The Legend of Saint Kinga's Ring
In the thirteenth century in Poland, there lived a prince. Bolek was his name, although to the rest of the world, he was known as Boleslaw the Shy,for the young prince was very timid indeed. He would blush if surrounded by people and spoke in a quiet, barely audible voice. Now this wouldn't have been such a problem if it wasn't so important for Boleslaw to find a wife. For once he was King, he would first have to find a queen. But if Boleslaw was so bashful that he could hardly speak to his court, then how on earth was he going to speak to a girl? That is why the rich noblemen of Poland decided to find Bolek a wife. The noblemen of Poland thought long and hard and finally decided on the King of Hungary's daughter - Princess Kinga. Kinga was sensible , kind and very pious and would make a very good companion to the shy prince.
Before she left, the King of Hungary took his daughter to the vault of the castle and for the first time showed her the treasures that lay there. But to his surprise and amusement, he saw that she wasn't very impressed. "What, Kinga," he laughed, "Are these treasures not good enough for you to take with to your new home in Poland?"
Oh no, father, she quickly answered, "They are truly beautiful. It's just that, er..."
That what?asked the King,starting to get a little irritated.
It's just that I've heard that Poland has its own treasures and ... and I'd like to take something that's a little more ... useful.
Useful? What do you mean useful?
Well, I thought that something that would be valuable for the whole Polish nation not just for the people at court, would be er ... salt.
Salt! the King's voice boomed across the whole of the castle.
Well, father. Salt is useful to everyone - for preserving meat so it won't go bad and for adding flavor to food. A gift of salt would be something that all Poles could enjoy and we have such an awful lot of the stuff, whereas I've heard that they don't seem to have any ... so, I thought it would be ... er, useful.
The King looked at his young daughter and broke into a smile, "Of course, my love. You may take as much salt as you wish. But first, I'd better show you something."
When they arrived at the deep, dark entrance to the Royal Salt Mine, the King said, "Here is the salt mine, dearest daughter. Although, as you can see, salt comes in the form of heavy rock; I can order as much as you like to be mined for you, but I don't know how you will be able to transport enough for the whole of the Polish nation."
Because Kinga didn't know what else to do, she knelt down and looked into the mine. It was dark and she couldn't really see anything. Unbeknown to her father, she slipped off the engagement ring that had been sent to her from the Polish court and dropped it down the hole. Quietly, she whispered, "May this salt follow me to Poland ..."
A few days later Princess Kinga waved to her father goodbye and started on her long journey to the new country that she had never seen - Poland. After many days of traveling, Kinga arrived in the city of Krakow and was greeted by cheering crowds.
After a magnificent wedding ceremony, the young couple sat down to a feast in the castle, where Boleslaw gathered all the courage that he had inside of him and spoke to his wife for the first time, "Dear wife, I ... I ... I was wondering ... where ... where ... where you would like to go ... for our honeymoon." Princess Kinga thought for a moment, and then for some reason unbeknown to her, a name came to her lips, "Wieliczka! I'd like to go to Wieliczka." Boleslaw was surprised. There were so many beautiful places to visit in Poland; he didn't understand why Kinga would want to go to a small town that had nothing very special. However, he didn't say anything.
So the very next day they traveled to Wieliczka. When they got there, Kinga headed the whole party to the market place and waited for something to happen. Nothing did - it was indeed a small and frankly quite boring little town. So, Kinga, always having a practical head on her shoulders, said to her servants, "I want you to dig a well to mark our visit. A deep, deep well right in the middle of this market place."
The servants started to dig. They dug and dug, until finally they hit some solid rock and could not dig any further. "I'm sorry, dear lady," said one of the servants to his future Queen. "We will not be able to dig any deeper. There is only rock down here."
Well, knock a piece of that rock off and give it to me, said Kinga, herself not quite knowing why she wanted a piece of rock.
A crowd had gathered by now, drawn by the royal visit but also intrigued by why a giant hole was being dug in the middle of their market place.
Surprisingly, the servants found it very easy to knock off a piece of rock from the deep, dark hole. When they brought it up to full view, the crowd saw that the rock was bright white.
That's strange, thought Prince Boleslaw. "I've never seen white rock before."
It's salt! exclaimed Kinga and she licked the piece of rock just to check. To her delight, she was right! Her plea to bring salt to Poland had come true. Somehow she had known exactly where to come to discover Poland's first salt deposit ! And that was not the end of it.
There's something inside that piece of rock, said one of the servants. "Maybe it's an insect that's been trapped inside for many years, like you find in amber ." However, when Kinga looked closely, she saw that the object inside the rock of salt was not an insect. It was a ring, her ring, the very same ring she had dropped into her father's salt mine in Hungary. She promptly broke the rock of salt on the ground and out came the ring....
Soon afterwards, the salt deposit was turned into a working mine. It became well known world-wide and brought Polish rulers great wealth for centuries to come. Kinga herself became a patron saint of the miners, especially salt miners.