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© 2020 POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The book of Polish coats of arms

The Archives of the University of Padua house an unusual book, or in fact two books, the so-called Register of the Polish Nation. They are full of beautiful illuminations showing decorative cartouches with the coats of arms of Polish students at the university.

In the 16th century large numbers of Poles studied at Padua. In 1592 a Polish student organization was established under the name of the Polish Nation. The Register documents its members, and the particular entries are decorated with illuminations and poetic dedications. Some of the entries feature extensive heraldic compositions and real works of art, such as the coat of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth opening the first volume, or the coats of arms of Bogusław Leszczyński, Franciszek and Jan Dembiński or Józef Antoni Częczkiewicz.

The University of Padua was one of Europe’s most eminent intellectual centers of the Renaissance humanism. Among its students were the most notable figures of their time: Dante, Petrarch, Torquato Tasso, Galileo, Nicholas of Cusa. Their fellows were future creators of Polish science and culture, such as Paweł Włodkowic, Jan Kochanowski, Marcin Kromer, Grzegorz of Sanok, Klemens Janicki, Jan Łaski, Maciej of Miechów or Franciszek Skoryna. The Polish aristocrat and statesman Jan Zamoyski was the Rector of the University of Padua; he later put into practice the humanist ideas which he had absorbed at the university by creating an ideal city: Zamość.

The year 2022 marks the 800th anniversary of the University of Padua. As part of the celebrations, the POLONIKA Institute has prepared a collotype edition of the Register of the Polish Nation in Padua. This extraordinary work of art, which is a testimony to the centuries-old Polish presence at this university, will be presented not only to the Polish and Italian public, but also to the European audience.

University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Via 8 Febbraio 1848, 2, 35122 Padova PD, Włochy