Universiteit Leiden

William of Orange
William of Orange Portrait, oil on panel, late 16th century (private loan)

It all started with William of Orange: this prince and leader of the Dutch Revolt founded Leiden University on 8 February 1575. He wanted to train good administrators and Protestant clergymen. Freedom and empowerment were important principles for him. Like the University’s founder, Carel Stolker also joined in the sometimes fierce discussions about these fundamental values. The monogram A.W. can be seen at the bottom right of the portrait, but the maker is unknown. This may have been intentional because it was dangerous at that time to sympathise with the rebellious prince. The panel is fairly small (h. 31 x w. 32 cm), making it easy to transport in secret.

‘De Grote Hagen’
‘De Grote Hagen’ Map of Leiden, engraving by Christiaan Hagen, 1670

This 17th-century map features the city highlights, including Pieterskerk, the City Hall, the Academy Building and the Hortus botanicus. Since the reopening of Museum De Lakenhal in 2019, the University has had its own room as part of the permanent display. In consultation with Carel Stolker, the curators of the exhibition chose an object that represents the relationship between city and university.

PhD procession
PhD procession PhD procession leaving the Academy Building, painting by Hendrik van der Burgh, circa 1650-1660 (on loan from Rijksmuseum)

This kind of solemn yet festive procession has been filing along the Rapenburg canal for centuries. As a result, passers-by also see that Leiden is a real university city. A good relationship with the city has always been important for rectors of the University. The academic senate and city council were closely linked in 1575, as the next object also shows. Since the beginning of this century, the University has also had a thriving campus in The Hague.

Lady Justice
Lady Justice Oak statue by Claes Jansz. Kaasmaker, 1653 (Museum De Lakenhal)

Lady Justice may be a woman, but for a long time the University was a man’s world, and so too was the academic court. Some of the aldermen also sat on the city council, and judgments were delivered in the city hall. This statue comes from that court. The first female students arrived at the University in the last quarter of the 19th century, but it was only in the 20th century that the number of female students and professors increased dramatically. The first female rector was only appointed in 2021.