The Collegium Maius Museum of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow
Opening hours: Closed Sundays and public holidays; open Saturdays, 11am-2pm, other days, 11am-3pm.
Cracow's oldest university building, the Collegium Maius acquired its present-day shape in the fifteenth century. Reminiscent of the architecture of Italian universities of the time, the building has a quadrangle court and cloisters on the first floor, stretching along all of its wings.
The origins of the holdings of the Jagiellonian University go back to the fifteenth century. It was in 1492 that Marcin Bylica, the Polish scholar and lecturer at the universities of Cracow, Padua and Bologna, presented his astronomical instruments to Cracow's Alma Mater, 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.
While the Museum boasts a rich collection of works of art in the areas of painting, sculpture, prints and drawings, and decorative arts, its uniqueness is defined by its collection of old scientific instruments. Some two thousand items strong, it is the only collection of such class in Poland and one of the most valuable ones in Europe. The exhibits include astronomical instruments, notably those used by Marcin Bylica in the fifteenth century as well as a unique eleventh century Arab astrolabe; physical and optical instruments; chemical and pharmaceutical vessels; a collection of globes, the oldest of which date from the fifteenth and sixteenth century, with the so-called Jagiellonian Globe on which America was first shown; Fifteenth through nineteenth century clocks, eighteenth century microscopes, thermometers, balances, weights, and the like are also exhibited. Together with the art collection, these valuable holdings form one of the permanent exhibitions inside the Collegium Maius's historical interiors. Other permanent exhibitions include Medieval Painting and Sculpture, West-European Paintings from the Collections of Wiktoria Oseka and Ewelina Lipko-Lipczynska and Sciences Old and New. The latter exhibition opened in 2000 and has been highly popular with visitors. Its interactive character allows everyone (no special background is required) to do simple mathematical, astronomical and physical experiments and calculations using instrument models. Visitors are also attracted by the reconstructed interior of an alchemist workshop.
Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego
ul. Jagiellońska 15
Phone: (+48 12) 422 05 49, 663 13 07
Phone/Fax: (+48 12) 422 27 34