Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
The university in Krakow is the oldest university of Poland. It was founded in 1364 by the king Casimir the Great, as the second oldest university in Central Europe (right after the Prague’s one). Most probably the place pointed out by the king to be the seat of the university was Kazimierz, nearby city. The first lectures, however, took place in Wawel Castle.
The first years of Krakow Academy (as that was its first name) had not brought the expected prestige, as the university did not hold the theological department (the Pope did not give his permission to include it in the programme of the school). After the death of Casimir the Great Krakow Academy underwent a crisis but luckilly it was not forgotten by the rulers of Poland.
In 1399 the dying queen (called the only female king of Poland) – Saint Jadwiga – presented in the testament all her goods (royal regalia) to be sold in order to restore the Academy (that already in 1397 achieved permission to have the theological department). Throughout the following years new buildings have been purchased and adapted for the classes. In 1400 the first lectures in restored university took place.
The most known students of the Jagiellonian University (that was called after Jadwiga and her husband Jagiello) were Nicolaus Copernicus and later Pope John Paul II. But there were much more students that have their strong position in cultural or science fields, among them: Wislawa Szymborska (the Nobel Prize winner in literature) or Jan III Sobieski (Polish elected king).
Jagiellonian University had its best times in XV and XVI century, when it attracted students and teachers from all over Europe – especially from the whole Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. The crisis began in XVII century and deepened in XVIII – when Poland and Lithuania vanished from European map. The worst moment came during the WW II when the Nazis arrested about 150 professors and assistants of Jagiellonian University and placed them in concentration camps, where many of them lost their lives (that event was called Sonderaktion Krakau and took place on the 6th of November 1939).
Today Jagiellonian University has numerous departments all around Poland but it is in Krakow where one can find the oldest buildings that served their students hundreds years before (i.e. Collegium Maius that serves as a museum offering collection of souvenirs connected with the university). Jagaiellonian University is still, however, high on the list of the best European universities and is thought to be the best one in Poland.