Eise Eisinga Planetarium


Eise Eisinga Planetarium is part of the Tentative list of Netherlands in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Eise Eisinga Planetarium from the late 18th century is the oldest working planetarium in the world. Eisinga was an amateur astronomer and built the working model of the solar system into the roof of the living room of his house in Franeker. The planetarium represents the values of the Enlightenment and of the long regional and cultural tradition of the 'lay scholar'. The house and its planetarium was purchased by the Dutch state in 1825, and later given to the city of Franeker which exploits it as a museum.

Map of Eise Eisinga Planetarium

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Daniel C-Hazard

Germany - 11-Sep-20 -

Eise Eisinga Planetarium (T) by Daniel Chazad

In human history, there have always been individuals who were ahead of their time. Eise Eisinga was one of those. Actually a wool comber, he was also an amateur astronomer (and what an astronomer he was!).

In 1774, another Dutch amateur astronomer (and self-proclaimed preacher), Eelco Alta, predicted the end of the world, believing a rare conjunction of the Moon and the then-known four planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter would inevitably lead to a crash of the celestial bodies and the destruction of the Earth.

To invalidate these arguments, autodidact and highly gifted Eisinga started to build an orrery in his living room (and finished seven years later), what is today the oldest working model of the solar system and the largest mechanical planetarium in the world. Its accuracy and steadiness are admirable. The modeled planets move imperceptibly and complete one circumlocution per real-time orbit. He individually forged each of the 10,000 nails for the gearing teeth, and he painted and gilded his work in a decorative and informative way. In 1818, King William I of the Netherlands and Prince Frederik visited the orrery and bought it for the Dutch state. Later, it was donated to the city of Franeker.

As Els and Zoë have already written, this brilliant work definitely belongs on the World Heritage List. Apparently, the admission will be decided in 2023. I am sure it will fulfill the three application criteria, amongst them "masterpiece of human creative genius". Here in this community, there is 100% consensus regarding the inscription to date.

6 euros could hardly be better invested than in the visit of this gem.

A few words about Franeker: This friendly center of Frisian cultural, which was home to the second oldest university of the Netherlands, has some more sights to offer. A picturesque town hall is right across from the planetarium. Medieval Martinikerk with a wooden central nave is a short walk away. An open playing field called Sjûkelân for the traditional Frisian sport of Kaatsen ("Frisian Handball") is also located in the city center. Across from it, one can visit a museum about this sport (I skipped it). For 8.50 euros, the visit to the planetarium can be combined with a visit to either this "Kaatsmuseum" or to the "Museum Martena" (the Franeker city museum).

And a visit to Franeker can easily be combined with a visit to the West Frisian Islands, Vlieland being my personal favorite.

Zoë Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 20-Nov-19 -

Eise Eisinga Planetarium (T) by Zoë Sheng

The northern town of Franeker is a typical dutch affair, cobble streets, canals, people parking AT the side of the canals (I wonder how many cars have dropped in due to bad parking) and there is free parking just outside of town with only a few minutes walk to the planetarium.

This should already be on the WH list, ages and ages ago. It has a lot more going than "Defense Lines" or a canal ring, or Schokland obviously, and I'm not directly saying these are bad sites but the planetarium has a huge unique clockwork going that, flawed a little because it does not account for leap years, still works today, as well a super interesting museum padding it. I wish to have a wide-angle camera just for the planet room, and I would like to spend more time just seeing the gears working - fascinating.

Although you can browse around by yourself it really helps to attend the Dutch/English talk where you can ask questions. Overall if you are open for learning about astronomy it can take 2 hours to get through the li'l house.


Els Slots

The Netherlands - 07-Oct-11 -

Eise Eisinga Planetarium (T) by Els Slots

After having visited all Dutch Tentative Sites on European soil, I believe that this is the strongest proposal. Its subject, astronomy explained to the general public, is pretty unique. Also, it can fill a gap in the List as the history of science is currently deemed underrepresented. Especially the long regional and cultural tradition of the 'lay scholar' is praised here.

The Planetarium lies in the Frisian town of Franeker. This is a prominent city in the history of the Netherlands: it held the second oldest university. It has a marvellous city hall for example, and many other fine old buildings.

Eise Eisinga was an autodidact who built this small Planetarium or Orrery in 1781. It is the oldest of its kind that still works. He constructed his model of the galaxy on the ceiling of his living room. It is a sky-blue wooden structure, with moving elements steared by an intricate mechanical clockwork structure on the attic above. He received a lot of visitors in his time who came to see this, both prominents and schoolchildren.

His former house now is a little museum. The entrance fee is 4.5 EUR. A fifteen minute explanation of the structure is included. It's really fascinating to see how it all works: how the planets move relative to each other, but also what time it is, which date, which year. Eisinga also left behind an entire manual about how it all functions, including instructions for future caretakers.

Full Name
Eise Eisinga Planetarium
Nominated for
2011 Added to Tentative List

Unesco Website: Eise Eisinga Planetarium
Officiale website Planetarium Friesland

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Eise Eisinga Planetarium (T)
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