays around 14
degrees Celcius year round so take something to keep you warm.
Main sights in Wieliczka
2. Adjacent shaft to Danilovich Shaft
3. Chamber of Nicholas Copernicus
4. Chamber of Saint Antonius
5. Yanovytse Chamber
6. Burnt Chamber
7. Selets Chamber
8. Casimir the Great Chamber
9. Peskova Skala
12. Chapel of the Holy Cross
13. Chapel of Saint Kinga
14. Erasmus Baronch Chamber
15. Michalowice Chamber
16. Drozdowice Chamber
17. Weimer Chamber
18. Jozef Pilsudski Chamber
20. Staszica Chamber
21. Treasurer Chamber
22. Witold Budryk Chamber
23. Warsaw Chamber
24. Vistula Chamber
26. Yan Halushki Chamber
27. Isabella Chamber
Chapel of the Holy Kinga (Wieliczka
Chapel of the Holy Kinga is widely known
simply as an Underground Church. It is a Roman Catholic
chapel that was dug from solid salt deposits in 1896 for
Salt Mine following an initiative of Josef Markovski. Small
chapel was dedicated to Kinga (Kunigunde) of Hungary,
patroness of Polish salt miners.
Chapel of the Holy Kinga is located at a depth of 101 meters
below ground. It measures 54 meters by 18 meters with a
height of 12 meters. Small shrine was cut in the salt
deposit. Miners managed also to create salt sculptures of
venerated Christian saints including Saint Kinga, Saint
Joseph, Saint Clemens and of course Roman pope John Paul II.
Famous pope was ethnically Polish and he is still a source
of pride for Polish citizens. Several "paintings" were also
carved from the rock depicting various scenes from the Bible
including a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper". One
of the most striking elements in the interior of the church
is unusual chandelier, which is made from salt crystals
carved by hand by several salt miners who worked in Wieliczka
Chamber of Casimir
the Great (Wieliczka
Chamber of Casimir the
Great was carved into the rock salt in the early 18th
century. It acquired its name in 1968. Technically its has
nothing to do with the famous king, but museum workers
decided to honor memory of the monarch who first started
salt mining industry in
Today it also keeps a bust of a Medieval King.
Danilovich Shaft (Wieliczka
Danilovich Shaft was carved in the 1635- 40's
Salt Mine was run by Nikolai Danilovich. It served to
transport barrels of salt to the surface with help of horses
that pushed the rising mechanism. In the 19th century it was
used to transport workers and first tourists. Wooden
structure above ground was built in 1874 and later replaced
by a stone structure. About the same time a first steam
engine replaced horse power. After World War II steam engine
was replaced by an electric lifting machine.
Chamber of Nicolas
Chamber of Nicolas
Copernicus is dedicate to a famous Polish astronomer and
scientist who proposed heliocentric vision of the Solar
System, where Sun and not the Earth stayed in the center,
while other planets moved around it. It is most famous for
salt sculpture of Nicolas Copernicus that was installed here
to mark 500 year anniversary of the birth of the astronomer.
The chamber itself was cut in 1875.
Chapel of Saint
Underground Chapel of
Saint Anthony was created at the end of the 17th century.
The first recorded service here was held in 1698. This small
Salt Mine contains several sculptures of
Crucified Christ, Holy
Virgin with small Jesus and Saint Anthony, patron of the
chapel. Unfortunately many statues were badly eroded by
moisture in the air.