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Charles University


As early as at the end of the 13th century there seemed to be favorable conditions for expansion and fostering of education in the Kingdom of Czech Lands. Intellectual precocity of the Royal Court was a byword. The Czech Lands were famous for its Cathedral School and prominent schools of the Order. No wonder it was Wenceslas II. of the PÅ™emyslids who came up with the idea of a university. The giant sails of his plan, however, were trimmed by the nobility. The idea lay dormant until the times of Charles IV., successor to the PÅ™emyslids’ throne, whose alma mater was the University of Sorbonne in Paris and who therefore was fully aware of the importance of university for the country as well as for its ruler.

To establish a university was no plain sailing in those times: subject to the internal conditions of the Kingdom, relations between the king and the nobility, present economic situation, and international bonds and associations. Moreover the name – studium generale – was a seal granted by the Papal Curia with the commitment of a best quality education. The universities in the Middle Ages concentrated knowledge as well as scholars, weaned and raised by diverse schools all round Europe. The degrees granted by these universities were recognized in the entire Christian world and the universities grew into potent cultural and social institutions.

Already authorized and accredited by the Pope, the Founding Charter was issued by Charles IV. (by then officially appointed Czech king) on the 7th April 1348. It is essential that we emphasize this was the first university in Central Europe, hence it played an important part in propagating the roots of education in this area. The Charter was issued by Charles IV. ‘of His own accord’. In effect this meant taking on one’s shoulders all the responsibilities of smooth running of the new institution. The original reads: ‘... The famous university was also founded so as to aide our faithful habitants of our Kingdom in their infinite desire for the fruits of science, bar them from humble and demeaning conduct in foreign lands, and set the table for feast at home...’. The Charter was arrogated by the Nazis in 1945 and has been unaccounted for since.

The Czech Church covered all running costs of the University. At first the University Chancellor and Prague Archbishop Arnošt

z Pardubic took the University under his wings. By the means of various collections he bought first University movables together with a building in the Old Town of Prague. When a university college, the Carolinum, was set up on the 30th July 1366, the foundation of the University was completed. The fact that it has been the seat of the University rectorate until today points to the momentousness of the act of establishing the Carolinum.

In 1370 Charles IV. bought a legacy of 114 manuscripts left by Vilém z Lestkova at his death which greatly enriched the inventory of the library.

At the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th century when the Czech Reformation saw the light of day Prague schooling enjoyed privilege equal to the corresponding institutions in Bologne (founded 1119) and Paris (founded 1253). It included all the faculties recognized in the Middle Ages: the Faculty of Arts, Law, Theology, and Medicine. Initially, lectures used to take place in professors’ flats, only later did they move to a building in Kaprova street.

At that time many doctors from the milieu of the royal family practiced there – the first Professor of Medicine being M. Valter (1348), succeeded by M. Baltazar de Tuscia (1353). Each doctor–to–be had to read the ancient Antique experts, Middle Age and Jewish files, and step–by–step ply their trade in towns or in the country under close observation of professors.

In the nineties of the 14th century the generation of prevailing foreign masters was gradually substituted by their Czech counterparts who, by the way, went so far as to form their own concept of a critique of the Church as well as its entire decree so far. A key role in the process of Czech Reformation and Hussites’ Ideology in general was the University translation of the Bible into Czech. Diverse as the audience were the Bible affected the cultural level of the whole Czech society before Jan Hus.

In 1415, after the death at stake of the present Rector of Charles University Mister Jan Hus, prevailing recalcitrant and turbulent discussions had turned into a clear–cut viewpoint of the rising movement, with one outcome: the declaration that the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist should be administered in both kinds, this being the only means to redeem one’s soul. Thus the

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