Dimitris Kamaris Archiginnasio, Bologna (26408793660).jpg via WikiCommons
Happy Medieval Monday! Today, I am considering those institutions of higher learning known as universities. I have been amazed at how long some have been established. There are older university sites than the ones I am featuring. Al-Karaoine in Morocco and Al-Ahzar in Egypt are good examples. But while they have been universities for a very long time, they did not begin as such. For my purpose, I've chosen a not uncommon set of criteria -- that they have been continually in operation since inception and that they began as universities.
Some of the universities were cathedral schools before they became universities -- all still way back when, others were royal charters, while even others were begun as student guilds. They were all established in the medieval era.
The oldest is the University of Bologna, founded in 1088 by a guild of students. It's Latin name Alma Mater Studiorum means "Nourishing Mother of Studies". The students called it a "universitatis", first to do so, giving it a term from Roman law to designate a legal body.
Oxford is the second oldest. According to the university, classes were taught as early as 1096. It was organized as a university between 1201 to 1214 and granted a royal charter in 1244. Its history is closely related to that of Cambridge University, which is third on the list.
"Oxford University" by _Hadock_ is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The University of Salamanca in Spain is fourth, founded in 1218.
File:Old Library in University of Salamanca 01.jpg" by Antoine Taveneaux is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
There are many Italian universities that were founded during the medieval era. One of the older, non-Italian ones is the University of Coimbra in Portugal, It moved back and forth between Lisbon and Coimbra for a while, but was established in 1290.
Courtyard of the University of Coimbra" by Debarshi Ray is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
There are a few more I'd like to mention. Frankly, there are enough beautiful universities with long and fascinating histories to occupy countless blogposts.
The Sorbonne was officially chartered in 1200 by Philip II and recognized fifteen years later by Pope Innocent III. It did not operate continually from its beginnings, however. The French Revolution sort of put it on hold. Thankfully, it returned.
"Sorbonne University @ Paris" by *_* is licensed under CC BY 2.0
We cannot forget Trinity College in Dublin, home of the Book of Kells.
"Dublin IR - The Long Room Of The Old Library At Trinity College 03" by Daniel Mennerich is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Scotland boasts some of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world. The earliest is the University of Saint Andrews (1410-1413), followed by the University of Glasgow (1451), and the University of Aberdeen (1495), and the University of Edinburgh (1582).
From left to right:
"University of St Andrews 4" by Son of Groucho is licensed under CC BY 2.0, "University of Glasgow architecture" by Jim_Nix is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, "University of Aberdeen" by readephotography is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0, "File:Old College, University of Edinburgh (24923171570).jpg" by LWYang from USA is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
An astounding number of universities were established in medieval times that are still in existence and active. I find it uplifting to know that there have always been students who wanted to learn and teachers who wanted to teach. I believe it is a beautiful statement about humanity.
In my time travel romance Tremors Through Time, Lachlann did not have the opportunity to attend a university. There were no universities open to him in the fourteenth century Scottish Highlands. However, he could have learned to read; he had a friend willing to teach him. He was too busy farming to consider it. Once he's stuck in this century, he wishes he'd taken the time to learn.
For more Medieval Monday, be sure to stop by these beautiful blogs:
Mary Morgan - Medieval Monday | A Love Affair with Medieval Romance (marymorganauthor.com)
Barbara Bettis - Blog - Barbara Bettis - Historical Romance Author
May we all continue to enjoy learning!
Coming July 6! Available for Pre-order.
Fascinating post, Anastasia! I've been fortunate to visit a few of the universities you've mentioned (Trinity, Glasgow, and Oxford). The history is phenomenal! In Trinity, I closed my eyes and swore I heard whispers of the past.
Mary, it must have been amazing! I would not doubt that you heard whispers from the past. Thank you for stopping by!
I love your post and the fabulous photos. Early universities are just fascinating! Thanks for the fascinating information.
Thank you, Barb! I appreciate that you've stopped by.
A wonderful post, Anastasia! I did some research into medieval universities too (when I was writing NIGHT OF THE OWL), and it's a fascinating subject. Your new cover is lovely!
Judy, thank you. I was completely enthralled by the beauty and history, but then I usually am! Would you agree that research can be a vast and tantalizing rabbit hole?
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