Historical sources of Vilnius University

Historical sources of Vilnius University

This collection contains original manuscripts – Laureae Academicae (1650-1781), Diarium Collegii Societatis Iesu – Vilnius Jesuit College diary of 1710-1723 – and Liber Extraordinarius Provincialis – the Extraordinary Book of Provincial Superior.

Laureae Academicae, the register of previously awarded degrees as well as students presently pursuing their doctor’s, licentiate’s, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Jesuit Academy of Vilnius, was compiled in 1650 and – in the words of professor Romanas Plečkaitis – is one of the most valuable scientific monuments of Lithuania, reflecting and conveying the academic environment and spirit of the only higher education institution in the entire Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The book contains data on degrees bestowed upon 4076 people, although the number is probably not precise. Here one can find the names of various scientific and cultural figures that had a tremendous impact on Lithuanian development – the patron of our mother-tongue Konstantinas Sirvydas, history researcher Albert Wijuk Kojałowicz, rocket scientist and rocketry enthusiast Kazimierz Siemienowicz, astronomer Marcin Odlanicki Poczobutt, polymath Thomas Zebrowski and many others.

The diary of Vilnius Jesuit College of 1710-1723 reflects some aspects of the academic activities – awarded science degrees, passed (or failed exams), defended theses, various disputes, extracurricular activities, theatre performances, recitations, and celebratory dialogues. An important part of the diary is dedicated to the spiritual and ecclesiastical activities that took place in Vilnius Jesuit College. These succinct entries reflect on raging epidemics of famine and tragic ravages of alien armies as well as everyday life of Jesuits and their leisurely activities. The diary is a valuable resource regarding the historical research of Lithuanian church and culture, the impact of Jesuit College on the cultural life of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the history of Vilnius City, the manifestation of first Lithuanian sermons, held parallel with Polish, and complicated political context.

Liber Extraordinarius Provincialis is a significant source of early Vilnius University history; to be more precise, it is the exam registry book of the Jesuit province of Lithuania, and it provides a unique opportunity to directly witness ratio studiorum – a distinctive examination system used by Jesuits to direct a young person to a field most suitable for them, while discovering some positive qualities and skills in other, less talented people. One part of the book, concerning the period from the end of the 16th century to the first half of the 17th century, contains hand-written entries by the Provincial Superiors themselves regarding Jesuit students from various colleges of Jesuit province of Lithuania examined in a variety of subjects. Clearly, the majority of collected data concerns Vilnius, but there are evaluations from exams held in Nesvizh, Braniewo, Jarosław and other colleges, as well. An especially interesting part of the book provides an insight to very colourful and human descriptions of the Jesuits of province of Lithuania, who, between 1602 and 1642, participated in the tertianship (the third stage of probation) in Nesvizh. Amongst them, we can find many respectable and famous Lithuanians – Konstantinas Sirvydas, Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, Jonas Jaknavičius, Sigismundus Lauxmin, Saint Andrew Bobola and others. This is a truly extraordinary book – not only it shows the principles and peculiarities of ratio studiorum teachings, but also provides data – found nowhere else – about our prominent people whose names are carved in the walls of the University and written in the pages of history books and serious treatises; it’s as if this book is the register of all the people who would influence and shape the history for generations to come.

Published in 1810, Librorum Academiae Caesareae Vilnensis Indices was a completely new four-volume alphabetical catalogue of the library of Imperial University of Vilnius compiled alphabetically by library prefect and professor of Classical languages Gotfried Ernest Grodek; the volumes contain more than sixty thousand titles published between the 16th century and the beginning of the 19th century, and certainly include descriptions on publications from the library of Academy of Vilnius – after the closure of the Society of Jesus. These records not only serve as an important witness of the past of Vilnius University, but are also very significant for the analysis of science and cultural history of the entire Grand Duchy of Lithuania.