Collegium Maius

sights / Architecture

Lonely Planet review

The Collegium Maius, built as part of the Kraków Academy (now the Jagiellonian University), is the oldest surviving university building in Poland, and one of the best examples of 15th-century Gothic architecture in the city. It has a magnificent arcaded courtyard (7am-dusk) and a fascinating university collection.

On the compulsory tour within you’ll be shown half a dozen historic interiors, featuring rare 16th-century astronomic instruments used by star pupil Copernicus as well as some of his manuscripts; a fascinating alchemy room; old rectors’ sceptres; and, the highlight of the show, the oldest existing globe (c 1510) depicting the American continent. You’ll also visit an impressive Aula , a hall with an original Renaissance ceiling, and crammed with portraits of kings, benefactors and rectors of the university (five of whom were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1939). The treasury contains everything from copies of the 1364 university foundation papers and Jan III Sobieski’s hammered silver table to film awards (including an Oscar) given to director Andrzej Wajda.

All visits are guided in groups; tours begin every half-hour and there are usually a couple of daily tours at 11am and 1pm in English. In summer it’s advisable to reserve in advance, either personally or by phone. The courtyard can be entered free of charge. Try to visit at 11am or 1pm, when the 14th-century replica clock on the south side chimes and its cast of characters go through their paces.

Also here is an exhibition called World of Senses , which has 40 interactive models that teach visitors how the five senses function (and can be deceived).