The University Park
The University Park is no doubt one of the most remarkable parks in Sweden, surrounded as it is by a number of famous edifices, namely Gustavianum, the Ekerman Building (Historicum), the relatively new Church of Sweden House, the Södermanland-Nerike Nation (student social club), the University Main building, and finally the residence of the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden.
As early as the 18th century, possibly even earlier, this was a garden. The planted area was enclosed by walls and, among other things, a round tower, the ‘Roundel’. The name survives in the street close by, Rundelsgränd. The green area was elevated in terraces up to the hall for the University’s exercitia (riding, fencing, dancing, modern languages), which lay where the University Main Building now stands.
Occasionally the so-called Gustavian Academy Garden was used for popular entertainments. From 1813 and a few years following, exhibitions of gymnastic and athletic skills were arranged. There was fencing, ‘voltige’ (gymnastics on horseback), and tightrope walking, all to the delight of the public.
The University Main Building was erected in the 1880s, and the entire garden was radically altered. The old walls were torn down, and University Park was laid out. Thore Fries, professor of botany and for a time Vice-Chancellor of the University, was one of the driving forces behind these developments. The decision was made to plant a rich variety of trees. This was decided for didactic purposes, a decision akin to those taken all over Sweden to plant a variety of tree species in the simplest schoolyards: young people would learn to recognise the various species. Though University Park underwent a thorough ‘facelift’ ahead of the 500th anniversary celebrations in 1977, it retains its basic character from the 1880s.
In the center of the Park there is a statue of Erik Gustaf Geijer, a historian and poet (1783–1847). The sculptor John Börjesson captured Geijer as he looked when standing at the lectern, as shown in a contemporary drawing. A female figure sits on the base of the statue, symbolising Geijer’s ‘Thought’. The statue was unveiled on a day in October 1888, in a still sparse park that was totally dominated by the new University Main Building.
Also worth seeing in the Park are the six rune stones, found in the city and in surrounding parishes and moved to this central place to remind sightseers of the wealth of rune stones in the province of Upland.