The Mine of the Past and of Today

    • 13. 6 million years ago - (Middle Miocene) – Wieliczka salt deposits form.

    • End of the Paleolithic era – the oldest traces of mankind in areas later called Wieliczka.

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    • The oldest traces of human encampments on Polish lands dating back 500,000 years (Lower Palaeolithic) discovered in Trzebnica near Wroclaw. Quite probably this was a camping site of reindeer hunters. Malopolska was also a favourable region for settlement.

    • 6,000 years ago – Neolithic salt evaporation in the areas today known as Wieliczka and the neighborhood. Lengyel culture.

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    • Neolithic era (New Stone era) – increased growth of human settlement.

    • Early mediaeval settlements in the Wieliczka area (three inhabited settlements, two stone churches, salt manufacturing tools, trade and crafts well developed).

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    • The first historic ruler of Poland, Mieszko I, was baptised in Gniezno in 966 thus opening Poland to the Western culture and at the same time uniting the nation.

    • A document of the papal legate, Giles, first mentioning and confirming the privileges granted to the Benedictine monastery in Tyniec/Krakow to receive evaporated salt without payment from Magnum Sal (i.e. Wieliczka).

    • salt is evaporated in metal pans for the first time.

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    • The lands of Poland entered a period of fragmentation lasting about 200 years following, in 1138, the Testament of Boleslaw III Krzywousty.

    • Rock salt is discovered in Wieliczka, the first shafts are dug: Na Zamku, Goryszowski.

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    • Kinga, also called Kunegunda was born in 1234 and died 24 July 1292, in Stary Sacz. She was the daughter of the King of Hungary Bela IV and the wife of the Polish ruler, Boleslaw V the Chaste. Later, she joined the Poor Clares monastery and became a saint of the Catholic Church.

    • According to the legend she also endowed Hungarian salt which during her times was being exploited in Wieliczka and Bochnia on a large scale.

    • 1253 – Pope Innocent IV canonized the Bishop of Krakow Stanislaw of Szczepanow, murdered in 1079 by the order of king Boleslaw the Generous. Princess Kinga postulated the canonization of Bishop Stanislaw.

    • Wieliczka is granted civic rights based on Franconia law from Prince Przemysl II who confirms the founding of Wieliczka as a town by Henryk IV Probus, the Duke of Wroclaw, Krakow and Sandomierz. The document contains information about the manufacturing of salt snowmen.

    • The construction of the Saltworks Castle in Wieliczka (the central building – “The House within the Saltworks”) – head office of the mine’s board since medieval times till 1945. Currently, the location of the Krakow Saltworks Museum.

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    • The King of Bohemia, Wenceslaus II united the lands of Poland at the end of the 13th century. He managed to unite Malopolska, part of Silesia, Wielkopolska and Pomerelia. Homage was pledged to him by the rulers of Kujawy and Mazowsze. He was crowned the King of Poland in 1300.

    • Deepening of the shafts: Regis, Seraf, Wodna Gora.

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    • The Wodna Gora Shaft was used to draw brine to the surface in buckets called bulga, i.e. sacks made of leather.

    • The Academy of Krakow was founded in 1364. Professors at the academy were paid from revenues generated by the Krakow Salt Works.

    • Work at the mine was seasonal and lasted from the Day of St. Martin (11 November) till Easter or from the Day of St. Michael (29 September) till Semik.

    • King Casimir the Great approves the mining laws also called “Laws of the Krakow Saltworks”. Listing of common mining laws.

    • Conrad Celtes and quite probably Nicolaus Copernicus, humanists of those times, visit the mine.

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    • By the end of the middle ages almost 350 people worked at the Wieliczka salt works, and about 8,000 tonnes of salt were produced annually.

    • “Description of the Krakow Saltworks” – listing all the excavations by name existing at that time, as well as the professions of men working in the mine, the saltworks and salt farm. Description of the system used for mining salt, its transportation and sale of both rock salt and evaporated salt.

    • new shafts were dug: Bonerowski (1532-1533), Buzenin (1564-1565), Lois (1577-1579).

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    • The sixteenth century in Poland are the times of the Renaissance and the era of the Jagiellonian dynasty.

    • The period of glory of the Krakow saltworks is marked from the beginning of the 16th century to the mid 17th century. The mining crew consisted then of almost 2,000 people achieving an output of over 30,000 tones of salt.

    • Sebastian Lubomirski founds a private salt mine on his lands, Lednica and Siercza. Polish nobility grant Lubomirski the privilege to exploit minerals on the basis of the so called Henrician Articles (free election of king Henry III of France).

    • Wilhelm Hondius publishes maps drawn by a geometer, Marcin German (1631 – 1638 ). The map vignette depicts scenes from the mine at that time.

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    • The Swedish Invasion, the armies of Charles X Gustav enter and occupy Wieliczka.

    • New shafts are dug: Gorsko (1620-22), Danilowicz (1635- 42), Boza Wola (after 1644), Leszno (1651), Janina (1681-1685).

    • A geometer , Jan Gottfryd Borlach, draws the plans of three mine levels and its conceptual intersection. The whole set of drawings is printed in 1766 by J. E. Nilson.

    • Productions of evaporated salt is discontinued.

    • Saxon treadmills are introduced in the mine – machines hauling salt to the surface; first tests using gunpowder for crushing and mining salt are performed.

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    • 10 June 1772 – Austrian army occupies the town and the mine. The Old-Polish Krakow Saltworks cease to exist. The Wieliczka and Bochnia saltworks are founded.

     

    • Wojciech Kruszewski - the last salt master of the Republic. Aleksander Heiter von Schoweth takes over managing the mine following the Austrian invasion of Wieliczka.

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    • 5 August 1772 – The Partition Treaty ( the First Partition of Poland).

     


    • The book of guests visiting the mine is first introduced. (The Book of Visitors).

    • The new division of the mine: Stare Gory, Nowe Gory i Gory Janinskie.

    • A new shaft is dug named after Emperor Joseph II (today, Kosciuszko). The Hungarian horse-treadmills made of wood are introduced used for hauling salt to the surface.

    • The Emperor Francis shaft is built (today, Paderweski.)

    • Modern saline baths are built by Dr. Feliks Boczkowski. Balneology and health resort treatments develop in Wieliczka. Feliks Boczkowski writes the book, ”Wieliczka – Natural History, History and the Baths”.

    • A railway track connects the Regis Shaft with the train station in Wieliczka. Wagons on steel tracks are introduced in the mine.

    • A new shaft is built named after Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Emperor Franz Josef I (today, St. Kinga Shaft).

    • Austrians begin the search for magnesium potassium at Level V, in the region of the Kloski corridor. These works later cause a catastrophic flood in the mine completely flooding Level VI. The fight against the flood lasted for several years.

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    Galician autonomy begins causing political and economic transformation within the territory occupied by the Austrians – introduction of the Polish language in courts and administration, development of Polish public and cultural institutions.


    • The Chapel of the Holy Cross is founded and consecrated in the Franz Joseph I Chamber as a votive offering after controlling waters flooding the mine from the Kloski corridor.

    • Manufacturing of salt snowmen is terminated.

    • Austrians conduct deep drilling works from the surface in search of new salt deposits.

    • Mechanization of underground mining works – introduction of cutting machines, and use of explosives on a large-scale.

    • Discovery of the Lower Crystal Grotto.

    • Construction of a modern vacuum salt pan.
    • The construction of the saline power plant begins.

    • The Salines of Krakow are named the National Saltworks.
    • Responsibilities now are delegated to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (salt production, mining works and evaporating salt), while the State Treasury is responsible for salt sale.
    • During the years between world wars the mine did not expand its territories and salt exploitation was continued within the boundaries marked by the Austrians. Dry excavation of salt was continued.

    • Erazm Baracz, the last Austrian head officer of the saline board at the mine and its first manager in independent Poland.

    • Works are completed at the T.W.Wilson Shaft once used for ventilating the eastern section of the mine and now allowing access into the mine.

    • The Solvay Plant begins to exploit salt from the Barycz deposit using the underground salt leaching method. Salt was produced from the obtained brine at the saltworks as this was a method less expensive than mining rock salt in Wieliczka.

    • Wet method exploitation on an industrial scale of the salt deposit – spray method and in leaching towers and from 1937 in leaching chambers.

    • The mine was recognized as a plant of special strategic significance.
    • Kurt von Velsen becomes the mine manager and Henryk Echtermayer the underground operations manager. No brutal actions persecuting Polish miners were organized. The Germans approved and continued with the strategic development plans of the mine. They even introduced some innovations. Mechanical cutting was discontinued and only blasting methods were used.
    • Antoni Gawel, the author of the fundamental work “The Geological Structure of the Wieliczka Salt Deposit” , published in 1962, worked at the mine between 1941 to 1943.
    • Between 1941-1944 deep openings were bored from the surface. This allowed for a later development of the mine towards the east.

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    • 7th September - Wermaht troops march into Wieliczka.
    • During Nazi occupation the whole Jewish community living mainly in the suburban area Wieliczka –Klasno (4,000 persons, i.e. 50% of the total number of Wieliczka inhabitants) was exterminated.
    • 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. However, manufacturing never began as the Soviet offensive was nearing. Some of the machines and equipment was 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. The Jews were transported to factories in the Czech Republic and Austria.
    • 21st January 1944 - Soviet troops enter Wieliczka.

    • The mine was open already a few days after driving out the Nazi army from the town. The main problem was to repair and overhaul the preserved equipment.
    • The first batches of salt were excavated in February 1945 and regular exploitation of salt was commenced with the beginning of spring.
    • In the following years saline operations were associated with the realization of long-term national plans. The characteristic feature of this period was to increase the production of salt while changing the mine’s profile and limiting the level of employment.

    • The excavation of rock salt on an industrial scale was terminated. The mine begins to produce only evaporated salt.

    • Profesor Mieczyslaw Skulimowski opens the underground Allergy Treatment Health Resort “Kinga” on Level V (Health Resort Hospital “Kinga”), the first of its kind in the world.

    • Opening of the underground Krakow Saltworks Museum established by its first director, Professor Alfons Długosz. The institution was created in 1951.

    • The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is entered in the National Register of Historic Monuments.

    • The mine is entered on UNESCO’s First World List of Natural and Cultural Heritage , as one of the first of twelve sites in the whole world.

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    • 1979 – The first Polish pope, John Paul II is elected as the head of the Roman Catholic church.
    • 1981 –NSZZ “Solidarity” is established.
    • 1989 – The end of communism in Poland (fall of the Polish Peoples Republic.)

    • The catastrophic flood begins in the Mina corridor. The sudden irruption of water mixed with sand becomes a huge threat to the mine and the town. The rescue operation finally ends in 1994.

    • The mine is granted historical monument status by the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Walesa.

    • June – Excavation of salt is terminated at the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine. From then on the mine produces evaporated salt only as a product obtained from desalination of the mine spill.

    • Company restructuring – creation of new supra-company structures.

    • The founding of ”Wieliczka” Salt Mine Tourist Route Ltd. – Marian Lesny is appointed board manager.

    • The Underground Rehabilitation and Wellness Centre of the Ministry of Domestic Affairs and Administration is established in the Wessel Lake Chamber, 135 meters underground (incorporated in the mine structures from 2003 as the Underground Rehabilitation and Treatment Centre.)

    • The statue of Marshall Jozef Pilsudski, sculpted by Stanislaw Aniol, is placed in the grotto named after the great marshal.

    • A network of 40 places of inanimate nature are documented.

    • The statue of John Paul II is sculpted at the mine as a thanksgiving offering for the canonization of Blessed Kinga, patron of saltworks.

    • The unveiling of the statue of John Paul II made of rock salt in the Chapel of St. Kinga.


    • The Crystal Grottoes are recognized as an underground reservation of inanimate nature.

    • A modern saltwater treatment plant and a state-of-the-art boiler house are put into service.
    • A specially prepared underground route is open for persons with physical challenges.

    • The Chapel of St. John, consecrated by His Eminence the Bishop Jozef Guzdka, is saved thanks to the efforts of the Magnum Sal Foundation.
    • World Exposition EXPO 2005 in Japan. During the 6-month period of the exposition 1.3 million people visited it. The Wieliczka mine was the main element of the Polish national pavilion, apart from the music of Chopin.
    • The number of tourists arriving to the mine from over 140 countries exceeds the 1,000,000 mark for the first time.

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    • The death of the Holy Father, John Paul II.

    • The historic saline baths are reconstructed and the Magnum Sal Hotel is built.

    • Signing of the act for the state company commercialization (”Wieliczka” Salt Mine State Company.) Following transformation , a company wholly owned by the State Treasury, the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine Joint Stock Company is established.

    • Kajetan d’Obyrn is appointed the Chairman of the Board of the Wieliczka Salt Mine S.A.

    • Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz consecrated the Pilgrims’ Route ‘God Bless’ and the Golgotha of Wieliczka Miners. The pilgrimage in the Wieliczka undergrounds includes visiting magnificent chapels, religious sculptures carved in rock salt, unique vistas. The route is a testament to the religiousness of generations of miners.                                                         
    • International Scientific Conference - „Problems of Protecting the Heritage of Material Culture of Historic Mines in European Union Countries.”
    • Beginning of mining works associated with the revitalization of the 14th – 20th c.   historic excavations in the region of the Regis Shaft. Project: New Adventure – Miners’ Route” co-financed by the EU. The first tourists will travel along the new route in July 2012.

    • On 7th September there was a formal opening ceremony of the renovated Regis Shaft and the inauguration of the Miners’ Route which begins at the Regis Shaft. The official ceremony concluded the works connected with the New Adventure Routes project in the historic “Wieliczka” Salt Mine.

    • In the Sanctuary of John Paul II "Do not be afraid," Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz consecrated the Chapel of St. Kinga founded by the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine. The inspiration for the chapel was the most beautiful temple of the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine - the underground Chapel of St. Kinga.

    • The Lill Gorna and Kazanow chambers are included on the Tourist Route with multimedia, interactive applications, mapping and the first underground 5D cinema.                                      
    • Two new treatment chambers are opened to patients visiting the underground Health Resort in the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine - Smok and Feliks Boczkowski. The first chamber is meant for kinesiotherapy procedures - fitted with physiotherapy equipment, and a modern inhalatorium; the other one will serve as a place to relax and as an educational room.                     
    • In December, we celebrated the inauguration of the new brine graduation tower. This is the largest of its kind facility in southern Poland. The tower is constructed of larch wood, lined with bundles of blackthorn from which the brine - coming from the depths of the mine - flows. A specific microclimate forms around the graduation tower which, at the same time, is the therapeutic inhalatorium, which helps clear the respiratory tracts and has a most beneficial effect on the immune system.

    • The Representative Brass Band Orchestra of the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine celebrated its golden jubilee, the 185th anniversary of its existence and work. Today, as in the past, the orchestra performs for crowned heads as well as many other eminent persons who visit the historic undergrounds of the mine and guarantees the most excellent music setting for important events.

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