When you cross their threshold, you enter a completely different world. The splendid altars, magnificent carved figures and details of the decor endow their interiors with the appropriate sobriety, but also cosiness and warmth. In the chapels in the underground of the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine, you can quietly pray and rest, and also take a step back from yourself and your daily life. These are also places that will certainly interest people who are fascinated by the art and tradition of the Wieliczka miners.
Miners were always very religious, due the fact that they were working underground in constant danger, in darkness, and away from their families. They created underground chapels as places where they could pray, gain strength and energy before facing the challenges that awaited them and seek the protection of the patron saints of the underworld. Shrines were created nearby the miners' workplaces, at the major and minor shafts and places where tragic accidents occurred. It is no longer possible to determine the complete number of the shrines which once existed at the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine. The Pilgrims’ Route allows you to visit the most important of them.
The Chapel of St. Kinga
Is a real crown jewel of the Wieliczka mine, the most beautiful, the largest, monumental chapel which captures attention completely. Its unique decor has been created over the last century. It is decorated by chandeliers made of elaborate patterns of salt crystals, numerous sculptures and bas-reliefs of breathtaking detail. They were inspired by biblical themes, and are a true tribute which miner sculptors paid to the centuries-long tradition and the Christian faith. In this underground church, Christmas Eve masses, solemn ceremonies, weekly Holy Services, concerts and weddings are held.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross
Was created in gratitude for the miraculous rescue of the mine during a dangerous leak of underground water in the middle of the nineteenth century. Although the chamber itself was created at that moment, the statues of saints found in it are almost two hundred years older. Sacred objects accompanied the miners in their work and "travelled" along with them: moving from one job to another, the miners often brought the decor of the chapels with them.
The Chapel of St. John
Has a beautiful wooden interior, which is rarely seen in the mine, as the Krakow Saltworks Instruction of 1743 prohibited the use of timber equipment because it could become a source of fire. The most valuable monument of the chapel is an 18th c. statue of the crucified Christ, transferred from the Lipowiec Chamber to save it from destruction; it was restored and made available to the public. Here, at the end of the tour, you can celebrate Mass and pray for a happy journey back home.
The Chapel of St. Anthony
Is the oldest among all the surviving chapels at the Wieliczka mine. It dates back to the seventeenth century. It is illuminated by the beautiful chandelier decorated with salt crystals, with the splendid, lovely salt statues of saints bathing in its light. On many of them, the features have been rubbed away by time and moist air, which flows in from the nearby shaft. In losing their original shape, though, they have acquired an entirely different, more profound dimension. Visitors will easily recognise four characteristic figures in the vestibule. St. Paul holds a sword, St. Peter has keys in his hand, and St. Dominic is accompanied by a dog. The fourth figure depicts St. Francis.
The Chapel of St. John Paul II
The Chapel of St. John Paul II situated in the renovated Aleksandrowice Chamber was made available to the faithful by the “Wieliczka” Krakow Saltworks Museum in 2014. The basic interior design of the chapel includes 3 sculptures – blocks of rock salt that create an impression as if they were floating above the ground. The first one forms the altar mensa, the second one is an element of the composition, the third one positioned vertically includes moving parts which pulled apart form an illuminated cross. The chapel dedicated to the Polish pope has been designed in a way that the leitmotif of the chapel are the words of John Paul II. The agenda of the Pilgrims’ Route includes celebrating Holy Mass in this chapel at the end of the trip.
With traditional mining greeting: God Bless!