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Celebration of the 7th Centenary of the University

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The Foundation of the General Studium (University)

In medieval times, the greatness of a city did not lie only in the importance of its political institutions or its commercial potential, naturally connected to its military might, but also in its ability to educate and promote the diffusion of advanced thought and in its capacity to promote the development of a particular way of thinking that would significantly contribute to the advancement of society as a whole.

These issues were certainly on the minds of the political elite that managed and supervised the City of Perugia as demonstrated by the Statute of 1285, which provided for the City's promotion and creation of a university, or Studium ut civitas Perusii sapientia valeat elucere et in ea Studium habeatur ("so that the City of Perugia would shine with knowledge and that in it there would be a Studium"). In fact, in the decade prior to the statute, the City's public administration was already concerned about providing higher education to residents. Evidence of this has been found in the city archives and this evidence has been used by some scholars to cite 1276 as the real year in which the Studium was established. This is the date displayed on the University banner. The original Studium, was "special" in the sense that the degrees awarded were only recognised as valid within the confines of Perugia. It was the responsibility of the City to recruit talented professors, able to attract students because of their fame as teachers. In doing this, Perugia paved the way for what would be its eventual recognition by the universal authorities, the Pope and the Emperor, of the Studium's degree programmes and their validity in all of the territories of the Church and the Emperor. Perugia's first step toward achieving this objective came in the form of the Statute of 1306, which set out the regulations for the establishment of the new institution. Full recognition came on the 8th of September, 1308, when Pope Clementine V, issued Perugia with a document called the Super specula.

The longstanding loyalty and devotion of Perugia to the Holy See made it worthy of receiving this, the highest order of recognition for education, giving it the authority to perform the highest of educational functions.

The act of Clement V made Perugia a "leggere" generaliter, giving its degree courses universal validity and recognition. The University of Perugia had been officially born and from that point on it enjoyed a rapid ascent.

Formal imperial recognition of the University was granted in 1355, when Charles IV, who was in Rome for his coronation as Emperor, awarded Perugia with two diplomas: the first diploma granted the City the permanent right to have a Studium, and the second diploma granted all people, even those from remote places, free access to, and free return home from, the Studium with immunity from all types of reprisal, duty and tax.


2. The Studium in the 14th Century

In the 14th Century, the Studium only offered two degree courses: Law and General Arts. However, Medicine, Philosophy and Logic quickly distinguished themselves from the other Arts although, during the course of the century, they didn't succeed in becoming independent faculties. Upon request by the people and the City Council and at the will of Gregory XI, a Theology faculty is said to have been added in 1371, but no documents exist that confirm its actual establishment. With the Statute of 1306, the City recognised the privilege of those attending the Studium, or the "scholars" to be able to associate in "Universitas": Scolaribus qui sunt et pro tempore erunt in civitate Perusii sit licitum universitatem constituere. The "universitas" was no different than a corporation run by a Rector with the power to supervise all members and ensure that they conduct themselves in accordance with the statute. Being a recognised "corporation", the universitas could also actively participate in the City government in addition to, obviously, providing for the smooth operation of the universitas and the quality of the taught courses offered.

Throughout the course of this century the research and teaching activities were extremely "fertile" and many renowned professors were among the Studium's first teachers. Among these was Iacopo da Belviso of Bologna, a legal scholar of undisputed competence and remarkable originality. The course, "corso mongrafico", or "case study" as it would be called today, taught by Iacopo da Belviso constituted, in the first years following the University's foundation, a reason for which many scholars to came to Perugia. Belviso's successor was Cino dei Sinibuldi of Pistoia, a great poet and legal scholar. Attending Cine's lectures on the legal code and law digest, or collection of laws, was Bartolo da Sassoferrato, destined to become the most prominent legal scholar of medieval times. Sassoferrato was later a professor at the Studium from 1354 until his death in approximately 1357. During Sassoferrato's tenure as Professor, a new method for studying Law, referred to as "del commento", or "Commentary" was perfected. Also from the "fertile" Bartolo School, Baldo degli Ubaldi, another great 14th Century legal scholar emerged. He became a professor in as early as 1348, a position which he held for thirty years and during which time he managed to ever increase the Studium's reputation by virtue of his wealth of knowledge and his legal insight. Gentile da Foligno, the Studium's most illustrious professor of Medicine, died during the plague which decimated Perugia in 1348. Da Foligno, one of the 14th Century's major scientific figures, fell victim to his insatiable desire for knowledge, which consequently led him to spend too much time with the ill.

3. The Studium between the "Signorie" and "Principati" periods: between the 15th and the 18th Century

Even in Perugia, the Holy See and the Holy Roman Empire, the two universal authorities, ceased to be the principal reference points for the Studium. The Popes, whenever taking initiative regarding the development and the direction of the University of Perugia (an activity to which they dedicated a good deal of time to during the 15th Century) did so as "Papal Sovereigns".

One of the most significant "Signorili" experiences (the Signori were powerful men who took power in various cities, but they were not recognised by the Emperor or the Holy See) for the Studium was that of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, which lasted for three years. On the 19th of January, 1400, upon approving the pacts of commitment between the Priori and the ambassador of Milan, the General Council, welcomed the clause stipulating "se degga mantenere lo Studium alla città de Perosia ("Perugia must have a University").

In 1403, when Perugia returned under Papal rule, the City and Pope Boniface IX came to an agreement which established quod Studium manuteneri debeat in civitate Perusii cum salaris et expensis consuetis, secundum formam statutorum civitatis. This was almost the same formula used by Braccio da Montone, who excercised a "signorile" type of control over the Perugia with strong collaboration from the Pope in order to guarantee the preservation of the Studium. The definitive transformation of the Studium took place in 1467 when Pope Paul II ordered his governors to intervene in the management of the institution: in the recruitment of professors and the appointment of chairmanships. The effects of this new situation on the Studium were profound and, deprived of its autonomy, the Studium precipitated in crisis. The crisis, which continued throughout the 16th Century, did not affect teaching at the University, but was limited primarily to its organisation and by consequence also its healthy operation. A radical reform, Pro directione et gubernio Studii Perusii, was finally introduced by Popo Urban VIII and it remained the fundamental law of the University of Perugia for two centuries.

New significant evolutions and changes came along during the course of the 18th Century, when radical changes in principles and methods of study, in both the exact and moral sciences, began to manifest themselves along with an irrepressible ambition on the part of the scholars for more freedom of thought and speech.

4. Three centuries of teaching activity

The Legal Studies Faculty, during this long period of slow but steady evolution from Scholasticism to Humanism and the Renaissance, had among its best academics Guglielmo Pontano, Ristoro Castaldi and Giovan Paolo Lancellotti. The Medical Faculty counted among its professors Luca De Simone, personal doctor of the Duke of Mantova, Ludovico Gonzaga; Nicolò Rainaldi da Sulmona, portrayed as magnificus miles et eximius medicinae doctor by chronicles of the time; the most renowed 15th Century Perugian doctor, Mattiolo Mattioli; and Dr. Alessandro Pascoli, a complex and representative figure of Perugia's 17th Century cultural scene. On the contrary, the Mathematical Sciences Faculty enjoyed great prestige thanks to the groundbreaking work of Luca Pacioli da Borgo Sansepolcro, whose work on the basic principles of Algebra laid the necessary foundation for developments in the Mathematical Sciences that came in the following centuries. The humanae litterae enjoyed great ascent thanks to Tommaso Pontano and Francesco Maturanzio, a cultured man of great sensibility.

5. The Napoleonic, Papal, and Autonomous University

The revolutionary political and social events taking place at the end of the 18th Century and at the beginning of the 19th Century provoked profound changes within the University itself, stimulating the reorganisation and the revision of its programmes of study.

The University, once maintained and managed by local government institutions and protected by the Prince, fell under Papal rule during a new era of Papal monarchy. Under Papal authority, the University had limited administrative autonomy as its ruling bodies were directly controlled by the central Papal government in Rome; the University became a real centre of state culture.

In the period immediately preceding 1860, the old Perugia Studium was rapidly reorganised, and transformed into a modern university. The first reforms were clearly manifestations of the revolutionary climate which existed at the end of the 18th Century. Among the promoters of these reforms were Annibale Mariotti, professor of medical theory and anatomy, and perhaps the most representative figure of the political and academic world of that era; and Antonio Brizi, also a professor at the University. After the Roman Republic experience and then a period of brief control by the Austrian government the University returned under Papal government. The Papal government immediately provided a "Plan for the re-opening of the University of Perugia" which naturally included the substitution of professors "affected by French views". Despite this, the Anatomy and Surgical Academy, along with its surgical theatre was founded: a clear sign that the University was in touch with the new scientific progresses of the day, and the most modern and widespread ways of thinking and learning. With the union of the Papal States and Perugia to the French empire, decreed by Napoleon in May of 1809, new lines of authority reached the University.

The advancements achieved during the Napoleonic period were so significant that the Papal government, reactivated by its reinstatement, decided not to bring about any administrative or academic changes, at least at first, while waiting for a new definite statute. This statute came only with Pope Leo XII, in August 1824: a single law that regulated every aspect of university life and applied to all the State's universities. Other episodes during the events that led up to national unity, in 1861, restored the city with an institution ready to grow and create an environment in which research and teaching would flourish once again. This is evidenced by the establishment of the "Foundation for Agrarian Education" in 1892 and the "Institute of Experimental Agriculture", whose objective was to promote the advancement of Agriculture through general research and the education of farmers.

6. Teaching Activities and Research in the 19th Century

The 19th Century was a period characterised by new achievements and breakthroughs for Umbrian and Perugian culture. This renewed energy was given life by the increasing steady exchange with other academic centres. Several great professors emerged including: Antonio Brizi, scholar of various literary and philosophical subjects, Silvestro Bruschi, and Vermiglioli. The passage of the Medical and Natural Sciences from the realm of speculative sciences to that of experimental sciences was demonstrated by the activity of distinguished doctors including: Annibale Mariotti and Giuseppe Severini, who closely followed modern scientific and teaching methods of observation of the ill and experimentation; the pharmacist Annibale Vecchi, the botanist Domenico Bruschi, the physicist Bernardo Dessau and the chemists, Giuseppe Colizzi and Sebastiano Purgotti.

Dominating the Perugian literary scene during the century's first decade was professor Giuseppe Antinori, an Arcadian and classicist, while the Historical Sciences gained unprecedented momentum thanks to Giovan Battista Vermiglioli, Ariodante Fabretti, and Count Giancarlo Conestabile della Staffa.

Laura Marozzi and Franco Mezzanotte

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