Charles University of Prague

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Czech University

The Charles University of Prague (also simply University of Prague; Czech: Univerzita Karlova; Latin: Universitas Carolina) is the oldest and most prestigious Czech university and among the oldest universities in Europe, being founded in 1340s (for the exact year, see below). In Germany it is often seen as the oldest German university (Karlsuniversität) due to its multiethnic origins and history.



Most Czech sources since at least the 19th century - encyclopedias, general histories, materials of the University itself - offer 1348 as the year of the founding of the university. On April 7 of that year, Charles I, the King of Bohemia (later known as Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor) issued a Golden Bull (transcription of the Latin original ( granting its privileges. One may however also see the papal bull of pope Clement VI on January 26 of the previous year (1347) as primary, as for the foundation of any other Church institution, with the King's later bull only exempting it from secular authority; it is possible that an anticlerical shift in the 19th century is to be seen as an explanation for 1348 usually being seen as the founding year.

Based on the model of the University of Bologna and the University of Paris, the university was opened in 1349 and sanctioned by king Charles I in 1349.

Archbishop Arnost of Pardubice took an active part in the foundation by obliging the clergy to contribute. The lectures were held in the colleges, of which the oldest was named for the king the Carolinum. The university was sectioned into Czech, Bavarian, Saxon and Polish parts called nations.

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Monument to the founder of the university, Emperor Charles IV

In 1403 the university forbade its members to follow the teachings of Wycliff, but his doctrine continued to gain in popularity. Jan Hus had translated Wycliff's Trialogus into the Czech language. He was dean and rector of the university. The other nations of the university declared their support for the side of pope Gregory XII. Hus knew how to make use of king Wenceslaus' opposition to Gregory. By the decree of Kutná Hora (Dekret Kutnohorský in Czech) in 1409, Hus and the Czech nation had three votes in all affairs of the university, while only a single vote was for all the other nations combined where before each nation had one vote. The result of this was the emigration of the German professors and students to the University of Leipzig in May 1409. The Prague university lost the largest part of its students and the faculty. From then on the university declined to a merely national institution with a very low status. For decades no degrees were given and only the faculty of arts remained. Emperor Sigismund, son of Charles IV, took what was left into his personal property and some progress was made, and again later under emperor Rudolph II, when he took up residence in Prague. The emperor Ferdinand I called the Jesuits to Prague and they opened an academy. Soon they took over, were expelled 1618 - 1621, but by 1622 they had a predominant influence over the emperor. An Imperial decree gave the Jesuits supreme control over the entire school system of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. The last four professors at the Carolinum now resigned and all of the Carolinum and nine colleges went to the Jesuits. The right of handing out degrees, of holding chancellorships and of appointing the secular professors was also granted to the Jesuits.

Cardinal Ernst, Count von Harrach actively opposed this union of power and prevented the drawing up of the Golden Bull for the confirmation of this grant. Cardinal Ernst funded the Collegium Adalbertinum and in 1638 emperor Ferdinand III limited the teaching monopoly enjoyed by the Jesuits. He took from them the rights, properties and archives of the Carolinum making the university once more independent under an imperial protector. During the last years of the Thirty Years' War the Charles Bridge in Prague was courageously defended by students of the Carolinum and Clementinum.

The dilapidated Carolinum was rebuilt in 1718 at the expense of the state. Since 1650 those who received any degrees took an oath to maintain the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, renewed annually. The rebuilding and the bureaucratic reforms of universities of Austria in 1752 and 1754 deprived the university of many of its former privileges.

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Doctoral diploma from 1905 for the astronomer Friedrich Hopfner

(date 1806?) For the first time Protestants were allowed and soon after Jews. The university funded an additional Czech professorship. By 1863 out of 187 lecture courses 22 were held in Czech, the remainder in German. The Czechs were not satisfied. Consequently after long negotiations the Carolo-Ferdinandea was divided into a German and a Czech Charles-Ferdinand University by a law of 1882. Each section was entirely independent of the other, only the aula and the library were used in common. By 1909 the Czech students at the Czech Charles-Ferdinand University (Karlo-Ferdinandova univerzita) numbered 4,300 students and the students at the German Charles-Ferdinand University (Karl-Ferdinand Universität) numbered 1,800. The two institutions continued to operate independently until 1939.

During the World War II Nazi occupation, on November 17, 1939, after the burial of a student shot in earlier October 28 demonstrations, Czech part of the university, as well as all other higher-education institutions in Czechoslovakia, was closed down by force; many of its students and teachers were imprisoned in concentration camps and several student leaders executed. On the other hand, the German part of the institution proclaimed itself a university of Reich and was abolished after the liberation in 1945.

Although the university began to develop rapidly again after 1945, it did not enjoy academic freedom for long. After the communist putsch in 1948, the newly forming regime started to arrange purges and repress all forms of disagreement with the official ideology, and continued to do so for the next four decades, with the most painful wave of purges during the "normalization" period in the beginning of the 1970s. Such state lasted until the "Velvet revolution" in 1989, initiated by several peaceful student demonstrations, bringing a final collapse to the communist regime. New representatives recruiting from independent academic community were set in January 1990.


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Seal of the Faculty of Medicine
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Seal of the Faculty of Evangelical Theology

Today, Charles University comprises 17 faculties:

  • catholic theology
  • protestant theology
  • hussite theology
  • law
  • medicine (three faculties located in Prague)
  • natural sciences
  • mathematics and physics
  • pedagogy
  • social sciences
  • humanities
  • arts (philosophy)
  • physical education and sport

Also, there are three faculties which are located outside of Prague:


Prof. Ing. Ivan Wilhelm, CSc. has been the chancellor of Charles University since 1999.

External links

See also:


Coimbra Group
(of European research universities)
Coimbra Group
Aarhus | Barcelona | Bergen | Bologna | Bristol | Budapest | Cambridge | Coimbra | Dublin | Edinburgh | Galway | Geneva | Göttingen | Granada | Graz | Groningen | Heidelberg | Jena | Kraków | Leiden | Leuven | Louvain | Lyon | Montpellier | Oxford | Padua | Pavia | Poitiers | Prague | Salamanca | Siena | Tartu | Thessaloniki | Turku I | Turku II | Uppsala | Würzburg
cs:Universita Karlova

de:Karls-Universität Prag eo:Karola Universitato sv:Karls-universitetet i Prag


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