Mass is still celebrated in the chapel every Sunday, as well as on special feast days or holidays. It is also used for special events such as weddings and sacred music concerts, seating about 400 people.
St. Kinga, the chapel's namesake, lived during the 13th century and was the daughter of Hungarian King Bela IV.
Although she had desired to live a life of celibacy, a young Polish prince named Boleslaw asked for her hand in marriage, and the pious Kinga reluctantly accepted.
When her father asked what she wanted to bring to her husband as a wedding gift, Kinga said she didn't want any gold or jewels, but preferred to bring something that could serve the people.
With this in mind, she asked her father for salt, since Poland had none. Her father easily agreed, and gave her his most prosperous salt mine.
Kinga and her husband Boleslaw, a devout couple, made a vow of celibacy despite their marriage, and carried out their reign in service to their people. The princess was known to have dedicated much of her time to visiting the poor and caring for lepers.
When Boleslaw died in 1279, the princess sold all of her material possessions and gave the money to the poor before entering the Poor Clares monastery at Sandec, preferring to dedicate her life to prayer rather than continuing with her responsibilities in governing the kingdom.
She spent the rest of her life in prayer, refusing for anyone to refer to her with her royal title "Grand Duchess of Poland." She died in 1292, and was beatified by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690. In 1695, she was named chief patroness of Poland and Lithuania.
Kinga was canonized by St. Pope John Paul II on June 16, 1999. In gratitude for her canonization, a statue of John Paul II was added to the St. Kinga chapel in the mine alongside a salt crystal sculpture of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The mine also contains chapels dedicated to the Holy Cross, to St. John, to St. Anthony and to St. John Paul II.
In 1076 the Wieliczka Salt Mine was entered into the National Register of Historic Monuments, and in 1978 was included on UNESCO's First World List of Natural and Cultural Heritages.
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