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Since its foundation in 1919, the University of Ljubljana has been housed in the Provincial Diet Mansion. After celebrating the centenary of the University of Ljubljana in 2019, we have dedicated this year to the 120th anniversary of the Provincial Diet Mansion. We marked it with an exhibition entitled The Provincial Diet Mansion, the Home of the University of Ljubljana, showcasing more than a century of coexistence.

Postcard featuring the Provincial Diet Mansion.
(Historical archive and Museum of the University of Ljubljana)

The University of Ljubljana and the Provincial Diet Mansion

Following the devastating earthquake that struck Ljubljana in 1895, one of the buildings that was so damaged that it had to be demolished and rebuilt was the former Carniolan Provincial Assembly in Congress Square (Kongresni trg). Construction began in 1899, and the building was completed in 1902 to serve as the seat of the Carniolan Provincial Assembly and the Provincial Committee.

Designed as a Renaissance palace, the building has a ground floor and three floors on Gosposka ulica and an elevated ground floor and two floors on the other sides, due to the differences in ground levels. Situated on the representative first floor, in the wing facing Congress Square, there is a conference room opening onto a balcony – the former conference room of the Provincial Governor. On the opposite side, towards Židovska steza, lies the Chamber Hall, which is also accessible by a staircase from Vegova ulica. There are other richly decorated rooms on the first floor, while the second includes a particularly fine reception hall of the Provincial Governor, which was connected to his apartment.

Between 2000 and 2004, the interior and exterior of the former Provincial Diet Mansion was renovated on the basis of a study by Prof. Peter Fister and students from the Faculty of Architecture. Since the building is listed as a cultural monument, the aim of the renovation was to restore it to its original appearance as much as possible.

In 1919, the building became home to the first Slovenian university, which grew from the initial five faculties into a community of twenty-three faculties and three art academies with a rich tradition. The University of Ljubljana is renowned for its high-quality study programmes in the social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, engineering and arts, and is Slovenia’s central and largest educational and research institution, with a strong presence throughout Ljubljana, which prides itself on being a “university city”. Its central building is the symbol of the University of Ljubljana, and the basis of its visual identity.

Plans for the Construction of a New Provincial Diet Mansion in Ljubljana, 1896–1902

In May 1895, the provincial building authority evaluated the damage caused to the provincial government building in the earthquake of that same year, establishing that the building, which had already been in need of maintenance before the earthquake, was not worth repairing. The provincial assembly decided to build a new building at the site, which would cover an area of approximately 1,700 m2 and cost 370,000 guldens.

It commissioned the Linz-based architect Raimund Jeblinger to design the building. His project was rejected because the costs were too high. This was followed by a design competition, which was entered by two architects. The first entry was rejected as completely inappropriate. The jury initially accepted the second one submitted by the Czech architect Joseph Maria Olbrich and awarded it the second prize, but it later decided to reject that one as well, because the envisaged construction costs were too high. After the failed competition, the task was entrusted to the Carniolan Building Authority, on behalf of which the plans were made by the provincial civil engineer Jan Vladimír Hráský. However, the provincial assembly was not entirely satisfied with these either. This was because the cost of construction would have been significantly higher than the funds earmarked, primarily due to the rich ornamentation used, and thus the assembly decided to modify the plans. It entrusted this to the Vienna-based architect Josip Hudetz, who modified the building's exterior and completely redesigned its interior. The provincial assembly held its first session at the new building on 22 September 1903.

Founding of the University and first students

In 1918, when a new nation was emerging from the rubble of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a group of influential Slovenes launched a campaign to found a Slovenian university. The preparations were carried out by the University Committee of the Provincial Government. On 16 July 1919, the Act on the University of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Ljubljana was unanimously adopted at a meeting of the Temporary National Representation in Belgrade and signed on 23 July 1919 by Prince Regent Alexander Karađorđević.

The first 16 university teachers who had been working at universities and professional institutions abroad were appointed, and they became the founding professors of five faculties: philosophy, law, technology, theology and medicine. The first premises of the University were located in the Provincial Diet Mansion.

Lectures at the newly founded University of Ljubljana began on 3 December 1919. There were 906 students enrolled full-time in the first academic year, half of whom came directly from secondary schools while the other half continued studies started at universities abroad. In the aftermath of World War I, Austrian universities no longer admitted Slovene students, nor did they welcome professors with Slovene nationality. The founding of the University of Ljubljana thus gave the opportunity to pursue higher education to students who had hitherto been unable to study at distant foreign universities.

Act on the University of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Ljubljana, published in the Official Gazette of the Provincial Government for Slovenia on 1 September 1919.
(National and University Library, Newspaper Department)

Act on the University of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Ljubljana. (Archives of Yugoslavia, Belgrade/provided by the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia)