SALTWORKS CASTLE IN WIELICZKA
For 700 years, the entire Cracow Saltworks, namely the salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia, saltworks, workshops and warehouses, were managed from this very place. The conference participants will have the option of seeing the Castle on the last day of the conference, i.e. on Thursday, before descending into the mine to deliberate. The visit in the Castle will last approx. 1 hour.
The Saltworks Castle is located in the very heart of the city, at a distance of 150 metres from the Regis Shaft and 300 metres from the Daniłowicz Shaft. Visitors may enter the Castle perimeter through a gate hidden in the southern wall on the side of Aleja Jana Pawła II (pedestrian zone) or through the main Castle gate from the east. When entering the courtyard, the Central Castle, formerly known as the “House Amidst the Salt Mine”, is located on the left hand-side. This oldest building of the complex was erected at the turn of the 13th and 14th c., right next to the first Wieliczka pit shafts. It was extended throughout the centuries and in the 16th century it burnt down; in 1945, it was significantly destroyed by a stray Soviet bomb. Yet the “House” was renovated and this is where the exhibitions of the Cracow Saltworks Museum are presented.
The original cellars of the building house an archaeological exhibition, presenting the history of settlement in this area from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. On the other hand, on the higher floor, it is possible to see an exhibition devoted to the history of Wieliczka and the representative Gothic Hall with portraits of proud salt managers. Here, they ran the enterprise, held courts and entertained kings. On the higher floor of the building, viewers’ attention is attracted by another exhibition entitled: “Salt-Cellars: Tiny Masterpieces.” At the present moment, this is the wealthiest collection of this type in Poland and possibly in the world. Approx. 400 exhibits are displayed here; 400 more are stored in the warehouse and the collection is constantly expanded. Here, visitors can admire salt-cellars from all over the world, from the period between the 15th and the 20th century. They are made of silver, gilded silver, porcelain, mother-of-pearl, bones, glass and stone. Some of them are unique specimens on a world-scale.
After walking out of the Central Castle, the North Castle is in front of visitors; this is the former “Salt Works House”, erected gradually from the 15th century. It housed a chapel, a watch house, cashier's offices, legal offices, saltworks archives, a library and apartments for officials. Here, miners were given tools for work, tallow for lamps and they also received their pay here, along with allocation of salt. The first Wieliczka Mining School started to operate here in 1861. Nowadays, the seat of the Cracow Saltworks Museum is located here (management offices, research laboratories, extensive saltworks archives and a library) and the building is not open to visitors. However, this is going to change soon – in this part of the Castle, modern and interesting temporary and permanent exhibitions will be presented.
The Castle courtyard also features several interesting items: a fragment of city walls and the only defence tower in Wieliczka from the 14th century. On the other hand, under the surface of the courtyard, it is possible to see the framework of the oldest Wieliczka shaft from the middle of 13th century, which was discovered only 50 years ago. Tools and ropes found here testify to the fact that the shaft was used in early Middle Ages and its establishment precedes the construction of the “House Amidst the Salt Mine”, as well as explains its name. Low stone walls located on the courtyard are remnants of a saltworks kitchen in which, from the middle of the 16th century, free meals were distributed to miners and cart drivers collecting salt. The third building in the complex is the so-called South Castle, which encloses the area on the southern side; it was built in the Austrian times (19th century) in place of the former stables and utility premises. Behind it is an Italian-style castle garden, established in the 16th century.