23 September 2023, by Emily Proctor

A planetarium located in the roof of a privately-owned house near Leeuwarden has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker is known to be the oldest planetarium in the world. 

250-year-old planetarium built into house roof in Friesland

The 250-year-old planetarium can be found in the roof structure of a home in Friesland, and is the oldest working planetarium in the world. The model is a moving representation of the solar system as it was seen between 1774 and 1781. 

The planetarium was constructed by wool merchant Eise Eisinga, who built the device in the ceiling of his own home at the time when he was living there. Eisinga built the model to disprove a theory at the time which held that certain planets were on a collision course with one another, causing the end of the world. Eisinga was able to demonstrate that this was not the case, by showing that the planets were actually moved with each other, rather than actually heading towards each other. 

UNESCO recognises Eisinga as a creative genius

According to UNESCO, Eisinga, though not an academic or scientist by profession, was a “creative genius who built the planetarium on his own initiative”. The cultural body said that the site is an “iconic example of an 18th-century orrery [planetarium], representing exceptional creativity in both its extraordinary technical design and execution and artistic expression.”

The planetarium joins 12 other Dutch sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, including the Kinderdijk and the Noordoostpolder. Visitors are still able to visit the working planetarium at Eisinga’s former home, which remains open to the public.

Thumb image credit: INTREEGUE Photography / Shutterstock.com

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