Wieliczka Salt Mine

Kopalnia soli Wieliczka

( Wieliczka Salt Mine )

 

 

The Wieliczka Salt Mine (Polish: Kopalnia soli Wieliczka), in the town of Wieliczka, southern Poland, lies within the Kraków metropolitan area.

From Neolithic times, sodium chloride (table salt) was produced there from the upwelling brine. The Wieliczka salt mine, excavated from the 13th century, produced table salt continuously until 2007, as one of the world's oldest operating salt mines. Throughout its history, the royal salt mine was operated by the Żupy Krakowskie (Kraków Salt Mines) company.

Due to falling salt prices and mine flooding, commercial salt mining was discontinued in 1996.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is now an official Polish Historic Monument (Pomnik Historii) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its attractions include the shafts and labyrinthine passageways, displays of historic salt-mining technology, an underground lake, four chapels and numerous stat...Read more

 

 

The Wieliczka Salt Mine (Polish: Kopalnia soli Wieliczka), in the town of Wieliczka, southern Poland, lies within the Kraków metropolitan area.

From Neolithic times, sodium chloride (table salt) was produced there from the upwelling brine. The Wieliczka salt mine, excavated from the 13th century, produced table salt continuously until 2007, as one of the world's oldest operating salt mines. Throughout its history, the royal salt mine was operated by the Żupy Krakowskie (Kraków Salt Mines) company.

Due to falling salt prices and mine flooding, commercial salt mining was discontinued in 1996.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is now an official Polish Historic Monument (Pomnik Historii) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its attractions include the shafts and labyrinthine passageways, displays of historic salt-mining technology, an underground lake, four chapels and numerous statues carved by miners out of the rock salt, and more recent sculptures by contemporary artists.

 
History
 
 
Surface and underground views of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Composite of illustrations to a series of maps of the town and mines of Wieliczka engraved in 1645 by Willem Hondius.
 
 
Hungarian-type horse mill, late 18th century, in Komora Kraj (the Country Chamber)

The Wieliczka Salt Mine reaches a depth of 327 metres (1,073 ft), and extends via horizontal passages and chambers for over 287 kilometres (178 miles). The rock salt is naturally of varying shades of grey, resembling unpolished granite rather than the white crystalline substance that might be expected.

Since the 13th century, brine welling up to the surface had been collected and processed for its sodium chloride (table-salt) content. In this period, wells began to be sunk, and the first shafts to be dug to extract the rock salt.[1] In the late 13th to the early 14th century, the Saltworks Castle was built. Wieliczka is now home to the Kraków Saltworks Museum.[2]

King Casimir III the Great (reigned 1333–1370) contributed greatly to the development of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, granting it many privileges and taking the miners under his care. In 1363 he founded a hospital near the salt mine.[3]

Over the period of the mine's operation, many chambers were dug[2] and various technologies were added, such as the Hungarian horse treadmill and the Saxon treadmill for hauling salt to the surface.[2] During World War II, the mine was used by the occupying Germans as an underground facility for war-related manufacturing.

The mine features an underground lake, exhibits on the history of salt mining, and a 3.5-kilometre (2.2-mile) visitors' route (less than 2 percent of the mine passages' total length) including statues carved from the rock salt at various times.

In 1978 the Wieliczka Salt Mine was placed on the original UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.[4]

A legend about Princess Kinga, associated with the Wieliczka mine, tells of a Hungarian princess about to be married to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków. As part of her dowry, she asked her father, Béla IV of Hungary, for a lump of salt, since salt was prizeworthy in Poland. Her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros. She threw her engagement ring from Bolesław in one of the shafts before leaving for Poland. On arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock. The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess's ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the Polish capital.[5]

During the Nazi occupation, several thousand Jews were transported from the forced labour camps in Plaszow and Mielec to the Wieliczka mine to work in the underground armament factory set up by the Germans in March and April 1944.[6] The forced labour camp of the mine was established in St. Kinga Park and had about 1,700 prisoners.[6] However, manufacturing never began as the Soviet offensive was nearing. Some of the machines and equipment were disassembled, including an electrical hoisting machine from the Regis Shaft, and transported to Liebenau in the Sudetes mountains. Part of the equipment was returned after the war, in autumn 1945.[7] The Jews were transported to factories in Litomierzyce (Czech Republic) and Linz (Austria).[6][8]

The mine is one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments (Pomniki historii), as designated in the first round, 16 September 1994. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland. In 2010 it was successfully proposed that the nearby historic Bochnia Salt Mine (Poland's oldest salt mine) be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The two sister salt mines now appear together in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as the "Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines".[9] In 2013 the UNESCO World Heritage Site was expanded by the addition of the Żupny Castle.

^ Goldensubmarine.com. "Kopalnia Soli Wieliczka". www.wieliczka-saltmine.com. Retrieved 19 April 2016. ^ a b c Goldensubmarine.com. "Kopalnia Soli Wieliczka". www.wieliczka-saltmine.com. Retrieved 25 April 2016. ^ "Wieliczka Salt Mine". Krakow.wiki. 11 November 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2019. ^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Wieliczka Salt Mine - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 16 July 2013. ^ "History of Wieliczka Salt Mine". Poland For Visitors Travel Guide. Retrieved 18 April 2013. ^ a b c "History | Virtual Shtetl". sztetl.org.pl. Retrieved 20 March 2020. ^ "The Wieliczka Salt Mine: An astonishing underground city, dating from 13th century". The Vintage News. 25 November 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2020. ^ "History - "Wieliczka" Salt Mine - tourist attractions of Malopolska". Wieliczka-saltmine.com. Retrieved 20 August 2017. ^ Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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