There is money for further restoration of the Aula Leopoldinum
The Municipality of Wrocław will yet again support the restoration work in the University of Wrocław’s Aula Leopoldine. Thanks to the subsidy of PLN 800 thousand granted to the Foundation for the University of Wrocław from the funds for the heritage preservation, the lodges within the auditorium will be renovated.
Autor: Kamilla Jasińska
Publication date: 27 April 2022
In order to receive funds for the next stages of work in the Aula, the Foundation for UWr, which is the entity responsible for carrying out the comprehensive conservation of the Aula, had to take part in the competition for realisation a public task “Activities in the Field of the Cultural Property and National Heritage Protection”, which was announced by the president of Wrocław in December, 2017. The Municipality of Wrocław allocated over PLN 10 million from its budget for this purpose. As many as 46 offers were submitted to the competition, 44 of which met the formal requirements. At the meeting on 8 February, the competition committee chaired by Agata Chmielowska, the City’s Historic Preservation Officer of Wrocław, decided to award 34 grants for a total amount of nearly PLN 6 million. The Foundation for UWr received the highest subsidy of PLN 800 thousand [see the competition results].
The Foundation for the University of Wrocław – and indirectly the University of Wrocław – is the largest beneficiary of municipal funds when it comes to funds allocated to cultural heritage preservation. This year’s subsidy is the fourth one. The previous ones, awarded in other editions of the same competition (2015-2017), came to nearly PLN 3 million. The money from these grants enabled to reinforce the construction of the ceiling (2015), to carry out the comprehensive conservation of the dais (2016), and to renovate the vaults above the matroneum (2017). [see the work schedule].
The municipal authorities and the City’s Historic Preservation Officer of Wrocław’s decision to support financially the renovation is understandable and completely justified. During the press conference in the Aula Leopoldinum on 23 January, Adam Grehl, the vice president of Wrocław, acknowledged that the Aula’s renovation could no longer wait. Over the years, more and more historic buildings around the University were restored but the renovation of the Aula was going to be such a challenging and remarkable project that the University was not able to cover the costs entirely. Hence the authorities’ decision to support the conservation. It is the Aula Leopoldinum which is one of the most valuable monuments of Lower Silesia and one of the landmarks of Wrocław. It is the second most visited Wrocław’s museum (right after the Raclawice Panorama). In 2016 it was visited by over 140 thousand people.
Thanks to the subsidy granted by the Municipality of Wrocław, it will be possible to begin work in the central part of the Aula, that is in the auditorium. This phase of work will cover the renovation of eight lodges (four of them located by the north wall and the other four – by the south wall).
Eight oil paintings on canvas, which measure 133cm x 110cm and are put in ornate oval frames above the backs of the lodges, will also be renovated. These paintings depict rulers and dignitaries of the Jesuit order, their arrival in Wrocław and the foundation and development of the university. Originally, in the first two paintings from the east and west, one could notice church dignitaries. The paintings next to the podium portrayed two popes – Urban VIII and Clement XII. The ones next to the matroneum depict the former bishop of Wrocław – cardinal Philipp Ludwig von Sinzendorf and the fifteenth Superior General of the Society of Jesus – Franz Retz. The four central portraits present secular rulers. Because of that, these paintings are put in the frames topped with crowns. For political reasons, paintings were often replaced. In total, thirteen characters were portrayed in eight frames. All in all, nineteen paintings were made. The first ones were probably hung in the Aula at the end of 1732. Unfortunately, the author of the first cycle remains unknown. It is also uncertain what has happened to those paintings that were removed and replaced in the 18th century. For sure, they are no longer in the Aula. The collection that currently adorns the walls of the auditorium consists of two originals (the first two of the south side of the matroneum) and six replicas made after the audacious theft in June, 1997.
The municipal funds will also cover the costs of the restoration of the polychromous gilded frames made of linden as well as polychromies on the walls behind the paintings and in the space between the consoles. The gilded marbled sections of the cornices on the consoles above the lodges will be the only parts of the moulding restored in this phase of work.
The restoration of the eight lodges together with wooden platforms (exclusive of the platforms in the window niches) will definitely be a challenge. The lodges are the two seater benches with high backs framed on the sides by volutes and topped with ornamental cartouches, which constitute the frames of oil paintings. The fronts of the benches and the backs are covered in panels. Originally, the first four lodges from the south (from the side of the pl.Universytecki) were intended for the Philosophy Faculty professors, and the ones on the north side (from Oder) were reserved for the representatives of the Theology Faculty. These lodges, which come from 1732, and all the other wooden elements of the furnishing, at the beginning of the 20th century underwent a major restoration. Some parts, however, had to be removed and replaced. According to the authors of the “Study of the Decor and Furnishing of the Aula Leopoldinum” (2008) it has to be assumed that all the seats in the Aula faithfully follow the layout and the form of the original benches but most of them was made during the renovation carried out at the beginning of the 20th century. How many parts of the lodges were replaced? Only the restoration will provide the answer.
In the coming days, the preparation for conservation work will begin. The tender procedure will be carried out as soon as possible. Considering the scope of work and the deadline for settling the grant (by the end of December, 2018), renovation should begin no later than in May or June. Together with the platforms, paintings and frames, the lodges will be dismantled and transported to the carpentry and conservation workshops. Only the restoration of the mouldings and polychromes will be carried out on site.
During the ongoing conservation work, the Aula Leopoldinum will be available for tourists on similar terms as in 2017, however, no celebrations will be held there. Tourists who have a ticket for another part of the Museum of the University of Wrocław, such as Oratorium Marianum, the Mathematical Tower or exhibition rooms, will be able to visit the Aula for free.
Translated by Justyna Janik (student of English Studies at the University of Wrocław) as part of the translation practice.