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They have measured time since the Middle Ages. A short history of Collegium Maius clocks

They have measured time since the Middle Ages. A short history of Collegium Maius clocks

There are very few objects which have accompanied humanity for as long as the clock. The first mechanical clock in Kraków was installed in the main square area in the late 14th century. The one in Collegium Maius is only a little younger. We present to you the latest part of the A Different View series.

The first clock in Collegium Maius was probably assembled before 1465, since a chronicle mentions the repairs of a clock "of substantial size". It regulated the daily activities of students and professors. It was probably one of the oldest mechanisms in Kraków, although not the oldest one. The clocks of St. Mary's Church and Wawel Cathedral are dated back to "before 1390" and "around 1418", respecitvely.

A fire, which broke out near the Shoemakers' Gate in 1492, destroyed the university buildings along with the clock. It was rebuilt thanks to the efforts of university authorities and queen Elisabeth of Austria, and measured time for another several decades. We do not know what happened to it afterwards, but we do know that in 1522, Maciej of Miechów funded a new, beautiful clock, in which the machinery was designed to resemble the movement of the Sun and the Moon. It then fell into a state of disrepair, yet again for unknown reasons. For a long time, Collegium Maius lost its clock.

A litograph of Collegium Maius by Juliusz Kossak, 1886. Collegium Maius courtyard with the statue of Nicolaus Copernicus, 1906.

In 1955, an attempt to reinstall the clock was made by Prof. Karol Estreicher Jr., who was also the main driving force behind the architectural changes which shaped Collegium Maius into the building we now know. The automata were designed by Zdzisław Pabisiak, author of many reconstruction works in the building. They were then sculpted in wood by folk sculptor Władysław Kozyra. Unfortunately, the clock was not installed then.

For years, the automata have been kept in a storage facility, until Prof. Stanisław Waltoś selected a few of them and finalised the project. The clock was officially started on 1 October 2000 during the academic year opening ceremony. The photograph on the left shows the face of the clock, photographed in th 1950s.

The movement of automata, which resemble historical figures – Queen Jadwiga, King Vladislaus Jagiełło, St. John of Kęty, Hugo Kołłątaj, Stanisław of Skalbimierz as well as a nameless beadle – is guided by a computer system. Their passage from left to right is accompanied by instrumental music – academic song "Gaudeamus igitur" and fragments of a medieval musical piece by Jan of Lublin from the 16th century.

Visitors can admire the clock in motion daily every two hours, from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

Apart from the outer clock on the façade of Collegium Maius, the JU Museum displays other exhibits related to horology, such as laboratory clocks, astronomical regulators, classical decorative clocks from homes and palaces as well as pocket watches and wristwatches.

Clock startup rehearsal, 30 September 2000. Collegium Maius clock - present day.


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