Aula

The final stage of renovation work in the Aula Leopoldinum has begun

The Leopoldine Hall presents the whole university as the Temple of Wisdom. It is itself a miniature of the university and symbolically recreates the temple erected by Solomon. The arrangement of the individual design elements in each of the three interior parts emphasises their hierarchy. The podium is the apotheosis of imperial power, the auditorium is a glorification of Divine Wisdom and the science derived from it, while the gallery is a praise of the local representatives of imperial power in Silesia. During the renovation of the Leopoldine Hall, which has been ongoing in stages since 2016, all parts of the Leopoldine Hall have been restored. It comprises the podium, music gallery and side walls. The time has now come for the final stage which is the conservation of the painting on the vault in the auditorium section.

The decoration of the Leopoldine Hall was made between 1731 and 1732. The monumental paintings are the work of Johann Christoph Handke, while Franz Jozef Mangoldt made the sculptures. The marble work was done by Ignatius Provisore and the woodcarving by Christoph Hollandt. The ceremonial opening and consecration of the Hall took place on 19 August 1732. On the same day, 14 theologians were conferred doctoral degrees. These days, the Leopoldine Hall is the venue of the most important ceremonies for the academic community of Wrocław. Among them is the inauguration of the academic year, matriculation of newly admitted students, doctoral and post-doctoral promotions, scientific sessions, lectures and chamber concerts. The Hall is also a place where doctorates honoris causa are awarded.

The Hall, which has been heavily used since its inception, has been repaired and maintained many times.

CONSERVATION WORK CARRIED OUT IN THE PAST

The complicated history of the university, the damage caused to the main building by the war, as well as the ad hoc renovation work carried out in the past, have led to a reduction in the attractiveness of both the Leopoldine Hall and the other historic spaces of the building. The Hall, which has been heavily used since its inception, has been repaired and maintained many times.

  • 1788 – first conservation work carried out by Carl Gottlieb Heinrich
  • 1908-1910 – restoration work by the painter Joseph Langer
  • 1926 – restoration work by the painter Fey from Charlottenburg, probably limited to the depictions under the gallery
  • 1948 – rescue works after the war damages done by Prof. Marconi, consisting of attaching detached plasters and supplementing large losses of mortar
  • 1949-1958 – reconstruction works carried out by Prof. Antoni Michalak
  • 1974-1976 – conservation works carried out by Wroclaw and Torun Monuments Conservation Institutions

In the first decade of the 21st century, it became necessary to undertake comprehensive conservation works. Their aim is to stop the destructive processes and to restore the original character and splendor of the Baroque masterpiece.

RENOVATION OF THE HALL IN THE 21ST CENTURY

The comprehensive conservation of the Leopoldine Hall began with the podium. This stage of restoration was carried out from July to December 2016. The work included monumental painting of the vault and walls, sculptures, stucco ornaments, colourful stucco marbling, woodcarving elements, furniture and the podium platform. The comprehensive restoration was possible thanks to a grant of PLN 870 000. It was awarded by the municipal conservator of monuments in Wrocław.

Next, the restorers tackled the music gallery. The first stage of conservation work lasted from the end of February to June 2017. It included the restoration of the wooden balustrade with the bust standing on it and three window recesses within the gallery.

The work was made possible thanks to the efforts of Prof. Rudolf Lenz (b. 1940) – philologist, historian, professor at Philips University in Marburg, honorary doctorate of the University of Wrocław. Prof. Lenz has been involved in the restoration of historical monuments in Lower Silesia for many years. He has been tirelessly seeking funding from German governmental and non-governmental institutions. Thanks to Prof. Lenz’s intercession, this stage of work was financed from the funds of the Plenipotentiary of the German Federal Government for Culture and the Media. Cost of works: nearly PLN 200 000.

After removing the overpaintings and defective additions, the restorers uncovered the original plaster and polychrome borders.

The second stage of work on the gallery included the conservation of the vault above the balcony and the fourth window recess. This stage, carried out from July to December 2017, consumed almost PLN 1 million of subsidy provided by the municipality of Wrocław. The state of preservation of the polychrome over the gallery was very bad. Anna Mossler, who was in charge of the painting’s conservation work, said, “It was undoubtedly the worst-preserved fragment of the hall’s vault”.  After removing the overpaintings and defective additions, the restorers uncovered the original plaster and polychrome borders. As Mossler explained, “It turned out that the loss of the original plaster in this part of the vault was considerable, amounting to about 40 per cent. The loss of the original polychrome certainly exceeded 50 per cent of the entire surface”.

The third stage of the restoration of the Leopoldine Hall included the renovation of the student benches on the left side of the Hall, the side walls and all the elements located there. Additionally, the third stage of the restoration comprised paintings in gilded frames, wooden professors’ boxes and paintings in window niches and windows.

The paintings were removed from their frames and dusted. The surface of contemporary copies was washed off the layer of dust and small losses of the painting layer on edges were filled. On the picture of Francis Stephan of Lorraine, small scales and chips of the putty and paint layer were glued, losses of the paint layer were filled in. The picture of Count Karl von Hoym required removing the retouch layer. It was ironed on a low-pressure table. Losses of primer and paint layer were supplemented. The paintings were varnished with satin varnish. The frames were cleaned of dust and layers of repaintings were removed. In the parts of gilding and polychromy, losses were supplemented. The surface of the benches was cleaned of varnish layers. In order to strengthen the structure of the wood, impregnation was carried out. Carpentry joints were glued and corrected and a layer of stain was applied. The sculptural elements were gilded. The surface of the platforms was varnished, dusted, stained and oiled.

The baroque, partly illusionist painting decoration was renovated. Portraits in the window frames (on the northern wall from the side of the gallery Kircherus – Archimedes, Socrates – Plato, Sanchez – Gerson, Gratianus – Canisious, Albertus – Scotus; on the south wall: Riccius – Euclides, Seneca – Aristotle, Diana – Thomas Kemr, Raymundus – Bellarminus, Suarez – S Bonaventura), architectural elements, volutes, shells, campanile, emblems on the palate of the arcades.

The baroque, partly illusionist painting decoration was renovated.

On 12 August 2020, the University of Wrocław signed a contract regarding the final stage of the renovation of the Leopoldine Hall. The works, which will begin on 19 August, will cover the polychrome of the central vault with stuccowork, the polychrome of the wall under the choir and the conservation of the northern set of student benches. After a nonlimited tender, Roland Róg was selected the contractor for the works. Cost of works: PLN 1,341,784.86 gross. The Contractor undertakes to complete the subject of the Contract within 18 months, counting from the day of signing the Contract by the Contractor. The money is 100% from the University.

Scope of conservation work:

  • polychromy:
    – main scene (central vault) – 1 piece,
    – lunettes of the main vault – 10 pieces,
    – wall under the choir (the back wall and 4 sections of the wall between the window niches)
  • monochrome:
    – framing of window niche arches – 10 pieces,
    – shield walls in lunettes – 10 pieces,
  • stucco work:
    – cornice headers – plaster stucco – 16 pieces,
    – cornice headers – gilding – 8 pieces,
    – shield walls and lunettes – plaster stucco – 10 pieces,
    – gilding – stuccos – 2 pieces,
    – stuccos – stucco mirror – 10 pieces,
    – stuccos – polychrome – 10 items,
  • technical conservation of the plaster behind the bench,
  • aesthetic conservation of the door splay,
  • conservation of 16 student benches in the northern bench complex (the 16 benches include a breastwork)
  • replacement of the oak wooden platform underneath the above-mentioned student benches,
  • removal and installation of bench backs under the choir loft,
  • colour consolidation and repair at the window splays, (under the sills in the window splays and in window splays) approx. 7 m,
  • colour consolidation of walls behind paintings (corners) and walls between corbels approx. 8 m.

The scene above the auditorium by Jan Krzysztof Handke takes place against a background of open sky.

What does the painting on the vault in the auditorium show?

The scene above the auditorium by Jan Krzysztof Handke takes place against a background of open sky. It is surrounded by illusionistically depicted architecture, continuing the actual architecture of the walls. In the middle, the apotheosis of Divine Wisdom is painted. It is depicted as a dove of the Holy Spirit. She is adored by, among others, the four Evangelists, the Fathers of the Church, the patrons of theology (St John the Evangelist and St Thomas Aquinas) and philosophy (St Matthew the Evangelist and St Catherine of Alexandria) and other saints, above all Jesuits. Below, against a background of illusory architecture, one can see personifications of twelve arts – seven liberal and five common. They include Arithmetic, Astronomy, Dialectic, Pharmacy, Geometry, Grammar, Painting, Music, Poetry, Sculpture and Typography. They are presented under the figures of women, accompanied by appropriate attributes to identify a given art.

For the duration of the renovation works the Leopoldine Hall will be closed to the public.


Translated by Stefania Nowak (student of English Studies at the University of Wrocław) as part of the translation practice.

Projekt „Zintegrowany Program Rozwoju Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego 2018-2022” współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej z Europejskiego Funduszu Społecznego

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