In the year 1258, following the tragic fire at the Old Uppsala (Gamla Uppsala) Cathedral, Pope Alexander IV granted his ap-proval to relocate the episcopal see to the new city of Uppsala, also known as Östra Aros. This was marked by constructing a majestic new cathedral on Domberget (the Cathedral Hill). Construction commenced in 1272 and culminated in its inauguration in 1435, marking the beginning of a new era in Uppsala’s history.
It was Archbishop Jacob Ulvson who soon obtained permission to establish an educational institution for priests in the city. In 1477, he received a papal bull from Pope Sixtus IV to establish this institution, leading to the emergence of the Cathedral Chapter, where the very first students were educated in the doctrines of Catholicism.
The initial building, known as the Carolinian Academy or Academia. Carolina, became the birth-place of Uppsala University.
The early years were focused on priestly educa-tion and the teachings of Catholicism. However, the university declined in significance when the Reformation swept through Sweden in 1527. It was only during the reign of King Gustav II Adolf that the university regained its vitality, as the need for loyal priests and officials to serve the king’s interests in Europe grew.
In 1622, construction began on an impressive new university building, later named Gustavianum, in honor of the king who financed the project. This grand structure was designed to house lecture halls, a printing press, dormitories, a student dining hall, and a library. Gustavianum gained further renown when the anatomical theater was added, thanks to Olof Rudbeck the Elder, featuring excellent lighting and steeply tiered seating.
During the city fire of 1702, the Carolinian Academy suffered significant damage. In 1778, the old building was demolished to make way for the new university library, Carolina Rediviva (”the Resurrected Carolina”), completed in 1834. This library houses treasures such as Isaac Newton’s first edition of ”Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” and the Silver Bible, a hand-written gospel book from the 5th century.
Today’s ”new” university building was completed as recently as 1887 and was inaugurated by King Oscar II. This building, constructed in Roman Renaissance style in the University Park, or Gustavian Academy’s Garden as it was known in the 18th century, is an impressive landmark. The grand entrance, illuminated by dome-shaped skylights, leads to an auditorium that can accom- modate up to 1800 people, hosting numerous events and lectures.
Above the entrance, one can read the words of philosopher Thomas Thorild: ”To think freely is great, but to think correctly is greater.” (”Tänka fritt är stort, men tänka rätt är större” ) The facade is adorned with plaques dedicated to the great person-alities associated with the university.
Today, Uppsala University is one of Sweden’s most esteemed institutions, with over 50,000 students and 5,000 researchers. It has adapted and evolved to meet the challenges and opportunities of changing times. The university’s presence permeates the entire city, and Uppsala has become synonymous with the City of Knowledge, a place where science and learning flourish, continuing to shape the future.