Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jagiellonian University

Collegium Maius Courtyard
We toured the Collegium Maius, the oldest university building in Poland and the museum building for Jagiellonian University. The history dates back to the year 1400, when King Jagiello (according to King Jadwiga’s request – yes, she was Poland’s “king” because a queen was considered a spouse….Jagiello was her Lithuanian husband who became king too…it’s a little complicated, but led to the commonwealth of the two countries) purchased a corner house to re-open the Krakow Academy that had originally been founded in 1364 on the castle hill. The Jagiellonian University is considered the second oldest university in central Europe after Charles University in Prague and one of the oldest in Europe. This building and arcaded Gothic courtyard are beautiful; there’s a clock that does a whole “procession” in the courtyard on the hour and then plays the Polish national anthem afterwards.

The tour through the Collegium Maius includes a look at some astronomical instruments that were likely used by Nicolas Copernicus, a student at the university, other old scientific instruments (a brass astrolabe from 1054), and the oldest surviving globe to depict the Americas (although they are placed in the wrong hemisphere).

Ceiling of museum room
The “aula” (assembly hall), which is still used on occasion, carries the Latin inscription over its entry doorway: Plus Ratio Quam Vis – “Wisdom rather than Force” (or something close to that??).

One can rent the second floor dining room – wouldn’t that be something? After the tour we went to the basement cafĂ© for a great cup of hot chocolate.

You and several of your closest friends can rent this dining room for a wonderful dinner!

I don’t think I mentioned our visit to the Czartoryski Museum earlier. An intimate little museum containing the collection of Izabella Czartoryska in the 18th century, housed in an interesting old building. Though her collection endured moves to Paris and ransacking by the Nazis, the highlights that remain include a rare da Vinci oil painting, Lady with an Ermine, 1482 (or 85), and Rembrandt’s Landscape with Good Samaritan, 1638. The da Vinci was painted before the Mona Lisa and, though the background has been heavily altered over time, it is in better condition - and some consider it more beautiful – than the Mona Lisa.

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