Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Upsala

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UPSALA, a city of Sweden, the seat of its oldest university and residence of the archbishop of Sweden, is situated on the small river Fyris, 42 miles north of Stockholm. In spite of its position in a vast and fertile plain, Upsala was a rather insignificant little town till the opening of railway communication in 1866. The population, which in 1840 was only 5100, had at the end of 1885 increased to more than 20,000 (with students, scholars, and others, 23,000). The industries of the place are still unimportant, but its trade by sea (navigation being open for six or seven months of the year) and by rail is somewhat livelier. Upsala owes its fame to its university, which was founded in 1477. In 1624 Gustavus Adolphus endowed it with 300 farms, the revenue of which formed its entire income for more than two hundred years. Parliament now contributes nearly the half of its whole revenue (393,300 crowns, or about £21,800, in 1885). The professors numbered 58 in 1887, with 61 “docents” and assistant teachers, and there were 1928 students. The last-named are divided into 13 “nations” (based on the old ecclesiastical division of the country), almost every one of which possesses a house of its own, with a hall, reading-rooms, and library. About £7200 is distributed yearly in “stipendia” or scholarships. The new university house, above the cathedral, on the site of the former archbishop's castle, is in the Renaissance style, and was built in 1879-87. It has a great hall capable of holding 2000 persons, eleven lecture-rooms, etc. The vestibule, lighted from above by three large cupolas, and surrounded by open galleries, is particularly fine. The library building (called Carolina Rediviva, in remembrance of the Carolina which formerly existed near the cathedral) was erected in 1819-41. The library, which has a right to a copy of every book printed in Sweden, at present (1887) contains 250,000 volumes and 11,000 MSS., among which is the famous Codex Argenteus of Ulfilas's translation of the Gospels. The “Gustavianum,” built by order of Gustavus Adolphus for a university house, is now wholly occupied by the zoological institution. The botanical garden (which formerly belonged to the castle) was presented by Gustavus III. to the university in 1787, — the former garden (in the northern part of the city), where Rudbeck and Linnæus worked, and where the residence of the latter is still to be seen, having been found too small and inconvenient. The medical faculty possesses a hospital and anatomical, chemical, and pathologico-physiological institutions; and about a mile from the town there is a magnificent lunatic asylum. The astronomical and meteorological institutions, as well as those of chemistry and physics, have also special buildings, all of recent date. The Royal Society of Sciences, established in 1710 by Eric Benzelius, the younger, occupies a house of its own, and has a valuable library. Of the buildings the cathedral, founded in the latter part of the 13th century and completed in 1435, is the most remarkable. The material is brick, but the proportions are uncommonly noble and harmonious; the length is 390 feet, and the height inside 88. It has suffered considerably from repeated fires, but since 1886 an extensive restoration has been going on. The castle, on the summit of a long ridge above the town, was founded in 1548 by Gustavus I., but not finished till a century later, when it was often used as a royal residence. It was destroyed by fire in 1702, and for more than forty years remained a ruin. At present only a small part of it is habitable, and that part is chiefly used by the provincial government, and as a residence of the governor. Apart from the cathedral and a few insignificant houses, there are no remains from the mediaeval period, the city formerly having consisted almost entirely of wooden houses.

The name of Upsala originally belonged to a place nearly 2 miles to the north of the present city, which is still called Old Upsala. This Upsala, mentioned as early as the 9th century, was famous throughout Scandinavia for its splendid heathen temple, which, gleaming with gold, made it the centre of Svithiod, then divided into a great number of kingdoms; three huge grave mounds or barrows still commemorate old times. In the same place the first cathedral of the bishops of Upsala was also erected (about 1100). On the destruction of this building by fire, the inconvenient situation caused the removal in 1273 of the archiepiscopal see to the present city, then called Ostra Aros,[1] but within a comparatively short time it came to be generally called Upsala. During the Middle Ages the cathedral and the see of the archbishop made Upsala a kind of ecclesiastical capital. There the kings were crowned, after the election had taken place at the Mora stones, 10 miles south-east of Upsala. As early as the 14th century, however, Stockholm became the proper residence of the king. In 1567 Erik XIV. murdered in the castle five of the most eminent men of the kingdom, three of them belonging to the family of Sture. In 1593 was held the great synod which marks the final victory of Protestantism in Sweden; in the same year the university was restored by Charles IX. In the castle Christina, daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, resigned her crown to Charles X. in 1654. In 1702 nearly the whole city, with the castle and the cathedral, was burnt down. Among the teachers of the university who have carried its name beyond the boundaries of their own country, the following (besides Linnæus) deserve to be mentioned: — Olof Rudbeck the elder, the author of the Atlantica (1630-1702); Torbern Bergman (1735-1784), the celebrated chemist; and Erik Gustaf Geijer (1783-1847), the historian.


  1. The name first occurs in Snorro Sturluson in connexion with the events of the year 1018; it signifies “the mouth of the eastern river.”