On our last day in Krakow, we went to the Collegium Maius. This building is the oldest building at the Jagiellonian University and was built in the 14th century. BTW, the university was the second founded in central Europe – the first was in Prague. The university acquired the building thanks to funds from King Jadwiga.
BAM KING JADWIGA IS A WOMAN
Due to a bunch of royal and political tomfoolery, Jadwiga (aka “Hedwig” if you must) of Hungary ended up being the ruler of Poland. Our guide told us that the dudes at the time refused to recognize her as a queen ruler, so they called her King Jadwiga. Joke’s on you jerks because King Jadwiga sounds badass. She did eventually marry Wladyslaw Jagiello, starting the Jagiellonian dynasty. PS he was 35 and she was 12. Wikipedia also tells me that calling her King Jadwiga may be more complicated than just old-timey sexism, but we don’t have time for that.
Fun note: When we lived in Krakow we lived on a street named after Jadwiga.
Jadwiga died at 26 due to a complications with delivering her daughter. She and her husband had already gotten permission from the pope to establish the university; after her death her husband financed the establishment of the university by selling off her jewelry, as stipulated in her will. She also did a bunch of other kickass stuff like establishing schools and hospitals, translating Scriptures into Polish, and generally being the best.
Enough about how great Jadwiga was. There is a museum inside and tours all day in many different languages – our English speaking guide was delightful. The other people on our tour were from the Philippines which I thought was cool — it’s fun to see people coming from all over to lil’ ol’ Poland.
Being a professor at this time was almost like being a monk – you lived in the university and were devoted entirely to your work. We saw the common room (including a furnace in the corner done in Middle Eastern style, so trendy at the time) and a few professors’ quarters that had also been converted into exhibits.
The Jagiellonian Globe dates back to 1510 and is the oldest known globe that has the Americas on it. They’re sort of down around the bottom where Antarctica is but the important thing is that they tried. The actual globe is very small and in this weird cage so I didn’t get a good picture of it – they had a larger replica that the guide could show to us.
There are also various Polish Achivements on display here, including Andrzej Wajda’s awards and Wisława Szymborska’s Nobel Prize.
Of course one of the Jagiellonian’s big claims to fame is that Nicholas Copernicus was a student here. There is a whole room about it; they even dug up the roster that shows he paid his tuition on time.
Also: did you know that Poland had the second constitution in the world? The first was the US Constitution. Poland is pretty kickass but it is unfortunately sandwiched between powers that historically have beat it down. I wonder if Krakow would have been more like Prague if history hadn’t gotten in the way.
Speaking of Prague, the Collegium Maius also has an animated clock which is cute and all but I’m sorry…I’m coming off the Astronomical Clock and that is a tough act to follow!