When traveling abroad becomes easier, one of your first trips should be to Poland. This country, the birthplace of St. John Paul II, holds many breathtaking pilgrimage sites and sacred spaces that Catholics should visit at least once in their lifetime.
One particular must-see is the Wieliczka Salt Mine, located in Wieliczka, Poland. From the 13th century until 2007, this mine was one of the longest-operating salt mines in the world and is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine is the St. Kinga’s Chapel, named after St. Kinga, patroness of Poland and Lithuania and the patron saint of salt miners. St. Kinga was the daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary and became a Polish princess when she married Boleslaw V, who ascended the throne as King of Poland. According to legend, St. Kinga was supposed to receive gold, silver, and jewels from her father as a dowry, but instead asked for rock salt, which was highly treasured in Poland. Her father took her to a salt mine in Maramaros (modern-day Romania).
Not knowing how to move the entire mine to Poland, she asked for God’s intercession and threw her engagement ring into one of the shafts. When she arrived in Krakow, she ordered her attendants to stop and dig at a place on the grounds of her future home. The miners, however, hit a rock, which was a lump of salt. The miners broke the salt and discovered her engagement ring inside the rock.
St. Kinga was loved by the Polish people and often served the poor and lepers during her reign. When her husband died, she sold her possessions and entered the Poor Clare convent in Sacz. When she died in 1292, her legacy had impacted the Polish people so much that they made a chamber for her in the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This chamber contains a statue of her and her relics. Pope John Paul II canonized St. Kinga in 1999.
St. Kinga’s Chapel is 101 meters (more than 330 feet) underground. The floor of the chapel was carved out of salt, and the ceiling features detailed salt crystal chandeliers. The chapel includes sculptures of St. Joseph and St. Clement and other sacred artwork.
You can find sculptures and artwork made out of salt throughout the entire Wieliczka Salt Mine. In addition to St. Kinga’s chapel, there are three other chapels in this mine, including the St. Anthony Chapel.