The Wieliczka Salt Mine, which is fifteen minutes from Krakow, is one of the most interesting museums in Poland. Once they brought huge revenue to the state, and now thousands of tourists come there everyday.
In Wieliczka salt deposits were discovered in 11 century, and in 1044 Casimir I began their development. Since that time, royal monopoly has been imposed on salt production. Salt, which was very valuable in Europe, became one of the most important income items of the Polish state. In some centuries, revenues from the sale of salt from the Wieliczka mine reached 30% of the state budget.
Now in the Wieliczka Salt Mine 20 salt chambers connected to each other by passages and stairs are open to visitors. They are located at 9 levels. The first chamber is at a depth of 64 meters, and the last chamber is at a depth of 327 meters.
The expositions devoted to salt production were created in the first chambers of Wieliczka. For several centuries, in Wieliczka salt production was carried out in the most primitive way. The pieces of salt were broken off with the help of a pickax and manually lifted to the surface. Then, by 16 century, wide horizontal passages were created, Along the passages salt was transported by horses to the place of lifting.
In addition to expositions devoted to salt production, in Wieliczka there are several chambers devoted to historical figures and events. In these chambers, sculptural compositions and bas-reliefs are carved from salt. In the Copernicus Chamber there is a sculpture of this great astronomer with a globe. A sculptural composition is carved from salt in the Janowice Chamber depicting the legend of St. Kinga dating back to 11 century, with a miner handing a block of salt to Queen Kinga, containing her engagement ring.
The Chapel of St. Kinga is the most beautiful and largest chamber in Wieliczka. The huge hall of the operational chapel impresses with its size and beauty. The concerts of chamber orchestras are held there. During the concerts, listeners can enjoy classical music and also breathe the very useful air of the salt chamber.
The Chapel of St. Kinga of the Wieliczka Salt Mine was created in 1896. As is known, for several centuries St. Kinga was the patroness of salt miners in Wieliczka. In 20 century, she was canonized by Pope John Paul II.
The Chapel of St. Kinga is located at a depth of 101 meters. Its length reaches 54 meters, with the width of 18 meters. There are a lot of sculptures and bas-reliefs in the chapel, including that of Pope John Paul II. In the chapel soft light comes from large chandeliers made from salt crystals.
The Pilsudski Chamber (Grotto) is on the same level as the Chapel of St. Kinga and several salt lakes. Pilsudski is a great Polish military leader, who became the first ruler of the Polish state revived in 1921.