In the Middle Ages and modern times, mines were very profitable. Cities were springing up around them all over Europe. This was no different in the Kingdom of Poland, where “Wieliczka grew into a city from a vile hovel” (a quote from Zygmunt Gloger, Encyklopedia staropolska, vol. 4, Warsaw 1901, p. 522). In Poland, mines, or as they were formerly called żupy or gory were concentrated in the south of the country. Salt was extracted in Wieliczka and Bochnia, and in Olkusz, Chęciny, Sławków, Trzebinia, Jaworzno and Miedziana Góra metal ores – lead, silver and copper.
The first, and quite numerous, projects of railway transport in the Wieliczka salt mine were designed around the mid-19th century; however, they were never implemented because of the enormous costs of drift reconstruction. Only in 1857 did the board devise the first precise plan for this challenging enterprise and the first works commenced. In 1861 the first metal rails were installed and after that almost all transport in the mine was conducted by wagons with metal boxes or horses pulling platforms.
During the first centuries of the existence of mines, small spoil was transferred from the face to the shaft in the basins and reeds; salt rocks and barrels were rolled with the help of walacz rods or pulled on the szlafy (the so-called sanice). The szlafy are mentioned only in 18th century sources; however, given the fact that they have been used on the surface long before the mine was created, it can be assumed that they were used in the Wieliczka salt pits in the Middle Ages.
In the mid-18th century, the coopers’ guild was one of the most important in Wieliczka. There is evidence for this from that era. In 1760, the mayor and the town council of Wieliczka confirmed the previous year’s dispositions determining the order of seats occupied by individual guilds during services in the local church.
The Wieliczka salt deposit is a small part of the Miocene marine sediments that fill the Carpathian depression and has a close link with the geological structure of this region. It was created about 13.6 million years ago, as a result of sedimentation in the Miocene Sea, formed subsequently by tectonic movements. The lithostratigraphic profile of the deposit and its surroundings includes the Mesozoic (Jura and Cretaceous) and Cenozoic (Neogen and Quaternary) periods.
The picture was painted with oils on a wooden board. On the background of a landscape with a low horizon, two figures are depicted: a Guardian Angel and a child which he leads by holding its hand.
Halite is a mineral from the halides group; its main component is sodium chloride (NaCl). A monomineral rock composed of halite constitutes halite rock salt, commonly known as rock salt. The presented specimen has a historical nature and it comes from the Crystal Grotto in the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
A safe for storing the salt company’s accounting documents is the heaviest and largest exhibit at the Wieliczka Salt Works Castle and one of its few original items that has been preserved to our times. It was purchased by the Wieliczka Salt Mine Board in January of 1910 in Lviv. The well-known manufacturer put the labels with its name on the safe’s top and close to the internal fixing of the lock: “C. K. Uprzywilejowana pierwsza krajowa Fabryka Kas Ogniotrwałych W. Kosiba & W. Chudzikowski Lwów” (The First Imperial and Royal Authorised National Factory of Fireproof Strongboxes W. Kosiba & W. Chudzikowski, Lviv).
This consists of a wooden cassette, iron-shod with brass, with a two-winged hinged lid, a brass shield at the front, with “WIELICZKA” and a crown at the top. It contains a document granting honorary citizenship of the city of Wieliczka to Doctor Kazimierz Junosza-Gałecki.
St. Kinga was presented in art in two ways – as a young person in a rich princess’s costume or as an older nun in the Poor Clare habit. Jan Matejko made a deliberate statement of both conventions and portrayed St. Kinga at the age of around 60, in the princess’s robe and with attributes referring to her life at the Poor Clares Monastery (prayer book, crosier, view of the Monastery in Stary Sącz). The model for the character was Countess Katarzyna Adamowa Potocka, known from another portrait painted by Matejko – this time in a contemporary outfit.
The earliest source of confirmation regarding use of oil lamps in the Wieliczka Mine dates back to the beginning of the 16th century, but there are no exact data on the shape and material from which they were made. Probably, two types of oil lamps were used: clay – to be held in the hand or adapted to be placed on a flat surface; and metal – with a hook for carrying and hanging, connected with a container for tallow. The shapes of both types are similar – pear-shaped and vertical.
White salt hair grows on a light grey marl loam. Salt hair is a very original form of those taken by halite. Fibres – in fact, halite crystals in special conditions – grow in one direction. Sometimes, the density of fibres may favour their crystal clumping. The hair then transforms into a fibrous salt, preserving a specific needle structure.
A wooden watering can, covered with salt crystals, is undoubtedly an original, but also a typical, object. Many of the objects left by the miners in the mine, especially those that were sunk in brine (salt water), changed their appearance and...
Saint Barbara, as the patron of good death, was worshipped above all by those who were most vulnerable to sudden and unexpected death: miners, steel workers, sailors, fishermen, soldiers, stone-cutters, and prisoners. Today, Saint Barbara is primarily considered to be the most important patron of miners. However, in Wieliczka, the miners used to pray primarily to St. Kinga, St. Anthony, and St. Clement.
In the Austrian Empire, officials, including miners, carried ceremonial sabres with their uniforms. The situation was different on the territory of Prussia, where mining epees were obligatory. After Poland regained its independence, a single pattern of mining uniform was adopted. Mining is concentrated in Upper Silesia; therefore, the dress code came to include epees. This has been the case up until today.
This Art Nouveau dish, in the form of a bowl with a wavy irregular collar, is a very delicate and fragile object. It was handmade from glass blown on an iron rod, the so-called punty. At the bottom of the salt shaker, there is a grounded star sign visible after the cut off of the punty. Next to it, there are L. C. T. signs indicating the artist.
A model of a puppet nativity scene, symmetrical, with two storeys and five towers, provided with carrying handles on its sides. The entire structure is made of wood, the base and the upper floor of boards, and the frame from strips of wood. The walls are made of cardboard; the ground floor is covered with red paper with “bricks” painted with black ink and the walls of the upper floor and towers are covered with paper cut-outs in the shape of windows and star ornaments. The floors are separated with a decoration of horizontal, multicoloured stripes with silver teeth on the sides.
Aggregate, the accumulation of minerals among rocks of different composition and structure, is the dictionary definition of the features of this specimen.
The basic method for moulding the salt bed in the Wieliczka mine was to tear it out with the use of iron wedges; the cuboid blocks were then treated and transformed into barrel shapes or a cylinder for trading purposes. Those blocks were the main product of salt mines in the region of Kraków for six centuries — from the second half of the 13...