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The Castle in Wieliczka was the historical seat of the mine’s management board between the 13 th century and 1945. Currently, the facility is made available to tourists and is the official seat of the Cracow Saltworks of Wieliczka.
The Cracow Saltworks is the former royal salt enterprise, encompassing salt mines in Wieliczka and in Bochnia, saltworks and infrastructure related to salt production, and the Saltworks Castle. At the end of the 14th century, it supplied approx. 1/3 of all revenues of the Royal Treasury. A mine administrator directly subject to the king held highest position in the saltworks.
Saltworks Castle was constructed at the end of the 13th century as an administrative centre of one of the largest enterprises in Europe: the Cracow Saltworks. It performed its function incessantly for almost 700 years. The unique value of the Castle resulted in its inclusion in the Unesco World Heritage List.
The Castle regulated the life of the saltworks employees; it housed a court, a prison, a saltworks kitchen and a chapel. From the castle tower, miners were summoned to work and tools were distributed from its warehouses, along with tallow for lighting the work places in the mine. Wages were paid in the Castle; the Castle also accommodated premises for most important saltworks officials. In the Austrian times, tourists could buy tickets to the salt mine here. In 1945, the Central Castle was damaged by Soviet bombing. Renovated at the effort of the Cracow Saltworks Museum Wieliczka, it opened its doors to visitors in 1985.
The building located in the centre of the castle complex was the seat of the manager of Cracow’s Saltworks. The oldest part of the facility is its eastern section, erected at the end of the 13th century. In the 14thcentury, its western part was extended by a one-storey building with a unique richness of vaults. In the 16th century, it was extended once again in a Renaissance style: its western part was extended with a second storey, new vaults decorated with coffers, beams and an attic topping the walls were also added. The oldest part was built with the use of sandstone from the Beskidy Mountains, and the extension of the castle was made with the use of bricks. In January 1945, the castle was demolished to the cellars and remained in ruin until 1976. Reconstruction of the building was completed in 1984. Apart from the original Medieval cellars, there is a Gothic Room, characteristic of the time of Casimir the Great, with ribbed vaults supported by a single pillar, which was a unique solution in lay construction. The original keystones are worth paying attention to, as well as the three ribs and fragments of stone-work embedded in the reconstructed vault. The premises house an exhibition devoted to the history of Wieliczka from prehistoric times to the 20th century and the sole collection of saltshakers in Poland.
Construction had already commenced in the 1st half of the 14th century and was completed in the 15th century. The ground floor housed utility rooms, and on the first floor, there was a chapel and residential chambers for high-ranking officials. The cellars featured a prison known as the “groch”. The building retained its form, but lost its rich furnishings (furniture, floors). It is adorned with portals and window frames. After renovation was completed in 1992, it housed the Cracow Saltworks Museum. The northern wall of a communication passage connecting “The Salt Mine House” with “The House Amidst the Salt Mine” features the coat of arms of the Boner family (salt makers from the 1st half of the 16th century).
The ground floor was constructed between 1834 and 1836 after demolition of wooden utility buildings. The first floor was added in 1905. It housed offices, apartments for guards and janitors, a coach house and a store of fire extinguishing equipment.