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Medieval University



There are not abundant sources concerning the short, only a few-decade-long operation of the university (studium generale) founded in Pécs on 1 September 1367. Its establishment is an integral part of the Central and Eastern European trend of university foundations. During the wave of foundations brought to life by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1346-1378) by establishing the University of Prague (1348), the studium generales in Cracow (1364), and Vienna (1365), and finally in Pécs were set up almost th

William of Koppenbach, Bishop of Pécs, played a key role in the establishment of the university, which is clearly reflected in the choice of the seat of the institution. The cleric, originally from Pfalz (Germany), started serving King Ludwig I in 1358, as the monarch’s diplomat, counsellor, secret Chancellor and chapel steward (1358 to 1374). During his career in the Church, he was a priest in Bergzabern (Germany), provost first in Čazma (Croatia) then in Eger (Hungary), and finally Bishop of Pécs (1361-1374).

The foundation was primarily due to expectations claimed for the participants of the royal diplomacy, namely to bear the canonical legal qualification essential for negotiations. Bishop William, as a secret chancellor and chapel steward, was in charge of the king's diplomatic corps, therefore, he could be more aware of the advantages of a domestic university than anyone else. Obviously, the approval of the king was necessary, however, the monarch's role could be regarded as a formal requirement only needed during the official Vatican process. The initiative role of the high priest is supported by the selection of the seat as well as his role in the remuneration of the professors.

The studium generale of Pécs copied the structure of the University of Padua. The chancellor, i.e., the head of the institution was always the actual Bishop. In fact, all power concerned concentrated in his hands, thus he exercised jurisdiction over students and professors alike, while he was in charge of governing the institution, too. It was also the chancellor who awarded academic degrees to candidates after taking examinations successfully.

Many people attempted to extend the operation of the medieval university in Pécs until the middle or end of 15th century, or else as late as until 1543. It seems certain, however, that the studium generale of Pécs, strongly connected with the person of bishop William, began to decline after the founder's death. The most eminent professor of the institution, Galvano di Bologna left Pécs, and by 1374 he was teaching in Italy once again. Bishop Bálint Alsáni still took the position of the Chancellor, however, it is likely that the institution ceased functioning during his official time as a Bishop, namely in the 1390s. It is for certain that the university of Pécs had not been functioning by the time the University of Óbuda was founded (1395).

The excavations beginning in 1967 in the vicinity of the cathedral revealed a building, together with the Golden Chapel of Mary, between the Cathedral and the city wall, which used to serve as the Episcopal palace of the bishops of Pécs between the 11th and14th centuries. It was last rebuilt in the second half of the 14th century. During the excavations lead by dr. Mária Sándor and Dr. Győző Gerő a coat of arms referring to Bishop William was unearthed, which confirmed the assumption that the building was constructed by the order of bishop William playing an important role in the establishment of the university, who, probably had the former palace converted in connection with the establishment of the university.