The History of Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka (vyeh-leech-kah) Salt Mine is located 14 km southeast of Krakow. It has been opened in 13th century, when the rock salt was discovered in Wieliczka and the first shafts were dug. The construction of the Saltworks Castle in Wieliczka (the central building) – head office of the mine’s board since medieval times till 1945. The Castle was built in the late 13th to early 14th century. Since the creation it has produced table salt continuously until 2007 as one of the oldest salt mines in operation. The mine is one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments since 16th of September 1994. Its listing is maintained by the Nationa Heritage Board of Poland. Nowadays Wieliczka has been transformed in the Kraków Saltworks Museum.
Wieliczka is famous for its deepness. It’s an astonishing underground world of pits and chambers. Everything within the mine has been carved by hand from salt block by the miners. It’s labyrinth of tunnels is about 300 km long and is distributed fo over nine levels. The deepest point of the mine is at 327 meters underground. One section of the mine, around 22 chambers connected by galleries, from 64 m to 135 m below ground, is open to the public by guided tours – take our Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour and visit this amazing place!
Many of the shafts has been dug in the time when the mine was in operation. Various technology was added in the time such as: Hungarian-type horse treadmill or Saxon treadmills to pull the salt to the top of the surface. The salt mine features also an underground lake, new exhibits on the history of salt mining, as well as a 3,5 km touring route whichc includes historci statues and mythical figures carved out of rock salt in the past. Even the chandaliers are made from rock salt that has been dissolved and reconstituted to achieve a clear, glass-like appearance.
Wieliczka Salt Mine is often referred as “the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland”. It was placed on the original UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites in 1978.
There is a legend associated with this amazing place. It’s about Princess Kinga, the Hungarian noblewoman who was about to be married to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Krakow. A a part of her dowry, she has asked her father for a lump of salt (salt was in that time prizeworthy in Poland). Her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros where she threw her engagement ring (given from Bolesław) in one of the shafts before she left to Poland. When she has arrived to Krakow, she asked the minors to dig a duup pit until they come upon a rock. When the miners found a lump of salt in there, they had split it in two and discovered the princess’s ring. Since then Princess Kinga has become the patron saint of salt miner in and around the Polish capital.