Founded by the Jesuits in 1670, the magnificent Baroque main building of Wrocław University and the adjacent Church of the Blessed Name of Jesusthat stand today were built at the same time on the former site of a derelict Piast castle after a land grant from Emperor Leopold. In 1811, Prussia secularised all church property and took over administration of the university. Prior to this the Austrian-Prussian war in 1741 saw the campus transformed into a hospital, a prison, and finally, in 1757, a food store. In the dying days of WWII the university library was turned into a makeshift HQ for the occupying Nazis. At the war's end the German faculty were all but exiled, with the replacement professors arriving from the University of Lwów forming the first Polish faculty to teach here. The University still functions as an academic building, and past professors include Alois Alzheimer (the man who gave his name to the disease) and Robert Bunsen (who didn’t invent the Bunsen burner but improved it to such a degree that it was named in his honour). Since the start of the 20th century, the university has produced a remarkable 9 Nobel Prize winners and today over 40,000 students are enrolled with 9,000 graduating each year.
Despite its ongoing functions as an academic institution, the main university building is open to tourists who troop in and out primarily to take photos of Aula Leopoldina, the grand Baroque ceremonial hall. Two tickets are available, giving you access to 3 or 4 university rooms, and all of the rooms are now equipped with free audioguides in English, Polish, German, Russian, Czech, Spanish, and Italian. We recommend you splash out for all four to avoid any later confusion and consternation.
The first of the University Museum's two main highlights is undoubtedly Aula Leopoldina. In true Baroque style, the ceremonial hall is a virtual explosion of cherubs and swag. The painting on the ceiling depicts the apotheosis of God's wisdom - reflecting the religious and academic mission of this room and the Jesuits. The portraits ringing the walls depict the founding fathers of the University. Some years ago four of them were stolen and two have yet to be returned. Winding upstairs past the odd exhibition and a line in the floor demarcating the 51st parallel - which runs right through the building - your visit to the museum ends on the terrace of the university's 'Mathematical Tower' which affords great photo opportunities and panoramic views of the Old Town and Odra River.