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A Different View: A short heraldic tour of the academic quarter

A Different View: A short heraldic tour of the academic quarter

The coat of arms of the Jagiellonian University – two crossed sceptres placed on a blue shield in background, topped with crown – is commonly known and visible in many places and contexts related to the Jagiellonian University: from official documents to information boards. But if you raise your eyes you will see that the university buildings are adorned with many other coats of arms. What do they mean and why have they been placed there?

The coat of arms of the Jagiellonian University is described in the University Statute, in the section "Tradition and customs". This most important University emblem has evolved for many centuries, but it is known that it was used as early as in the 15th century. Initially, the shield was red and there was no crown on top of it – this element first appeared in the early 17th century. The colour of the shield has changed many times and its current colour was introduced in the second half of the 19th century. The shape of the sceptres is modeled after the 15th-century University sceptres, whereas the crown closely resembles the funeral crown of King Casimir the Great, the founder of the institution.

According to the JU Statute "During extraordinary celebrations the traditional coat of arms of the University with crowned white eagle in red background with a picture of Saint Stanislaw over the shield can be also used." The saint is shown wearing a pontifical attire, holding a crosier in his left hand and raising his left hand in a gesture of blessing. A similar symbol was placed on a historic seal made after the University's renewal in 1400. The inscription on the seal associates the eagle with King Vladislaus Jagiełło, who restored the University fulfilling the will of his late wife Queen Jadwiga, whereas St Stanislaw is considered the patron of the institution.

The emblem with St. Stanislaw can be seen on top of the facades of JU Collegium Novum and the nearby Collegium Witkowski. The avant-corps of Collegium Novum, supported by seven ogival arcades, is adorned with an array of coats of arms. 

Above the tall windows of the University Assembly Hall, we can see the national emblem of Poland – the crowned eagle. On the left, there are arms of Anjou, the dynasty of Queen Jadwiga, who re-founded the University. Further left, the coat of arms of the founder, King Casimir the Great, can be seen. To the right, there is Pahonia, the emblem of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and, next to it, the coat of arms of Pope Urban V, who issued a bull establishing the University in Kraków in 1364.  

Below these emblems, right above the windows, there are coats of arms of Polish overlords from King Vladislaus Jagiełło's reign. From the left can be seen:

Bróg - the coat of arms of Kraków Bishop Piotr Wysz, the executor of Queen Jadwiga's will




Śreniawa – the coat of arms of Kuyavian Bishop Mikołaj Kurowski

Topór ("axe") – the coat of arms of the Castellan of Kraków Jan of Tęczyn (second executor of Queen Jadwiga's will)



Pilawa – the coat of arms of Vice-Chancellor Klemens of Moskorzew

And, finally, Leliwa – the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth Granowska, King Vladislaus Jagiełło's wife and the University's benefactor.




Above the entrance to Collegium Maius building from ul. św. Anny, we can see an impressive newly renovated heraldic frieze.

The largest coat of arms (left) is related to the 15th-century Chancellor of Kraków University Cardinal Frederick Jagiellon, whose position is symbolised by a cardinal's hat and a bishop's mitre. Moving to the right, in the upper row there is the coat of arms of the Habsburgs, used by the Cardinal's mother, Elizabeth of Austria, then the Polish Eagle and Lithuanian Pahonia. In the bottom row we cam see (from left to right) the coats of arms of subsequent chancellors of the University: Szembek of Primate Stanislaw Szembek and Pomian of Bishop Casimir Łubieński. The grand rusticated gate is topped with a baroque emblem of the Jagiellonian University.



Dr hab. Zenon Piech, prof. UJ, Znaki Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego

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photos: Anna Wojnar, Mariusz Kopiejka

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