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The Jagiellonian University celebrates its 660th anniversary

The Jagiellonian University celebrates its 660th anniversary

‘Today, we remember 12 May 1364, when King Casimir the Great made the decision to found the Studium Generale in Kraków. The King knew full well that the future of the Polish state must be based on educated people’, said JU Rector Prof. Jacek Popiel in his opening remarks on the Jagiellonian University Day. Prof. Adam Strzembosz, a renowned lawyer and distinguished public figure, was a guest of honour during these celebrations, during which he received the gold Plus Ratio Quam Vis medal.

Prof. Jacek Popiel stressed that both the University’s founder, King Casimir the Great, and its restorers, King Vladislaus Jagiełło and Queen Jadwiga, were adamant that the strength of the Polish state as well as its development, independence and recognition in the world were directly tied to the growth of the Kraków University.

This year, we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of Poland joining the European Union. The academic community in particular is deeply aware of the positive impact of that historic decision. Each of us needs to be conscious of the fact that the position of Poland in the European Union depends on our voices. Let us not waste that potential. Let us all go to the polling stations to choose our representatives’, stated Prof. Jacek Popiel.

‘Remembering the great achievements of our predecessors, we always look to the future. We wish to pass on what is important in the history of the University to the generations that will come follow us. The Jagiellonian University Day is also a great opportunity to show our gratitude to the outstanding people that provided significant contributions to Polish science, art, culture; people who shaped our reality. During today’s celebrations, the Jagiellonian University will present its highest honour, the gold Plus Ratio Quam Vis medal, to Prof. Adam Strzembosz. In the 21st century, the University’s motto, a reminder of reason prevailing over force, is still as relevant as it ever was. It is the responsibility of the JU academic community to constantly remind the world of these words, because they contain the wisdom and strength that have guided the University throughout the 660 years of its activity. We realise there are moments in which it is difficult to heed these words, moments when truth can get lost in the complexities of our reality. Therefore, it seems all the more important to acknowledge people who live by them’, said the JU Rector.

Prof. Adam Strzembosz was a Minister of Justice in the government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki (1989–1991). He was also the first President of the Supreme Court, President of the Tribunal of State (1990–1998) and President of the National Council of the Judiciary (1994–1998). The Jagiellonian University has chosen to honour him for his steadfast attitude and courage in defence of law and democracy, independence of courts and freedoms and rights of citizens as well as helping build the ethos of lawyer and judge and setting the highest standards for patriotism and working for the common good.

‘Law must reflect morals: one cannot act in violation of human rights and the rights of citizens. Our times are difficult for lawyers. We need to show great patience and prudence, refraining from invoking precedents, even if we have the best of intentions. You look to me for these values, but I seem to have very little of them. Instead, look for them in my friends, lawyers and judges who suffered the consequences of their defiance’, said Prof. Strzembosz.

According to the tradition, on the morning before the celebrations, the JU authorities laid flowers on the graves of King Casimir the Great, King Vladislaus Jagiełło and Queen Jadwiga, to whom the University owes its foundation and restoration. Next, a plaque commemorating Prof. Franciszek Ziejka, the Rector of the Jagiellonian University in the years 1999–2005, was unveiled in Auditorium Maximum.


The history of Polish academia formally began on 12 May 1364, when King Casimir the Great signed the foundation charter of the Studium Generale – as the University was then called. The newly established institution comprised three faculties: liberal arts, medicine, and law. Only the former two were active during the founder’s life. After the King’s death, the University virtually ceased to exist. Following the failed attempts to restore it in the 1390s, the University was re-founded by King Vladislaus Jagiełło on 26 July 1400. Queen Jadwiga, who died in 1399, contributed to the restoration by leaving a considerable portion of her private estate to the University in her last will. The University’s refoundation was marked by the establishment of the fourth faculty, devoted to theology.

Since its foundation, the Jagiellonian University has been pursuing the vision of King Casimir the Great to provide ‘a refreshing fount of learning, from whose plenitude all those wishing to imbibe the skills of scholarship may drink their fill’.

The stamping of the King’s seal under the University’s foundation act had a profound impact: soon, prospective students and scholars started flocking to Kraków, first next to the Wawel Castle, and then in a building specifically erected for that purpose on the intersection of the streets now known as ul. św. Anny and ul. Jagiellońska.

’Universities in medieval Europe were founded on a set of very democratic principles. That level of democratisation in education was never reached again. University structures arose from a free collaboration between students and their teachers. Very frequently, these student cooperatives elected “authorities" from within its members to look after the common interest and manage the entire endeavour. What is more, the line between students and teachers was not clearly defined’, said Rev. Prof. Michał Heller in his lecture ‘The Idea of University’. The Kraków University’s organisational structure was modelled after the universities of Bologna and Padua.

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