Jagiellonian University in Krakow - Krakow
Europe's second oldest university...
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Established in 1364, the Jagiellonian University is one of Europe's oldest, and its existence is inextricably woven into the fabric of Krakow. Like any great university, the Jagiellonian has beautiful buildings, a multi-faceted history and a lengthy list of distinguished alumni.
In its early history, the university was completely dominated by the church (as indeed was every aspect of life then), but by the latter part of the 15th century its faculties of mathematics and astrology were attracting students from across Europe. One Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus) studied liberal arts there from 1491 to 1495. In the early 16th century the university would reject the reformation, and entered into a long decline that by the early 19th century meant it was little more than a minor secondary school in a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, in 1848 Krakow gained greater autonomy and the university once again began to flourish as a major academic centre. It was during this late 19th century period that the university experienced its biggest expansion.
In November 1939, the occupying German high command instructed the rector and all the professors to attend a lecture on education plans. It was a pretext. In all, 183 people were arrested and sent to concentration camps. After an international outcry, the survivors were released in early 1940. In defiance of the Nazis, many of these 'Sonderaktion' veterans would form an underground university. One such was Karol Wojtyla the future Pope John Paul II.
Today, the many buildings of the Jagiellonian University are a defining part of the architecture of Krakow. Of particular note are the Collegium Maius, built in 1400 and now the oldest surviving university building (and containing a permanent exhibition), and the Collegium Novum, a 19th century redbrick gothic structure, both in the 'university quarter', south-west of the Main Square. Away from the centre, a new 'Third' campus is under construction, with completion expected later this year.