Traces of history

Uppsala University's long history can be seen in, among other things, various phenomena and symbols that occur at academic festivities.


Since 1663, Uppsala University has had a Department of Riding where students and employees can practice horse riding. In the 17th century, students were to be educated in so-called exercitia, or practical subjects. These practical subjects also included French, Spanish, Italian, fencing, dance, music and drawing.

Horse riding at Uppsala University


Academic symbols

At the beginning of the 17th century, the University started to use a symbol in the form of two silver sceptres, to express the University's independence. Today, the sceptres are carried by the vice-chancellor's ceremonial guards during academic festivities. 

Another symbol is the vice-chancellor's chain that king Oscar II donated to the university and which the vice-chancellor carries at the inaugaration of professors and other ceremonies. 

The academic symbols

The top of one of the silver spires

The maxim “To think freely is great, to think righlty is greater”

Engraved in golden letters above the entrance to the Grand Auditorium of the University Main Building in Uppsala you find the words “To think freely is great, but to think rightly is greater” (In Swedish Tänka fritt är stort men tänka rätt är större).

Read about the maxim “To think freely is great, but to think rightly is greater

The Vice-Chancellor’s ceremonial guard

Not everyone might know that the Vice-Chancellor has their own guards at their side during formal ceremonies. Martin Andersson’s day job is as a financial administrator at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology. But a few times each year on solemn occasions, he takes on a role steeped in ancient traditions, leading the ceremonial guard of the Vice-Chancellor as the Beadle (head of the guard), where he and two cursors (Yeomen bedells) have important roles to play in the tradition.

Read about Martin Andersson and his honorary role of Beadle