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  • Weihnachten im Foyer der Neuen Uni am Sanderring. Bild: Robert Emmerich
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Foundation 1582

The foundation of the university in 1582

Historical facts: The foundation by Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn

Every May 11, the University of Würzburg celebrates its foundation by Prince-Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn in 1582. The founding of a university was a process that took place in several steps. An indispensable prerequisite for a fully recognized university was the privilege granted by the universal powers of the time. The imperial privilege issued by Maximilian II was granted on May 11, 1575, and the papal privilege issued by Gregory XIII, which explicitly referred to the first foundation of the university in 1402, was granted on March 28, 1576. The actual inauguration of the university by its founder Julius Echter, whose name as Julius University it bore alone until its transfer to Bavaria, had taken place solemnly on January 2, 1582. The Gymnasium, founded in 1567 by Prince-Bishop Friedrich von Wirsberg, which had been given into the hands of the Jesuit Order, which dominated Catholic education at that time in the sense of the Tridentine reform, as well as the Jesuit ecclesiastical seminary, served as the foundation. For the university, however, Echter limited the influence of the Jesuits and reserved the final decision-making power for himself as sovereign. The reestablishment therefore did not become a Jesuit university. Nevertheless, their significant influence on the university was also evident in its spatial proximity, as the university was built directly adjacent to the Jesuit College on the grounds of the dissolved monastery of St. Ulrich.

Julius Echter became the first rector and the first chancellor of the university and made clear the close connection with his foundation, which bears Julius Echter's coat of arms, by burying his heart in the university church.

Questionable: the date of the foundation feast

The centenaries were celebrated in July or August because of the better weather (so in 1682, 1782 and 1882). Only the fourth secular celebration in 1982 took place on the now customary day of the foundation feast, May 11. However, not May 11 but January 2 is the day of the foundation of the University. Until 1896, the Foundation Feast was also celebrated on the second day of the year. However, with the occupation of the New University on Sanderring, the University now had an auditorium with a capacity of more than 1,000 people available for its Foundation Festival.

Since the university charter of 1891 had moved the start of lectures after the Christmas vacations from January 2 to January 8, a ceremony in front of empty benches had to be expected, since the students and most of the professors were still away. This had been evident in previous years. Therefore, it was decided to postpone the commemoration day under the then Rector Schell. The choices for the new date for the foundation celebration were March 18 as Julius Echter's birthday, December 1 as the day of his election as bishop, October 5 as the day of his death, March 28 as the day of the conferral of the papal privilege, and May 11 as the day of the imperial founding privilege, which was then unanimously chosen by the Senate.

Author: Marcus Holtz