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Collegium Maius: The oldest university building in Poland dating back to the 15th century which holds historic science instruments including some used by Copernicus

David Goran

Located in part of what is now Jagiellonian University in Kraków Old Town, Poland, the Collegium Maius (“Great College” in Latin), is the university’s oldest building and one of the best examples of 15th-century Gothic architecture in the city.

The Collegium Maius dates from shortly after the university's establishment. Source1 Source2

The Collegium Maius dates from shortly after the university’s establishment. Source1 Source2

 

Porta Aurea. Source

Porta Aurea. Source

The origins of the Jagiellonian University’s holdings go back to the fifteenth century when the Polish scholar and lecturer at the universities of Cracow, Padua and Bologna, Marcin Bylica, presented his astronomical instruments to Cracow’s Alma Mater in 1492, thus starting a collection of “scientific objects and curios”. Grown for years through royal and magnate endowments and gifts by scholars and collectors, the holdings became dispersed during World War II. Luckily, most of them were returned after the War and made available for the public to see in 1964, on the 600th anniversary of the Jagiellonian University.

The main assembly hall of the university's Collegium Maius. Source

The main assembly hall of the university’s Collegium Maius. Source

 

The Old Library Chamber. Source

The Old Library Chamber. Source

 

It has been a hub of scientific research and discovery for hundreds of years. Source1 Source2 Source3

It has been a hub of scientific research and discovery for hundreds of years. Source1 Source2 Source 3

In the 1490s, the Collegium Maius counted among its students Nicolaus Copernicus, and the Renaissance astronomer that revolutionized entire European science remains the most illustrious of Krakow university’s graduates together with Pope John Paul II. Throughout the sumptuously outfitted rooms are a number of cases filled with astrolabes, telescopes, globes, clocks, weights, and more, much of which was used by Copernicus himself.

The Collegium Maius shows a unique collection of science instruments. Source

The Collegium Maius shows a unique collection of science instruments. Source

 

Exhibits also include medieval scientific instruments, globes, paintings, collectibles, furniture, coins and medals. Source

Exhibits include medieval scientific instruments, globes, paintings, collectibles, furniture, coins and medals. Source

 

Stuba Communis (professor's common room) in the Collegium. Source

Stuba Communis (professor’s common room) in the Collegium. Source

Over centuries a whole university quarter has arisen around the Collegium Maius, while the old college became first the university library and then the university museum rich in unrivaled exhibits. In the early 20th century, the space was turned into a museum displaying the college’s historic architecture and an impressive collection of 15th through 19th-century clocks, eighteenth-century microscopes, thermometers, balances, weights, and other scientific equipment. The Collegium Maius Museum also features lecture rooms, communal halls, professors’ quarters, art collections, a library and a treasury containing rectors’ Gothic maces and the Jagiellonian globe.