The Małopolska region abounds in great tourist attractions, and the Wieliczka mine is definitely one of the best ones. While underground, the tourists can admire beautiful chambers, some of which are chapels, including the most famous of all, the St Kinga’s Chapel. The Wieliczka mine is associated with this patron saint, which is why it may be worthwhile to learn more about the fragment of the mine devoted to her.
St Kinga’s Chapel in the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is located 101 metres underground and is one of the biggest attractions in the entire mine. The chamber is about 12 metres high, 18 metres wide and 54 metres long. The floor was carved in a uniform salt mass, and the ceiling is decorated with intricate salt crystal chandeliers. It is worth noting that the decorations of the chamber were made over the course of nearly seven decades. What is to look out for when you are visiting the chapel?
The altar was made by Józef Markowski, and it is definitely the most important element of the chapel. Since 1994, the niche of the altar table holds the relics of St Kinga, and since 1914, in the central part of the altar holds the statue of St Kinga, the patron saint of salt miners, also made by Józef Markowski. The space behind the sculpture was decorated with halite crystals.
In the side parts of the altar you can see other sculptures of saints – St Joseph (patron saint of miners) and St Clement (patron saint of the Wieliczka parish). In the presbytery, you can see a papal crucifix. It symbolises all four salt mines located in Poland – Wieliczka, Bochnia, Kłodawa and Sieroszowice.
The "Last Supper" bas-relief
Another element worth noting is the bas-relief depicting the Last Supper, inspired by the work of Leonardo da Vinci and made by the miner-sculptor Antoni Wyrobek. Here, we should note that the walls of the chapel also feature other equally beautiful reliefs depicting the events described in the Scripture, such as the wedding in Cana or the escape to Egypt.
John Paul II statue
In 1999, the decision was made to pay tribute to the Polish Pope by erecting a statue depicting Pope John Paul II in the St Kinga’s Chapel. Like all the other statues, it was made of salt by Stanisław Angel and two helpers. Interestingly, it is the only salt statue in the world that depicts the Pope.
Every attentive observer will certainly notice the nativity scene on the right wall of the chapel. It was made by Mieczysław Kluzek, and like all the other pieces, it was also carved in salt.
It is worth noting that the Chapel regularly hosts Holy Masses and, due to its good acoustics, also concerts.
St Kinga’s Chapel can be seen on the Tourist Route, which covers 1,5 kilometres of the mine and usually takes 3 hours. All in all, the Tourist Route leads through more than twenty chambers, and the tours are led by expert guides. If you want to see what a salt mine looks like, you need to visit Wieliczka.