Vilnius University is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Northern Europe. It is the largest university in Lithuania. The university was founded in 1579 as the Jesuit Academy of Vilnius by Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, Stephen Báthory.
The University of Vilnius, one of the oldest and most famous establishments of higher education in Eastern and Central Europe, was founded in 1579. Functioning for a long time as the only school of higher learning in Lithuania, it was a preserver of cultural and scientific traditions, and has played a significant part in the cultural life not only of Lithuania, but the neighboring countries as well. During more than four centuries of its existence, the University of Vilnius has seen periods of growth and decline, revival, and closure. The University is a unique witness to the history of the Lithuanian state.
In 1579, King Stephen Bathory's charter transformed the Jesuit college, founded in 1570, into an establishment of higher education, Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Jesu, the transformation being confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII. Although being away from other European cultural centers, the University equaled other famous European Universities and had outstanding professors and students, some of who were: the poet Mathias Casimir Sarbievius; the famous professor of rhetoric and philosophy Žygimantas Liauksminas; the author of the first history of Lithuania Albertas Vijūkas-Kojelavičius; professor Martin Smiglecki, whose book “Logics” was very popular in United Kingdom and France, and many others. The first book in the Lithuanian language on the territory of the Great Duchy of Lithuania was published at the University. In 1753, the Astronomical Observatory was set up.