The complex of Wieliczka castle is unique in Europe. None of the mining sites with World Heritage status, like Kutná Hora or Hallstatt, have such a centre. Saltworks Castle is one of the oldest and the most magnificent monuments of Wieliczka’s urban landscape.
On June 23, 2013, at the 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, held in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, a decision was made that concerned the entry of the Saltworks Castle on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The committee, consisting of representatives of 21 countries, has positively reviewed the request for extension of the existing entry for “Salt Mine in Wieliczka” by the Saltworks Castle and the Salt Mine in Bochnia that constituted one company in the past. These three facilities will appear on the UNESCO List under the common name of “The Royal Salt Mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia”.
Wieliczka’s Saltworks Castle developed since the 13th century in the immediate vicinity of the shaft hollowed out in search of salt. It is an example of medieval defensive engineering, closely connected with the history of the state mining company – Żupy Krakowskie, in pre-partitioned Poland. Żupy was the largest company in Poland and one of the largest in Europe. It amalgamated salt works and salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia under one management. The headquarters remained in the castle until 1945, when the central part was destroyed by bombing. After the renovation, it now contains the Żupy Krakowskie of Wieliczka Museum, which studies the salt heritage with the help of its historical library, saline archives and a valuable cartographic saline source.
The Castle complex consists of three main buildings: the middle one, the so-called House Among Saltworks, dates back to the 13th century and is the oldest vault supported by one pillar, containing the magnificent Gothic Hall. The north building is Saltworks House, build in the 14-15th century. The south building was created in the first half of 19th century. The complex also includes the reservoir for the mine shaft from the mid-13th century, preserved ruins of the saltworks kitchen from the 15th century, fragments of walls from the mid-13th century and a very well preserved tower from the 14th century.
It is worth nothing that the Żupy Krakowskie of Wieliczka Museum features expositions in two different historical places: on the third level of the salt mine and in the Saltworks Castle – both inscribed on the UNESCO list.
Source: Wieliczka’s Saltworks Castle
Photos © A. Grzybowski i R. Sagan
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