Collegium Maius is the oldest building of the Kraków Academy, funded by king Casimir the Great in 1364. The first seat of the university is unknown, probably some lectures took place at the royal castle or at the school at the church of St. Mary. The beginnings of Collegium Maius building date back to the year 1400, when king Władysław Jagiełło handed over a tenement house to the university, purchased from the Cracow lay judge Piotr Gerhardsdorf. Its traces have been preserved in the foundations and in the corner of the building in the form of the so-called “wild wall” made of limestone. The building was enlarged during the 15th century by purchasing neighboring buildings and building new ones. Finally, after the fires of 1462 and 1492, all buildings were combined into a harmonious whole, creating an arcaded courtyard surrounded by cloisters.
In the fourteenth century, the academy was organized on the model of a university in Bologna, where students chose the rector. Only from the fifteenth century, the Parisian model was introduced, where professors elected the rector and deans. The primary faculty was supposed to be the faculty of law, as many as 8 law departments were founded, including 3 of canon law and 5 of Roman law. In addition, faculties of liberal arts and medicine were founded, but the Pope initially refused to establish a theological faculty. It was added after the reactivation of the university in 1400. In contrast to the Italian universities, whose livelihoods were the fees of students, the king provided profits from saltworks to the professors.
Although in 1403 a second college building was created, Collegium Iuriducum intended for lawyers, and in 1449 Collegium Minus, but the main university building, until the end of the 18th century, remained Collegium Maius. Until the mid-nineteenth century, its appearance and internal layout did not change much. It was not until 1840-1870 that the Collegium Maius was rebuilt in the neo-gothic style in relation with the purpose of the building as the seat of the Jagiellonian Library. In the years 1949-1964 on the initiative of prof. Karol Estreicher carried out a comprehensive renewal of Collegium Maius, combined with getting rid of the neo-gothic look and restoration of the original appearance.
Collegium Maius is a building made of stone and brick. Facade at Jagiellońska street has gothic gables and a bay window in which there was a lector desk for reading to students during meals. The gothic portal leads to the courtyard, which is circulated by cloister with a diamond vaults. Two pairs of stairs lead to the porch of the first floor. From the south, on the first floor, there is a decorative, late-gothic entrance to Libraria, the so-called Porta Aurea with carved branches. On the ground floor there were lecture rooms. They were long, low-vaulted rooms, dark and often damp. They were called the names of ancient scholars and philosophers: Socrates, Galen, Ptolemy and others. They were often decorated with wall paintings on subjects related to the purpose of lectorium. Library (Libraria) from 1519, the Common Chamber of professors (Stuba Communis) from about 1430 and the treasury were located on the first floor. There was also a richly decorated assembly hall, a place for university ceremonies, and, on a daily basis, a room of theologians. Professors flats, or residences, were located on the ground floor, and on the first and second floor. They consisted of two, and sometimes three rooms, the worst because they were dark and damp, were on the ground floor.
Collegium Maius is the oldest university building in Poland and a great example of secular gothic architecture. Currently, it houses a museum in which collections, there are mainly items related to the history of the university. Opening hours you can check on the official website of the museum here.
Krasnowolski B., Leksykon zabytków architektury Małopolski, Warszawa 2013.
Podolecki J.,Waltoś S., Collegium Maius, Kraków 1999.
Website maius.uj.edu.pl, Historia.