Russegger V chamber

An object of special interest is the unique Early Renaissance horn (1534) that belonged to the Brotherhood of Saltdiggers. This aurochs horn decorated in silver was donated by the saltworks farmer Seweryn Boner and symbolizes the richness of the Wieliczka mine and the hard work of miners. About their work and the activity of the mining industry visitors can read in the documents displayed in glass cases situated in the central part of the chamber.
The oldest document dating back to the 12th century mentions that the Benedictine Abbey of Tyniec had the right to take without payment the salt produced in Magnum Sal (Wieliczka), which was the largest in those times salt production centre in the Małopolska region. The fact of the discovery of salt and its exploitation is documented by a note written on the margin of “The Cracow Annual” yearly publication in 1251: “Sal durum in Bochnia est repertum, quod nunquam ante fuit” (In Bochnia rock salt was discovered which had not been heard of before”. Another source is a mining shaft from the same period discovered in the Saltworks Castle in Wieliczka. A link between these records and the legend of the ring is the portrait of St. Kinga by Jan Matejko from 1892 painted on the 600th anniversary of the death of the patron of Polish salt miners.

Other documents refer to the well-established mining factory and include legal regulations related to its operation: from the first famous Statute passed by the king Casimir the Great in 1368 through the reforms of the Jagiellonian dynasty and the Saxon rulers. There are also records of the activity of the saltworks farmers, appointed by the king as the mine supervisors, and examples of the salt mine’s burden imposed by numerous institutions, offices and individual persons.

The development of the mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia is best documented by the oldest maps exhibited on the right side of the chamber. Of particular interest are two sets of copperplate engravings with maps of the city of Wieliczka and three levels of the mine. The first made by W. Hondius in 1645 and dedicated to the king Władysław IV is ornamented with unique on the European scale vignettes representing the work of salt miners and showing the methods of salt production in the Cracow Saltworks. The second set made for the king Stanisław August Poniatowski by Johann Esajas Nilson around 1768 facilitates comparison of the size of the mine’s levels and is the oldest record that gives details concerning their depth. Similar information about the mine in Bochnia can be found on the map by Johann Gottfried Gebhard from 1746. Next to the sets are plans of the mine from the period of the Austrian annexation that show a further development of the mine.

The records displayed on the left side of the chamber show the scale of interest of the Cracow Saltworks, which was an enterprise of great significance in Europe. They include the oldest scientific and literary works from the end of the 15th and until the 18th centuries by the Swiss Joachim Vadian (1522), Jodok Willich from Reszel in Warmia (Poland) from 1543, Adam Schröter from Silesia (Poland) from 1553 and the Italian Ulisses Aldrovandi from 1605. The exhibition is completed by a collection of graphics depicting the Wieliczka mine dating from the 18th and 19th centuries (including a picture from the famous Encyclopedia of D. Diderot and J. d’Alambert from 1768). A collection of ceremonial weapons from the Saxon times (the 17th – 18th centuries) emphasizes the links with the European mining, as well as the oldest ceremonial miners’ uniforms introduced by the Austrians in the middle of the 19th century.

Another essential issue connected with the mine is the presentation of the scope of the sales of salt from the Małopolska region before rock salt was discovered (until the half of the 13th century) and after its discovery (until 1772). Apart from the collection of maps, the display also shows models of carts and old Vistula ships used for transporting salt, as well as plans of the salt deposits in Solec near Warsaw (from the 17th century) and Sandomierz (from the 18th century), and documents regulating the trade in salt.