The University of Padua

Logo dell'Università di Padova     The foundation of the University of Padua has its roots in the historical processes that involved Western Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries and that produced a broadening of knowledge and the renewal of its contents, on the drive to the economic transformation that was changing the facet of the old continent and creating the basis for the slow passage from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Founded through the "translatio studii", i.e. the spontaneous transfer of a group of professors and students from the University of Bologna (founded approx. in 1088 and officially recognized as the Alma Mater of all western universities), the University of Padua celebrated in 1222 the official year of its foundation. The first documents concerning the Studium Patavinum, which registered a regular and stabile university organization, actually date back to that period. Its old motto of "Universa Universis Patavina Libertas" contains the peculiar nature of the University of Padua, that is the great academic freedom granted to professors and students, and the fortunate conditions of civil culture that favoured its constitution. Since its inception, the University enjoyed special protection first from the free Commune in the 13th century, and then from the Seignory of the Carrarras in the 14th century and also from the Republic of Venice from 1405 to the end of the 18th century. Initially it made itself known as a centre of juridical and theological studies, but then the University progressively enlarged and added other teachings including medicine, philosophy, astronomy, grammar, and rhetoric.

     In 1399, the University was divided in two sectors: Universitas Iuristarum, for the teaching of civil law and canonic law, and Universitas Artistarum that offered medicine, philosophy, theology, grammar, dialectics, rhetoric and, astronomy. The reunification of the two universities took place in 1813.

Particolare dell'interno del Bo     Initially, the University was organized as a free corporation of students and organized according to ethno-geographic criteria, the "nationes" that, in turn, referred to two large groups: the citramontani (Italians) and the oltramontani (non-Italians). Therefore, it was the students who approved the statutes and elected their professors, paying them with the money they were able to raise. For the entire 14th century the da Carrara Lords protected the University and never touched its autonomy and freedom, promoting the influx of students from all over Europe and inviting the best professors to teach in the Bo Palace. They also supported their stay in Padua, making them members of their Chancellery and treating them as family members. In 1363 a bull by Pope Urban V conferred to the University the School of Theology, which by then existed only at the Sorbonne and in Bologna. But it was mainly in the 15th and 16th centuries that the University of Padua reached international fame, mainly because of the extraordinary climate of freedom and religious tolerance permitted by the Republic of Venice, of which Padua was a subject from 1405 to 1797.

Galileo Galilei    The 16th century was a golden age for the University of Padua, which became one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Europe, par excellence for classical and Renaissance culture. The idea and the structure of Gymnasium Omnium Disciplinarum, now diffused throughout the world, was born and perfected during this period. The birth of the scientific revolution is linked to the influential contribution of the Padua Gymnasium, which was able to merge the development of philosophic thinking, the great schools of anatomy and medicine, and the grand adventure in astronomy, physics, and mathematics. The century opened and closed with two celebrated names, Copernicus and Galileo, and recorded the construction of the complex of buildings noted as the Bo Palace, the historical site of the University, the Anatomy Theatre and the Botanical Garden.

     Students from all over Europe were attracted by the fame of the teaching and by the spirit of tolerance assured by Venice. By the second half of the 17th century and during the 18th century the role of the University of Padua was framed within the large European cultural and university network, and it expanded even further with the establishment of the Astronomic Observatory and the creation of new teachings (Chemistry and Agriculture).

     Even with the decline of the Venice Republic and the subsequent political trials before the unification of the Italy (1866), the University carried on its role effectively at a regional level, despite the restrictions on intellectual freedom and the reduced support by the Habsburg government.

Aula Magna    In the 19th century, many Paduan students and professors participated in the struggles for the independence of Italy collectively known as Risorgimento, including local upsurges (February, 1848). During the Second World War, it was recognized as the centre in the Veneto region for the struggle aimed at getting freed from Nazi-Fascism, so much that at the end of the conflict the University of Padua was decorated with the military Gold Medal for bravery for the sacrifices of many young lives in the fight to re-conquer liberty.

     Today the prestige enjoyed by the University of Padua has taken it among the first Italian universities; the University pursues a controlled policy of diffusion and organization on the territory, expanding its presence in the Veneto. As of 1995, it has attained autonomous status.