Repurposed buildings: houses, residences, palaces

Repurposed buildings: houses, residences, palaces

Universities very often began their existence in buildings originally constructed for other purposes. 

Image 1. The university in Freiburg im Breisgau (in south-western Germany) was founded in 1457, but in 1572 -- around the same time as Leiden -- it was rehoused by joining together two recently constructed houses, which were further repurposed as the town hall in 1896.

Images 2-3. A larger process of aggregation created the oldest surviving building in Poland’s oldest university: the Collegium Maius in Jagiellonian University, Krakow. In 1400 King Władysław II Jagiełło purchased a house from a town councillor and bequeathed it to the Uuniversity which now bears his surname. Throughout the 15th century, adjacent houses were purchased and new buildings constructed to house the growing institution.  After fires in 1462 and 1492, the ring of houses was joined together to form an arcaded courtyard surrounded by galleries with impressive late gothic vaults, which now surrounds a well added in 1517. Lecture rooms filled the ground floor; the first floor was devoted to the library (added c. 1515-19), the stuba communis (a refectory for the professors), the treasury and the lecture room for theology.  Residences for the professors provided on the first and second floors. Neo-gothic alterations transformed the building from the 1840s onward, but these were removed a century later when the building was transformed into a museum displaying as its crown jewels scientific instruments related to the University’s most famous alumnus: Nicolas Copernicus. Panoramas are available in the video below and the external links to the right.

Image 4. At the other end of the spectrum from Frieburg is the University of Coimbra. Founded in Lisbon in 1290, Portugal’s oldest university initially had a very peripatetic existence: it was transferred to Coimbra in 1308, back to Lisbon thirty years later, to Coimbra again in 1354, and back to Lisbon in 1377. In 1537, however, the entire institution and its library moved definitively into the Alcaçova Palace on the hill overlooking the city, and to this day it remans centred on this splendid which (as explained in the second video below) became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.  The only university in Portugal before the foundation of Évora in 1559, Coimbra was renowned throughout Europe in the sixteenth century for the Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis, a series of  massive commentaries on the works of Aristotle produced by the university's huge Jesuit college.

Commentary: Howard Hotson (June 2018)