Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Wednesday 22 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Maurice and the Theban Legion
home iconTravel
line break icon

St. Kinga’s Chapel in Wieliczka, Poland – the world’s biggest church built underground!

ST KINGA'S CHAPEL

Alexey Pevnev | Shutterstock

Magda Jakubiak - published on 09/29/17

A unique church, which is at the same time a veritable art gallery, can be found over a hundred meters underground.

St. Kinga’s Chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine is unique in many respects. This is most likely why it attracts not only tourists who seek a thrill and an “out of this world” experience, but also engaged couples who, fascinated by the church’s magnificent ambiance, want to get married here.

The world’s biggest church built underground is located at the depth of 101 meters in the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Made exclusively of rock salt, it is dedicated to St. Kinga, a patron saint of salt mine workers. One might think it would be dark and murky, but nothing is further from the truth! The splendid chapel, 54 meters in length, 12 meters in height and 18 meters wide, is shot through with the light of elaborate chandeliers made of salt crystals.

Holy Mass in St. Kinga’s Chapel

SCULPTURE OF LAST SUPPER
By Milan Gonda

All who would like to hide underground and get immersed in prayerful contemplation can do so, because St. Kinga’s Chapel is a place of regular worship; Holy Mass is celebrated every Sunday and, for example, on Christmas Eve at midnight. In the 1890s the chapel was located in the still-used part of the mine, yet for over a century now what draws people underground is not the salts, but solely this jewel of a church to be marveled at. This is hardly surprising since its interior is a veritable art gallery, filled with works by talented sculptor-miners. The main artists of this place were Antoni Wyrodek and the brothers Józef and Tomasz Markowski.

Relics of St. Kinga in Wieliczka

ALTER,ST KINGA'S CHAPEL
Alexey Pevnev | Shutterstock

It was Tomasz Markowski who sculpted the high altar, the most important part of the chapel. Consisting of three sections, the altarpiece’s side panels feature the figures of St. Joseph and St. Clement (patron saint of miners and of the local parish), with the statue of St. Kinga in the center. The saint’s relics were deposited here in the niche under the altar top in 1994. Tomasz Markowski is also the sculptor of the pulpit, whose lower section represents Wawel Hill in Krakow and the castle built upon it, with defensive walls. In addition, Markowski made the side altars, the reliefs titled Herod’s Decree and The Massacre of the Innocents and a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Another miner-artist, Antoni Wyrodek, decided to work on the chapel’s furnishings. He was responsible for the railing, made of rock salt, which sets apart the chancel of the chapel, as well as the salt floor. The artist’s reliefs focus on scenes from the New Testament such as The Flight to Egypt and The Wedding at Cana. Inspired by a Leonardo fresco, Wyrodek also carved The Last Supper. The chapel also features sculpted scenes reflecting many other passages of Scripture.

Salt statue of John Paul II

SAINT JOHN PAUL II STATUE
Soloviov Vadym | Shutterstock

Among the chapel’s other features, visitors can see, on the right-hand side, the beauty of the Nativity scene carved by Mieczysław Kluzek, and in the chancel the papal cross, made from four kinds of salt to symbolize Poland’s historic salt mines (Wieliczka, Bochnia, Sieroszowice, and Kłodawa). In addition, a statue of John Paul II was installed in the chapel in 1999. Sculpted by Stanisław Anioł and his assistants, the figure is the world’s only monument of the sainted pope made from salt.

Before the salt mine was finally closed down in 1996, it had already been named a UNESCO World Heritage site (1978) and a listed building under Polish law (1976).

This article originally appeared in Aleteia’s Polish edition. It has been translated and edited for our English-speaking readers.

Tags:
Church HistoryPoland
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
3
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
4
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
5
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
6
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
7
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.