Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines  




Situated on a rock salt deposit in the outskirts of Krakow, the two salt mines of Wieliczka and Bochnia were opened in the 13thcentury and operated continuously producing table salt until 2007, although mining ceased in 1996 due to low salt prices and mine flooding.  Proclaimed a Historical Monument by the President of Poland in 1994, the mines had been granted royal status, being the pride of the kings and the source of the country’s wealth.


During its nine centuries of operation, 2,000 kilometers of passages and 2,040 caverns were constructed containing dozens of statues, three chapels and a cathedral, all carved out of the rock salt by the miners.  Visitors start at a depth of 64 meters and descent to 135 meters below the surface, where the world’s largest mining museum exhibits tools and machinery used in the mines.  The subterranean galleries along the route show the miners’ social and religious traditions.


The remarkable chapels carved out of rock salt were a way for the miners, who worked under dangerous conditions in the dark, to pray.  The shrines were carved near the miners’ places of work and at the shafts were tragic accidents had taken place.  The largest and most important chapel is the St. Kinga Chapel, situated 100 meters underground.  11 meters tall, it is decorated with bas-relief carvings carved from the rock salt showing important moments in the life of Jesus such as the Nativity, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.  Two massive chandeliers, made out of salt, hang from the ceiling.



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