St. Kinga’s Chapel, Salt Mine, Bochnia

Kaplica św. Kingi

The chapel was built as a result of a long tradition of creating sacral spaces in mines that arose not only from the deep religious devotion of the miners but also as important points of communication, making the salty underground labyrinth easier to navigate. St. Kinga's chapel stands out from the other surviving chapels because of its extensive layout and rich decoration.

The history of this place begins in 1747, when the New Chapel of the Guardian Angels was created 217 m deep, on the 'August' level. Originally it was a small square recess measuring 1.65 m x 1.65 m. It soon became apparent that the chapel was too small and, with the permission of the royal commissioners, it was slightly enlarged. The size of the chapel and the change of its dedication to the chapel of St. Kunegunda occurred after the Austrian administration took over Kraków Salt Works (Żupy Krakowskie) after the first partition of Poland. In 1858–1861 further work continued, resulting in the chapel's increased size.

In 1921–22, there was a thorough renovation of the chapel. During the renovation, a recess was carved out and in 1921 it was used for a Nativity scene. In 1922, a pulpit was carved out in the chapel's western wall. Its interesting chalice-like shape is an example of mining art and craft.

Today you can admire the chapel with its extraordinary decorations. There are many interesting examples of sacral art created over several centuries, that ften were created by the salt miners themselves. The entire liturgical year was illustrated in the carvings in the chapel, starting with the period of the Nativity of Jesus, through the figures of the patron saints, up to the Paschal Triduum. The chapel became the home of the relics of St. Kinga, the patron of salt miners. Here you can find a memento of her canonisation in Stary Sącz in 1997: salt pillars supporting the offering table, where Pope John Paul II, himself later canonised, held the Kinga canonisation Mass.

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