Wieliczka: N49 59 11 E20 5 25
Bochnia: N49 58 09 E20 25 03
The Royal Salt Mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia used to form together the historical enterprise called "Żupy Krakowskie", which functioned continuously from the mid-13th to the end of the 20th century. The salt mine in Wieliczka was included on the World Heritage List in 1978, on the basis of criterion IV, as a complex which reflects all historical stages of the development of the mining industry from the 13th until the 20th century, whereas the preserved equipment documents ancient systems of resource exploitation, mine drainage, lighting and ventilation in a way which is unique on the global scale. In 1978 at the Bochnia mine, the industrial exploitation of salt still took place and the complex was not ready to be made accessible to visitors.
The rock salt resources in Bochnia belong to the so-called Carpathian salt zone. It was created in the Miocene sea. It was formed by the Carpathians which moved from the South and the northern bulwark which resisted to that pressure. That way of shaping the resources has led to the characteristic wide variety of salt layers and other geological formations penetrating into them.
A characteristic feature of the mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia, located near Cracow, was the domination of the dry exploitation of the rock salt resources. Around 1290 - shortly after the implementation of continuous exploitation of rock salt - the united state undertaking called "Żupy Krakowskie" was created. It gathered mines and salt-works of the salt production centres in Bochnia and Wieliczka. Owing to the exclusivity principle, reserving all rights of ownership to the ruler (both the salt production areas and salt products), the profits from the salt industry became one of the main sources of income for the state budget.
The mine in Bochnia was created in mid-13th century as a result of the deepening of a brine well within the Bochnia salt-works (operating since the 12th century), when resources of hard salt were identified. Since 1251 their systematic mining exploitation started. The dynamic development of the local salt industry was further enhanced when Bochnia was awarded municipal rights as early as in 1253.
The historical zone of the Bochnia mine consists of 3 shafts: Sutoris (dating from the mid-13th century), Campi (dating from the mid-16th century) and Trinitatis (dating from the early 20th century), as well as 9 levels located 70-ca 330 m under the surface, spreading to 3km of length. The mining pits located there, such as headings and prospecting shafts, numerous exploitation chambers, wide single-level and multi-level communication, transport and ventilation ways, were created in the period from the 13th to the 20th century. Visible signs of various techniques of salt mining have been preserved, from manual and mechanic techniques to solution mining techniques. Equally valuable are the protections of the pits from mining risks: the protective shell (scale) retained during salt exploitation, the various casing constructions, filling selected wide areas with roof supports and excavated material, water, ventilation and isolation dams. Machines and equipment which have been preserved at the mine were used for the exploitation, transport, protection, drainage - they vary from the oldest solutions to the most modern ones.
Another extremely precious element of the spiritual cultural heritage of the Bochnia miners are underground chapels and places of religious worship. Among the chapels we should point to Passions Chapel, created in early 18th century, with high-quality Baroque polychrome decoration. Another no less valuable place is the Saint Kinga Chapel (the patron of salt miners), dating from the second half of the 18th century. Its entire surface, with the sacristy, the Bethlehem Cave, the Holy Grave, the choir, is carved in rock.
The mine in Bochnia has attracted Polish and foreign visitors since the 16th century. In 1995 a tourist route of over 2 km was created, reaching levels III-VI. Moreover, the underground areas are used for exhibitions, for didactic, scientific and research purposes, for sports and recreation, as well as a truly successful sanatorium (subterraneotherapy).
Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionelle
The salt mines in Bochnia and Wieliczka are the oldest rock salt mines in Poland. The mining activity started there in the 13th century. The continuous exploitation of rock salt took place since the Middle Ages until the most recent times. The production ended in the 20th century - after nearly 750 years.
The extension of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, included on the List in 1978, with the Bochnia Salt Mine is a necessary completion of the picture of the World Heritage property for the following reasons:
- Both mines functioned since the end of the 13th century until 1772 as one royal undertaking called "Żupy Krakowskie", forming the largest industrial centre in Europe until the 18th century. Only the presentation of both mines gives the visitor an idea of the scale of the historical industrial, organizational and economic undertaking.
- In Bochnia, at the preserved pits, we can see a clear picture of the geological structure of the Miocene salt-carrying formation, legally protected in representative 27 documentation points of inanimate nature. The research value of the resources is completed by the existence of unique Miocene flora and fauna, as well as extremely well-preserved profiles presenting the geological reasons for the creation of the salt resources, taking into account in particular its tectonics. The Bochnia resource completes the picture of the geological specificity of the salt resource exploited in Wieliczka.
- In Bochnia visible signs of various techniques of salt resource mining have been preserved, as well as evidence of the adaptation of specific exploitation methods to the conditions of the geological structure which differs from the structure in Wieliczka. The result are original chamber shapes, characteristic for Bochnia, as well as various forms of pit protection from mining risks, taking into account the geological features of the Bochnia mine.
The presentation of both the Wieliczka and Bochnia mines gives the visitor the opportunity of gaining full insight into the historical phenomenon of the royal exploitation undertaking, as well as the geological structure and the history of the creation of the rich resources of Miocene salts.
Satements of authenticity and/or integrity
The authenticity of the mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia, as documents of the mining history, is due to the following elements:
- the continuous exploitation of rock salt for over 7 centuries in both mines, the specificity of a living permanent mining organism preserved until today both in the technical context (required for safety reasons, mining law and the sustainability of the mine), and in the cultural context (mining tradition, clothing, orchestras, customs, the awareness of the inhabitants of both cities and the emotional bond of the local community with the company), the preserved, legally protected and regularly maintained (in a protective way) evidence of various techniques of mining Miocene resources and the adaptation of the exploitation to the specific features of the geological structure, the preserved original machines and equipment for vertical, horizontal and ramp transport, various preserved forms of protection of pits from mining risks, underground chapels created by the miners, reflecting the spiritual and material culture of the miners, fulfilling their worship functions until today.
The integrity of the place is due to the following elements:
- geological reasons - the salt resources created in the same geological period, the same stratigraphic structure and complex tectonic structure - slightly differently shaped at both mines due to the orogenetic activity of the Carpathians.
- mining reasons - the same salt exploitation and transport techniques, as well as the same ways of protecting the pits in all historical periods (using specific solutions adapted to the local geological-mining conditions).
- historical reasons - common history and the fact of functioning within one structure of the royal undertaking called "Żupy Krakowskie".
- organizational - functional reasons - the same issues related to the maintenance, functioning and servicing the mine, common research and documentation centre - the Museum of "Żupy Krakowskie" in Wieliczka, the possibility of creating complementary scenarios of visits, making available to the public and exhibiting the monumental value of both mines and mining cities.
Comparison with other similar properties
At the Bochnia mine, the exploitation of rock salt in the form of salt lumps took place continuously from the mid-13th century until modern times. That makes it, together with the salt mine in Wieliczka, the longest functioning mines on Polish territory and similar in longevity to the Alpine salt mines in Hallstatt, Hallein, Hall and Berchtesgaden, as well as the silver mines in Goslar (Harz Mountains) and Freiberg (Saxony).
In the history of mining on Polish territory the Bochnia mine is the third, in chronological terms, after the Neolithic flint mine in Krzemionki Opatowskie and the short-term gold mining in the early 13th century in the area of Złotoryja and Lwówek in the region of Lower Silesia. At the same time, it takes the high, fourth position among European salt mines, when it comes to the time of its creation: after the Neolithic Alpine mines in the mountains around Hallstatt and Hallein in Austria and the Berchtesgaden mine (Bavaria) from the late-12th century. The mines in Hall in Tyrol (created around 1270) and in Wieliczka (around the 1180s) started the exploitation of rock salt in the same period as in Bochnia.
A characteristic feature of both mines was the dry exploitation of their rock salt resources. It was maintained at the Bochnia mine until as late as the exhaustion of the salt resources. Apart from those mines, only in the mining industry in Transylvania in Hungary salt used to be exploited in the form of lumps. On the other hand, in the Alpine salt mining industry in the 12th-13th century there was a shift to the wet exploitation of salt inside the mine and the gravitational transport of the brine to salt-works located at the foot of the mountain.
Around 1290 the united national undertaking "Żupy Krakowskie" was created. It gathered mines and salt-works of the salt-producing centres in Wieliczka and Bochnia. In the economic history of Europe in the late Middle Ages and modern times the royal Wieliczka-Bochnia undertaking was one of the largest until the 19th century, both in terms of production volumes and the number of employees. The organizational unity of both salt-producing centres lasted until the 20th century.
Compared to other mining centres included on the World Heritage List so far, the royal salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia are characterized by original historical and technological features, as well as their individual natural value. The Neolithic flint mines in Spiennes and the prehistoric mines in Hallstatt, as monuments related to prehistoric mining activity, cannot form a direct reference to the Polish mines functioning from the Middle Ages until today. Among the places on the World Heritage List related to the exploitation of salt, the royal salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia differ by their consistent maintenance of the domination of dry salt exploitation, contrary to the French salt-works in Salins-les-Bains or the Austrian Salzkammergut. Therefore, the mine chambers in Wieliczka and Bochnia have retained specific shapes related to the technology of exploitation and the tectonics of the resources, as well as a surprising richness of preserved signs of ancient exploitation (evidence of using mining tools, historical mining tools and machines) and mining souvenirs (inscriptions, signs, places of religious worship and forms commemorating various events). Compared to the silver mines in Rammelsberg, coal mines in Blaenavon and Zollverein or copper mines in Falun, despite the similarities due to the common requirements of underground work, the salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia appear to be different due to the specificity of the orogene, the features of the resources and the methods of exploiting them. The complex of underground pits made accessible to tourists and ready to be preserved in Wieliczka and Bochnia has no rivals among European historical mines, in terms of its size, its richness of cultural values, artistic elements and the variety of historical contexts.