Cannon salute and bell ringing for the conferment ceremony

Men firing cannons from the castle hill
Photo:  Mats Hellmark

the Cannon salutes

Precisely when the University started honouring new doctorates with a cannon salute is not known, but we do know that it has been done since at least the early 1800s. The firing of salutes was common much earlier at major festivities so they may well have been a part of conferment ceremonies earlier too.

Who fires the cannon salute?

Those firing the salutes are Jämtlands fältartilleri. They are a military cultural history association based in Östersund and are a part of the Norrland Artillery Regiment. They have fired the salutes in Uppsala since 2006.

When is the salute fired?

The first salute is fired from the castle in the morning, by the northern tower at 07.00 in the morning. The number of shots fired indicates how many faculties, jubilee PhDs and honorary doctors are taking part in the day’s ceremony. Later on in the afternoon, salutes are fired from the University Main Building’s south side. The shots are fired at certain points during the conferment ceremony and can be heard at irregular intervals from about 12.50 to 15.00.

The ringing of the cathedral bell

When the University was founded in 1477, the Church and the University were closely connected. At the time, the University’s purpose was to educate priests. Today the University’s connection to the Church is gone, but one tradition which reminds us of the old times is when the cathedral bells are rung for the major university ceremonies.

‘Storan’ – Swedish for ‘Big One’ – is the name of the bell which is rung for the academic ceremonies in Uppsala. Weighing seven metric tons it is the largest bell in Sweden. On the day of a conferment ceremony or inauguration of professors, the ringing starts at 08.00 in the morning and lasts for ten minutes. This tradition dates back to the 1600s. The bell was rung while the procession made its way to the ceremony, regardless of whether it was held at the University or in the church.

After the Great Fire of 1702, Uppsala University students were the ones who raised the re-cast ‘Big One’ to its place in the northern spire of the Cathedral. In thanks, they were granted the perpetual right to free funereal ringing with the bell.

Last modified: 2021-01-21