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Why Saltworks?

This Castle protected valuable salt production and served as the abode of the mining administration from the 13th century until year 1945. It was from here that the Cracow Saltworks were administered, which until the 18th century included the Saltworking facilities and mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia. “Poland is worth nothing without Bochnia and Wieliczka” was a popular saying in the Old Polish times. At the time, the Cracow Saltworks were the biggest Polish enterprise and one of the biggest in Europe. The value of salt produced here is proven by the fact that even as much as one third of all royal revenues were earned here in the 14th century! The castle witnessed annual visits of Polish monarchs in the Middle ages. Many renowned guests also came here in the later times. in 1683, an apartment with a toilet was arranged for queen Maria Kazimiera Sobieska to let her stay overnight in comfortable conditions, awaiting her famous husband on his way back from Vienna after his victory over the Turks.
The castle, located near a shaft (drilled in the 13th century in search for the shallow salt deposits), performed mainly utility and administrative functions for the mining enterprise. It was hire that the clerks developed the necessary financial and technical documentation, including a unique set of maps of both mines. Workers were called to work from the castle tower. They were distributed tools and materials (including suet, necessary to illuminate their working places underground) from the castle warehouses. Salaries were also paid out in the castle, and merchants came here to pay for the salt, which they could then pick up at the excavation shafts. Finally, the castle housed apartments for the key saltworks clerks and a chaplain, who lived in the tower above the prison dungeons in the 17th century.
Starting from Middle ages, there was a chapel and a kitchen here, serving free meals for employees and drivers coming in to pick up salt. The oldest fortified part was made of stone in the late 13th century. in the times of casimir the Great, the castle was expanded and reconstructed to a great extent, using bricks and stones. in the Renaissance period, italian masonry workshops participated in a reconstruction, which transformed the castle into a fashionable residence. The most representative edifice was The central Building of the Saltworks castle. On the ground floor, it housed the Gothic “Municipal chamber” with a ribbed vault supported by a single pillar, and above it the “Royal Hall”, decorated with royal coats of arms and a gallery of portraits of Polish rulers. The house was connected at the first floor level with another building through the great hall, housing 24 portraits of the local saltworks administrators.
Reconstructions, which took place in the partition period, left the castle in a condition far from its previous grandeur; nevertheless, it remained an important administrative centre in the structure of the austrian state, occupied by the head administrator of the saltworks. The enormous armoured strongbox, weighing around 1.5 tonnes, purchased by the saltworks in Lvov in year 1910, has remained in the castle until today. The entire estate operated as the saltworks administrators until year 1945, when its central part was ruined by aircraft bombs. it was reconstructed - including the Gothic hall - after the war. At present, the castle houses the cracow Saltworks Museum with valuable historic artefacts of the saltworks archive and the cartographic resources (more than 3000 maps and drawings made here since the 17th century). Permanent exhibits include several hundred salt-cellars and other seasoning containers, produced by famous manufacturing plants around the world. The oldest take the guests back to the times of great court feasts - these are jewels of the Gothic, made of agate stones and framed with silver-gilt.

Fires, wars and reconstructions changed the appearance of the Saltworks castle, which nevertheless has remained one of the most magnificent and oldest structures in the mining landscape of Wieliczka. For ages, it ensured the proper functioning of the most important Polish saltworking enterprise. as one of the few complexes of this type preserved in Europe, it has been included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage (together with the historic mines
of Wieliczka and Bochnia).

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