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A Different View: Collegium Maius

A Different View: Collegium Maius

Collegium Maius is the oldest building of the Jagiellonian University. For several years after its foundation in 1364, Kraków's Alma Mater probably operated out of the Wawel Castle. The history of the edifice located at the intersection of ul. Św. Anny and ul. Jagiellońska begins a few years later, in 1400.

In that year, King Vladislaus Jagiełło restored the university after a brief period of decline, executing the last will of his wife, Queen Jadwiga. The effects left by her allowed for the purchase of the corner building from alderman Piotr Gerhardsdorf (Gersdorf). Over the course of the 15th century, neighbouring houses were adjoined to it. However, it was not until the renovation after a fire in 1492 that Collegium Maius attained its current form, with its courtyard and arcaded galleries.

Naturally, the building was expanded and modernised in the following years, but we can safely say that it looked more or less the same until 19th century, when it was thoroughly renovated, first by Karol Kremer (in the years 1839–1856), and then by Herman Bergmann and Feliks Księżarski (from 1861 to 1873). The renovations gave Collegium Maius a "Neo-Gothic feel". Unlike today, in those days its was common practice to interfere with the original architectural style of buildings during their preservation.

The illustration on the top right (drawn by H. Walter in 1862) as well as the photograph on the left (taken by Ignacy Kierger in 1868) we can see circular holes on the upper part of the building's façade. Although changing its design may be viewed as unnecessary, large-scale renovation was essential. The state of the north-western wing was terrible, and when it became unsafe to stay inside, it was pulled down and rebuilt. In the picture taken after 1864, we can see St. Anne's Church from the courtyard of Collegium Maius. The reconstructed building became home to the Jagiellonian Library (up until 1940).

Collegium Maius wore its "Neo-Gothic costume" until 1949. In the years 1949–1964, Prof. Karol Estreicher, who as in charge of new renovations, decided to return the building to its original state.

The picture from 1956 shows the north-eastern corner of Collegium Maius. At the time, it was devoid of galleries and rectors' stairs – they were to be reconstructed. In 1951, Prof. Karol Estreicher was appointed the director of the Jagiellonian University Museum, which is still located at Collegium Maius.

Photographs (top to bottom):

  1. Jagiellonian Library building from 1862, National Library, POLONA Digital Archive;
  2. Jagiellonian Library, Ignacy Krieger, 1868, National Library, POLONA Digital Archive;
  3. Collegium Maius, Ignacy Krieger (after 1864);
  4. Collegium Maius, Władysław Gumuła;
  5. Collegium Maius, Anna Wojnar.
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