Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kaplica św. Kingi

[ Weliczka's Underground Cathedral ]

Every day in Poland had something to fascinate me, and I was already amazed by the vastness of the underground Weliczka saltmines. As we went deeper into the mines there were more and more beautiful sculptures and rooms to see. There was another small chapel that had wooden sculptures of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary dating back 3 and 4 centuries respectively. They were so well preserved because the salt in the mines keeps the wood at a perfect condition for preservation. The small salt statues next to the crucifix didn’t last so well because of the moisture content underground before special doors were set up to regulate the ventilation in the mines in modern times.

The tour guide then told us to take a special look at the floor, since the tiles were also made of salt, but each tile was an individual piece then laid into the ground – she told us to compare this style with the room that we were about to witness next.

Through the next corridor was something that trumped everything that came before it - and that is notable for a place as incredible as the Weliczka salt mines. There, looking down stood a massive open-space that looked like a beautiful ornate ballroom.

This was actually the main cathedral of the entire mines and was the deepest church in the world. What was also fascinating was all the details in the chapel – everything of which was carved by three men [and not at the same time- one took the other’s place when they past away]. The beauty of the chapel can only be appreciated more when you learn that everything is made of salt in the carvings, and that the men that carved the beautiful art were amateurs.

Going along with the lead-up with the tile floors, this floor was one solid piece of salt that was etched into instead of separate pieces.

It was really remarkable to walk around and see the entire chapel as one entire sculpture piece – because in reality, the entire cavity was once completely packed with dense salt that was excavated!

There were carved stories from the bible, including the birth of Jesus Christ [ orange from a special type of impure sodium from other mines in Poland ] as well as the last supper, and an impressive altar.

What impressed Kaśka the most was the fact that there was still mass in the chapel every Sunday, and she definitely wants to go. Next time I am back in Poland, I will be there with her for sure myself. Overall, Weliczka was a maze of so much to see and observe. There was so much history, and many fascinating and beautiful rooms - and it is incredible to believe that the 3 hour tour is less that 1% of all the tunnels in the mine itself!

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