Vana ülikoolimaja uks?
Door from the front of the old university building?
Egle Tamm, MA, Tartu City Government, Cultural Values Service
The door discussed in the article served as the entrance to the building at Jaama Street 27 until 2000. The article examines the possibility of this door coming from the old building of the University of Tartu on Town Hall Square (Town Hall Square 6/Rüütli Street 6). The old university building was initially (late 18th century) constructed as a residential building, hence its appearance was not that of a grand temple of knowledge. The university purchased it in 1802, the year it was re-opened. An order was placed for an academically-themed entrance door to add appropriate and immediately visible meaning to the new content of the building – to demonstrate the boundary between the academic world and the mundane life of the city.
Both door wings had a reliefed profile of a male head in the middle. The head on the left depicted an older man with a beard, slightly curled hair and a fringe. The head on the right side depicted a younger man with no beard, but again with slightly curled hair and a fringe. Generally speaking these two profiles should be interpreted as the professor and his student. This new iconography was based on typical antique male head styles: with curled hair and a fringe, younger men clean-shaven and older men bearded. The large university building by the market was referred to as the academic house or simply the academy, this reference harking back to the school of philosophy founded by Plato in Athens in the 4th century BC. This is why we can also assume that the two male heads on the door are Plato (who died in 347 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC), the most famous mentor/disciple pair of antiquity. Semantically this was a precise and suitable symbol for an academic building as it expressed the philosophical trends and the thoughts prevalent in that epoch.
It is currently impossible to date the door. The timeframe in which the door could have been made starts in 1797 and ends in 1840. The most likely time is the first decade of the 19th century. The door was removed from the old university building at some point between the 1840s and the 1870s, probably when the building was no longer used for humanities, being allocated instead to the pharmaceutical institute. It is likely that the door was then installed in the building at Jaama Street 27.