The Anatomical Theatre at Uppsala University — A Short Cinematic Introduction

Publicerad:2011-02-07 10:53

The anatomical theatre at Gustavianum at the Uppsala University was completed in 1663 by medical professor and amateur architect Olaus Rudbeck. The cone-formed theatre is located in the cupola which Rudbeck placed on top of the Gustavianum building, at the time the main building of the university. Rudbeck had spent time in Leiden, and both the anatomical theatre and the botanical garden he founded in Uppsala in 1655 were influenced by his experiences there. This short film by Jan von Bonsdorff and Jonas Mertanen shows the interior of the anatomical theatre.


The 17th century anatomical theatre in Gustavianum, Uppsala university, Sweden. The dissecting table is shown in the centre surrounded by the tiers for the spectators.

The so-called Gustavianum building at the Uppsala University houses the spectacular anatomical theatre conceived by the scholar Olof Rudbeck the elder. He allowed for the dome to be built on the roof of the Gustavianum 1662-1663. Rudbeck had received the idea from the anatomical theatre in Leiden, Holland, which he visited himself. There are similar anatomical theatrse in Padua and in Bologna in Italy.

The anatomical theatre was used as kind of demonstration facility for teaching medicine. Until 1766 dissections were carried out in front of medical students and a paying public, at times, on criminals who had been executed, but mostly on animals.

During the last part of the 18th century and onwards the anatomical theatre was used by the university library. Around the middle of the 19th century the interior was demolished and the upper section functioned as a zoological museum. In the 1950s the theatre was restored to its former state.

In the picture below, the dome of the anatomical theatre is shown, swathed in copper plating on the outside and crowned with a small globe, which functions as a sundial.

The following film was completed by Jan von Bonsdorff, Uppsala University, with technical assistance by Jonas Mertanen, in 2004.

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