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Historic Gardens
August 26, 2010   
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Cracow’s Jagiellonian University (UJ), the oldest institution of higher education in Poland, has renovated and reopened its historic gardens after a hiatus of more than two centuries.

The facility, dubbed the Professors’ Garden, opened in early May following a two-year renovation project.

The gardens were used for over 350 years in the past until they fell into ruin at the end of the 18th century.

Designed as a place for university professors and students to relax, the gardens, not far from the city’s Main Market Square, are also accessible to the general public.

In the past, herbs, vegetables and fruit trees grew in the gardens, which closed to visitors after the university underwent a reform more than two centuries ago. From the early 20th century onward, the site was used for warehousing and logistics purposes. Two years ago, a redevelopment project got under way to restore the gardens to their former splendor.

While the erstwhile fruit frees and other vegetation are no longer there, the renovated gardens have plenty of new plant life. For fire security reasons, instead of narrow alleyways, there are wide walkways with lawns and trees in between them. There are also some herbs and wild strawberries. The whole is made complete by renovated statues from the 19th century. Three of them depict professors wearing gowns and caps, but the identity of the individuals immortalized in the statues is unknown.

The gardens feature five interactive models of scientific instruments. Each refers to a different era, showing the history of the Jagiellonian University in a nutshell. The 15th and 16th centuries, the golden age of the Cracow Academy, as it was called at the time, are represented by models of two early mathematical and astronomical instruments, a sun dial and an armillary sphere. The latter is an astronomical model of the celestial sphere that was popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Age of Enlightenment, when the first physics laboratories opened at the university, is symbolized by the Magdeburg hemispheres, which physicists used to demonstrate the phenomena of vacuum and air pressure. In the 19th century, the university started regular meteorological observations, hence the inclusion of the model of a 19th-century Stevenson screen, which used to measure air temperature, pressure and humidity. Finally, the 20th century is represented by an original part of the first cyclotron built by Jagiellonian University staff and a scintillation counter used to survey cosmic rays.

The gardens are open from May until October, from 8 a.m. until dusk. After dusk, visitors can admire the gardens and their spectacular illumination through an openwork gate guarded by two stone halberdiers.
Ewa Dereń
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