Polish Salt Mine – fantastic work of art
The religious carvings are, in reality, what draw many to this mine
– as much for their amazing verisimilitude as for their Christian
aesthetics. The above shows Jesus appearing to the apostles after the
crucifixion. He shows the doubter, Saint Thomas , the wounds on his
Another remarkable carving, this time a take on The Last Supper.
The work and patience that must have gone into the creation of these
sculptures is extraordinary. One wonders what the miners would have thought of their work going on general display? They came to be quite used to it, in fact, even during the mine’s busiest period in the nineteenth century. The cream of Europe ’s thinkers visited the site – you can still see many of their names in the old visitor’s books on display.
These reliefs are perhaps among some of the most iconographic
works of Christian folk art in the world and really do deserve to be shown.
It comes as little surprise to learn that the mine was placed on the
original list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites back in 1978.
Not all of the work is relief-based. There are many life sized
statues that must have taken a considerable amount of time – months, perhaps even years – to create. Within the confines of the mine there is also much to be learned about the miners from the machinery and tools that they used – many of which are on display and are centuries old. A catastrophic flood in 1992 dealt the last blow to commercial salt mining in the area and now the mine functions purely as a tourist attraction. Brine is, however, still extracted from the mine – and then evaporated to produce some salt, but hardly on the ancient scale. If this was not done, then the mines would soon become flooded once again.
Not all of the statues have a religious or symbolic imagery attached
to them. The miners had a sense of humor, after all! Here can be
seen their own take on the legend of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The intricately carved dwarves must have seemed to some of the miners a kind of ironic depiction of their own work.
The miners even threw in a dragon for good measure! Certainly,
they may have whistled while they did it but the conditions in the salt
mine were far from comfortable and the hours were long – the fact that it was subterranean could hardly have added to the excitement of going to work each morning.
To cap it all there is even an underground lake, lit by subdued
electricity and candles. This is perhaps where the old legends of lakes to
the underworld and Catholic imagery of the saints work together to best
leave a lasting impression of the mine. How different a few minutes
reflection here must have been to the noise and sweat of everyday working life in the mine.
This Amzing, Art Email with pictures published as provided by Sharon Rajkumar. You too can share forwarded emails by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org and get it published with your name. We respect copyright, please don’t forward copyright material.