Wieliczka since the 12th century was a developed settlement and the most important center for salt mining and production. The erection of the castle, which was the seat of the mining superior, dates back to the second half of the 13th century. The real development of the city and the castle came as king Casimir the Great, who set up Wieliczka on german law, fundamentally strengthened and rebuilt the castle. At the time of the ruler, the income derived from the extraction of salt was the fourth part of the state budget.
The decline of the economic and political significance of the castle began at the end of the sixteenth century due to the economic crisis. Major damages were done at the beginning of the 17th century. In the following years, Wieliczka was raideed by Swedes and Transylvanians, while in the meantime in the city was raging plague. The building was renovated in the years 1670-85. During the Saxon times and during the Partitions, alterations were made to adapt the castle rooms for residential and office purposes. In the nineteenth century, the surrounding wooden buildings were removed, and a southern building was erected there, housing a chancellery and apartments for the guards. At the end of World War II, the object was almost completely destroyed. In 1976, its rebuilding began.
The original building from the end of the 13th century created a perimeter wall on a plan of a quadrangle about 57×60 m in the middle of which stood a two storey house on a rectangular plan measuring 10×16 m. Sandstone was used for its construction. The entrance gate was located in the north-east corner of the peripheral wall.
In the second phase of the reign of Casimir the Great, the wooden floor of the castle was rebuilt into brick. In addition, it was added to the west side, one-sided wing on a square projection of 13.5 m. The brick buildings also enriched two more houses by the walls. In the 60s of the 14th century, the central building was redesigned as a “House in the Midst of the Salt” by the superstructure of the upper west wing and a device on the ground floor of the city chamber with a vaulted ceiling on the central pillar. There were also utility rooms on the ground floor, and a chapel and apartment rooms for senior officials on the first floor. In the cellars there was, among others a prison room called “Pea”. In this period, to accommodate new buildings, the defensive circuit was extended to the south and west, reinforcing it with one or two towers.
In the second half of the 15th century a new wing of the castle was added to the northern peripheral wall. A house in which in the sixteenth century a chapel was erected on the floor. In the years 1552-1553 a link between the first floor of the house and the house in the middle of the house was built above the castle courtyard. Also raised one floor west wing.
In the second half of the fifteenth century, a castle kitchen was also built in the western part of the courtyard. It was the first place in Poland for collective nutrition, where until 1565 free meals were issued. The kitchen nourished dozens of permanent mine employees, clerics, pensioners, people entitled to the royal privilege, carters and those who bought salt. The building had a four-sided shape with four square pillars in the middle.
Today, it has been preserved in heavily transformed form, the central castle, called “House in the midst of the salt”, in which the archeological exhibits are located, the north castle, where the Museum of Cracow’s Salt, scientific laboratories, saltworks archives, library and cafeteria are currently located, and the 14th-century tower. Only the foundations remained of the oldest part of the central castle. The castle is open from May to September: 9.00 – 20.00, October – April: 8.30 – 15.30 every day except Mondays.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Website muzeum.wieliczka.pl, Zamek.