Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines
The deposit of rock salt in Wieliczka and Bochnia has been mined since the 13th century. This major industrial undertaking has royal status and is the oldest of its type in Europe. The site is a serial property consisting of Wieliczka and Bochnia salt mines and Wieliczka Saltworks Castle. The Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines illustrate the historic stages of the development of mining techniques in Europe from the 13th to the 20th centuries: both mines have hundreds of kilometers of galleries with works of art, underground chapels and statues sculpted in the salt, making a fascinating pilgrimage into the past. The mines were administratively and technically run by Wieliczka Saltworks Castle, which dates from the medieval period and has been rebuilt several times in the course of its history.
The Wieliczka and Bochnia salt mines are located on the same geological rock salt deposit in southern Poland. Situated close to each other, they were worked in parallel and continuously from the 13th century until the late 20th century, constituting one of the earliest and most important European industrial operations.
The two mines include a large ensemble of early galleries which extend to great depths. The residual excavations have been altered, and made into chapels, workshops and storehouses, etc. A substantial ensemble of statues and decorative elements sculpted into the rock salt has been preserved in both mines, along with an ensemble of tools and machinery. An underground tourist route has existed since the early 19th century.
The two mines, which over a long period were combined as one company with royal status (Kraków Saltworks), were administratively and technically run from Wieliczka Saltworks Castle, which dates from the medieval period, but has been rebuilt several times in the course of its history.
Criterion (iv): The Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines illustrate the historic stages of the development of mining techniques in Europe, from the 13th to the 20th centuries. The galleries, the subterranean chambers arranged and decorated in ways that reflect the miners’ social and religious traditions, the tools and machinery, and the Saltworks Castle which administered the establishment for centuries, provide outstanding testimony about the socio-technical system involved in the underground mining of rock salt.
Kraków is the chief city of Małopolskie Province in the south of Poland. At its core is a beautifully-preserved medieval town on the banks of the River Wisła or Vistula, and it’s Poland’s top tourist draw. The modern city, with a population of 760,000, stretches way beyond, including the communist-era “new town” of Nowa Huta. In English the city was previously often spelled as “Cracow”. But 21st century visitors have discovered it via budget airlines and travel booking sites that always call it “Krakow” so the older spelling isn’t used here. The diacritical mark over the “o” changes the pronunciation from “o”, to “u”). Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Poland, with evidence showing settlements there since 20,000 BC. Legend has it that it was built on the cave of a dragon whom the mythical King Krak had slain. However, the first official mention of the name was in 966 by a Jewish merchant from Spain, who described it as an important centre of trade in Slavonic Europe [read more].
Katowice is the largest city in Upper Silesia and Poland’s main industrial centre. A rich cultural life with theatres, the Silesian Museum and Philharmonic Orchestras and the Spodek concert hall caters for a population of about 300,000 in the city and 2 million if the surrounding cities of the Upper-Silesian Metropolitan Union are taken into account. The Spodek concert hall is emblematic of the city, appearing in many postcards and other images. Located in the very middle of Silesia on the banks of the small river Rawa, Katowice’s mix of modern and historical architecture, easy access to the Beskids and other Silesian cities makes it a top visitor destination. The city is at the intersection of major road and rail routes connecting Poland to the rest of Europe in all directions, with Katowice International Airport in nearby Pyrzowice. In the 20th century, the dominant economic sectors in the Katowice region were mining, steel, electrical machinery, electronics, and chemicals [read more].
Łódź (Pronounced: Wootch) is Poland’s third biggest city, and the capital of the Łódzkie Voivodship. Unlike most other large Polish cities, which have long histories, Łódź was created almost from scratch during the 19th-century textile industry boom to house textile mills, their owners and their workers, and rapidly grew to become an important industrial and commerce centre. Since the end of the Soviet era, the textile industry split into many smaller companies, which often specialize in technically complex products such as lingerie and wedding dresses. The city rebounded in the 21st century due to foreign investment in IT industries. Owing to its history, Łódź has an impressive collection of residential, commercial and industrial 19th-century architecture including some of Europe’s largest factory buildings, now mostly repurposed as shopping centres or lofts. Recent local investment and a long-standing cultural scene ensures there is always something more to do than just sightseeing or shopping, with the city hosting some of the best museums and art galleries in the country [read more].