Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 19 September |
Our Lady of La Salette
home iconTravel
line break icon

Back to school: The ten oldest universities in Europe

Founded in 1134. Received its university charter from Pope Alexander IV in 1255.

Daniel Esparza - published on 09/15/16

Guess who founded them all?

Thinking of the Middle Ages as a “dark” era in the history of mankind is a hackneyed cliché. This accusation, originally put forward by the Renaissance humanists who wanted to understand themselves as direct heirs of classical antiquity (completely disregarding 10 centuries of history and tradition built on precisely the same inheritance — just think of Neoplatonism and medieval scholastic Aristotelianism, to give only two more than evident examples), is but a prejudice. To undo it, it would suffice to note that the “dark ages” gave birth to, among many other things we enjoy today, universities.

The university system as we know it was developed in Europe around what were then called “cathedral schools”: academies, usually attached to a monastery or cathedral, for clerics who would study canon law, theology and philosophy. Soon, these schools opened their doors to the laity, thus becoming became literacy centers, granting (under papal charter) the very same degrees we still strive for today: bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. We present you the ten oldest universities in Europe, all of them founded by the Catholic Church, as listed on the Catholic Distance University blog.

Bologna

Founded in 1088. Received its university charter from Pope Clement III in 1189.
Founded in 1088. Received its university charter from Pope Clement III in 1189.

Paris

Founded in 1045.  Received its university charter from Pope Innocent 111 in 1215.
Founded in 1045. Received its university charter from Pope Innocent 111 in 1215.

Oxford

Founded in 1096. Received its university charter from Pope Innocent IV in 1254.
Founded in 1096. Received its university charter from Pope Innocent IV in 1254.

Salamanca

Founded in 1134. Received its university charter from Pope Alexander IV in 1255.
Founded in 1134. Received its university charter from Pope Alexander IV in 1255.

Cambridge

Founded in 1209. Received its university charter from Pope John XXII in 1318.
Founded in 1209. Received its university charter from Pope John XXII in 1318.

Siena

Founded in 1240. Received its university charter from Pope Innocent IV in 1252.
Founded in 1240. Received its university charter from Pope Innocent IV in 1252.

Valladolid

Founded in 1241. Received its university charter from Pope Clement VI in 1346.
Founded in 1241. Received its university charter from Pope Clement VI in 1346.

Macerata

Founded in 1290 by Pope Nicholas IV.
Founded in 1290 by
Pope Nicholas IV.

La Sapienza, Rome

Founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII.
Founded in 1303 by
Pope Boniface VIII.

Perugia

Founded in 1308 by Pope Clement V.
Founded in 1308 by
Pope Clement V.
Tags:
ArtEducationEuropeHistoryHumanities

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
2
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
3
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
4
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
5
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
6
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
7
communion
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.