While in Poland, the main focus is on my study at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. The university fits well into the general theme of Krakow – beautiful and rich in history. Recently I had the opportunity to dive deeper into the history of the old university by exploring the university’s museum. The Uniwersytet Jagiellonski is the oldest university in Poland and the second oldest in Europe – the building can be traced back to 1400 AD. The museum building was the first building purchased for the university. Before the building, courses were held in the Wawel castle.
The first room to explore is the library. It was extremely beautiful to see the high ceilings with their original paintings. We were told that the library had to chain down their books in order to keep the students from stealing them to sell in the market. This was a common occurrence and students convicted of the crime went to the university’s jail. The room is still used for certain meetings within the university.
After visiting the library, we moved to the dining hall. This was my favorite room due to the gorgeous staircase. The room, like any dining hall, is where the professors ate. While the dining hall was within the building, the kitchen was located outside. The reasoning for this was 1) fire hazard, and 2) the cooks were women and having them in the building could cause temptation. Students attending the university at that time brought the food from the outside kitchen for the professor’s consumption. Many times the students were doing this to repay their schooling debt. Lastly, passages from the Bible were read aloud during dinner in order to feed the mind as well as the body.
One of my favorite elements about this museum is the effort they take to provide furniture as it would have been during the buildings inhabited years. The rooms of the professors displayed numerous tables, chairs, beds, art, etc but were not original to the university building. During one of the renovation stages in the buildings past, all the furniture was removed and burned. In recent years, antique furniture has been donated and used for visual purposes. The professors’ beds proved to be entertaining. When first looking at the beds, I thought the professors were quite very short in order to sleep on such a bed. The fact is, however, that the professors actually slept sitting up. The bed you see in the picture would have been filled with pillows to assistance in the body position. There are a couple reasons for their vertical sleeping habit. A reason which I found most interesting was that they believed, when sleeping horizontally, one tends to sleep with their mouth open. When the mouth is open, that will allow demons to enter the body.
There are many other interesting objects to view within the museum. For example all of Queen Jadwiga’s personal effects, including jewelry and articles of royalty, are on display in the museum. The articles hold much significance because the queen left in her will to have her personal effects used for the good of the university. The jewelry and signs of royalty were sold after her death and the first building was bought. This is the reason for the two crossing scepters in the university’s logo.
The museum is definitely a must see when visiting Krakow – whether as a student or not. It holds a lot of beautiful history and interesting facts. Of course this blog only covers the surface of the museum’s treasure. Other museum attractions include an Oscar award, globe of one of the first assumptions to how Earth looked (which yields an interesting perspective of where North America was thought to be), classrooms, portraits, etc.