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Move the sculpture - about the heliocentric system standing in front of the Agricultural University of Cracow

01 of December '23

In front of the University of Agriculture in Kraków, hidden in the shade of trees, obscured from the sidewalk by food stalls and a bus shelter, stands an interesting construction. It is a several-meter-high sculpture set on four legs. It has the shape of a rhomboid sphere with four pointed ends, which are joined by curved rays.

In the center of the sphere can be seen three geometrically sculpted spheres of various sizes. One, the largest, is set on the axis of the entire installation on a vertical bar, another, less sculpted on a circle, and the smallest, on a circle around the middle sphere, already completely smooth. This spatial composition represents the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus. The aforementioned three spheres thus represent, respectively, the Sun, in its orbit the Earth, and the small Moon. They are depicted in a dynamic sphere, symbolizing the lens of the galaxy. Originally, the three spheres were spinning, literally testifying „to the rotation of the celestial spheres.” Today, the star, the planet and its satellite, can be distinguished by the colors that appeared when the structure was repainted around 2010, and the mechanism that moves the elements, itself, is not working.

 Części mechanizmu obracającego niegdyś konstrukcję  Zbliżenie na planety

Parts of the mechanism that once rotated the structure and a close-up view of the planets

photo: Zofia Grzêślewicz

sculpture depicting the heliocentric theory

The original place where the sculpture stood was not the patch of greenery in front of the Agricultural University building. The structure was erected in February 1973 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus, the Year of Copernicus declared by UNESCO. During this period, many sculptures, mosaics or polychromes referring to the astronomer were made in Polish cities. During the "Copernicus Week", which lasted from February 17 to 23, she was, together with store windows alluding to the Polish astronomer (exhibitions of books, numismatic items, Cepelia products), the decoration of the Main Square in Kraków. It was, according to Krakow newspapers, one of the city's most impressive decorations.

It was made, according to a design by Jaroslaw Sowinski, largely by employees of the „MOSTOSTAL” company's Auxiliary Production Plant. What was emphasized, it was a social act. The employees created the steel elements, while the aluminum parts, depicting the celestial bodies, were made by employees of the Experimental Department of the Jagiellonian University. In front of the Cloth Hall, to the place where the composition was to stand, it was transported by a cavalcade of cars, and the installation, under the care of Czesław Żmuda and documented photographically by Tadeusz Sochor, took two and a half hours. The spatial composition itself, in addition to its aesthetic value, had didactic qualities. It presented the complicated Copernican theory in an imaginative and people-friendly way. This was, of course, aided by the Earth's rotation around the sun, provided by an electric motor placed inside the sculpture. The mechanism itself, curiously enough, however, moved the celestial bodies in the opposite direction, as pointed out by an anonymous sender of a letter to the „Polish Daily”.

After the „Copernicus week,” the model of the heliocentric system set off, as „Dziennik Polski” proclaimed, on a „tour of Poland.” During 1973 it was exhibited in Torun, Lidzbark and Warsaw, among other places. At the end of 1973, the sculpture returned to Kraków, where it was placed in the student town, as a reminder of the Copernican year. Since then it has only been repainted and its electric motor removed.

Zbliżenie na tabliczkę informującą o autorstwie rzeźby

close-up on the plaque informing about the sculpture's authorship

photo: Zofia Grzêślewicz

Jaroslaw Sowinski, who was he?

The author of the project—Jaroslaw Sowinski—is not a widely known artist. Also, little information about his life could be found with the help of Mr. Pawel Jakubic, director of the Agricultural University library. He was born on June 7, 1923 in Poznań, under the surname Kabat, which he changed to Sowinski in 1952. He studied at the I.J. Paderewski Humanities Gymnasium in Poznan, where he graduated third in December 1939, after which he was deported to the Lublin region. In 1943 he was incarcerated in the Majdanek camp, which he managed to survive. After the war, he began his studies at the Catholic University of Lublin, from which he moved to Poznan to study philosophy. In Poznań, he also received his high school graduation certificate in 1945. At that time, he also began studying at the evening drawing school of the Poznan College of Fine Arts.

Later, he was taught drawing at the Warsaw University of Technology by Prof. Zygmunt Kaminski. In 1949, he began studying at the Faculty of Painting of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, after which he transferred to the Faculty of Interior Design in his third year. He completed his studies in 1953, and in February 1954 received the professional degree of certified interior designer. In the early 1950s, together with Tadeusz Brzozowski, he made polychromes in the church in Godziszów and, with a team augmented by Barbara Gawdzik, in the church of the Franciscan monastery in Glogowek. Unfortunately, the frescoes in Glogowek have not survived.

In 1954, commissioned by the State Railroad, he designed and executed with his wife Krystyna a painting on the wall of the railroad extension office hall at the Mogilskie Roundabout. It depicted the development of the railroad in an unusually innovative form for the time, departing from the prevailing socialist realism. The painting is now covered with gypsum boards. In the 1950s, he also made a „signpost” poster for a competition of posters on health and safety issues organized by the editors of BHO Artistic and Graphic Publishing House.

In the late 1950s, Jaroslaw Sowinski was one of the members of the New Art Group, which organized social activities at the level of various exhibitions, consisting of painters as well as sculptors and graphic artists. In addition to him, its members included Włodzimierz Buczek, Witold Damasiewicz, Antoni Hajdecki and Jan Tarasin. In the 1960s he held the position of chief visual artist of the city of Kraków, and in 1964, for the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Jagiellonian University, he made „successful spatial decorations based on the principles of modern architecture.” At the time, he was head of the Decoration Studio, president of the MRN. In 1973, he made a design for the construction of the heliocentric system for the „Copernicus week,” for which he was awarded the Copernicus medal. He died in late January 1988 at the age of 65.

Układ heliocentryczny przed Uniwersytetem Rolniczym w Krakowie

The heliocentric system in front of the Agricultural University of Kraków

photo: Zofia Grzaslewicz

The object standing in front of the Agricultural University is now one of many outdoor sculptures in the area, and is part of the trend of the new approach to monumental sculpture of the 1960s and 1970s. The work by Jaroslaw Sowinski is an example of a spatial composition that engages the viewer. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the sculpture's creation, and we are again celebrating the Copernican year. I think it would be worth restoring it and bringing back its original steel finish. The lack of a working mechanism, setting the sculpture in motion, is also a great loss. With it, we would be able to fully experience the intention of its author, and understand what was revolutionary in 1543.

Zofia Grzashiewicz

She studies art history at Jagiellonian University and contributes to a research circle. She cooperates with the Education Department of the National Museum in Kraków. Her interests include 20th century sculpture and 20th and 21st century architecture and its social dimension


  • Archive of the Academy of Fine Arts, [b. syg.], Jaroslaw Sowinski.
  • Work of MOSTOSTAL employees will embark on a journey across Poland, in: Dziennik Polski, 1973, no. 42 (9015), p. 7.
  • Photo update, in Gazeta Krakowska, 1973, no. 42 (7766), p. 1.
  • One of the most attractive decorations, in Echo Krakowa, no. 42 (8529) p. 3.
  • Competition for a BHP poster, in The World, 1957, no. 2, p. 17.
  • Kraków celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus, in Kraków 1973, pp. 9, 16.
  • Plastic Chronicle, in: Literary Life, 1964, no. 22 (644), p. 10.
  • M. Miezian, Railway in the service of progress—the history of two Krakow railroad paintings from the 1950s, in: Zeszyty naukowo-techniczne SITK RP, Kraków branch, 2017, no. 3 (114), pp. 61-69.
  • Painting in the DOKP, in: Przekrój, 1956, no. 20 (579), p. 5.
  • The city of Copernicus in the first days of the great anniversary, in Echo of Krakow, 1973, no. 41 (8528), p. 1.
  • National Digital Archive, Central Photographic Agency, ref. 3/4/0/-/274720,
  • Celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus in Kraków—installation of the Heliocentric System in front of the Cloth Hall, photo: Tadeusz Sochor, photographic documentation,
  • New Artistic Group, in Literary Life. Weekly, no. 50 (360) p. 7.
  • J. J. Szczepanski, Good work in Glogowek, in Tygodnik Powszechny, No. 40 (393), pp. 3-4.
  • Inwhich direction does it turn, in Na antenie, 1973, no. 122, p. 27.
  • The dead, in Przekrój, 1988, no. 5 (2225), p. 2.

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