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The Catholic University of Leuven is founded9.12.1425

Wikipedia (29 Jan 2014, 08:28)

The Old University of Leuven (or of Louvain) is the name historians give to the university, or studium generale, founded in Leuven, Brabant (then part of the Burgundian Netherlands, now part of Belgium), in 1425, and closed in 1797, a week after the cession to the French Republic of the Austrian Netherlands and the principality of Liège (the future Belgium) by the Treaty of Campo Formio.

The name was in medieval latin Studium generale Lovaniense or Universitas Studii Lovaniensis, in humanistical latin Academia Lovaniensis, and most usually, Universitas Lovaniensis, in Dutch Universiteyt Loven and also Hooge School van Loven.

It is commonly referred to as the old University of Leuven or University of Louvain. The "new" university would generally be the Catholic University of Leuven (established 1835), but might also refer to a short-lived, but of great historical importance, State University of Leuven, 1817–1835. The immediate official and legal successor and inheritor of the old University, under the laws in force in 1797, was the École centrale de Bruxelles, which itself closed down in 1802.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the old University of Leuven was until its closure a great centre of Jansenism in Europe, with professors such as Cornelius Jansenius, Peter Stockmans, Johannes van Neercassel, Josse Le Plat and especially Zeger Bernhard van Espen and his famous disciple Febronius. To shake off this reputation, the faculty of theology thrice declared its adherence to the papal condemnation of Jansenist beliefs in the papal bull Unigenitus (1713).


In the 15th century the civil administration of the town of Leuven, with the support of John IV, Duke of Brabant, a prince of the House of Valois, made a formal request to the Holy See for a university.

Pope Martin V issued a papal bull dated 9 December 1425 founding the University in Leuven as a Studium Generale. This university was institutionally independent of the local ecclesiastical hierarchy.

From the founding of the university to its abolition in 1797, Latin was the sole language of instruction.

In its early years, this university was modelled on those of Paris, Cologne and Vienna. The university flourished in the 16th century due to the presence of famous scholars and professors, such as Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens (Pope Adrian VI), Desiderius Erasmus, Johannes Molanus, Joan Lluís Vives, Andreas Vesalius and Gerardus Mercator.

In 1519, the Faculty of Theology of Leuven, jointly with that of the University of Cologne, became the first institution to condemn a number of statements drawn from Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses (preceding the papal bull Exsurge Domine by several months).

After the French Revolutionary Wars, by the Treaty of Campo Formio, the Austrian Netherlands was ceded to the French Republic by Austria in exchange for the Republic of Venice. Once formally integrated into the French Republic, a law dating to 1793 mandating that all universities in France be closed came into effect. The University of Leuven was abolished by decree of the Département of the Dyle on October 25, 1797.

What remained of the university's movables and books were requisitioned for the École centrale in Brussels. This was the immediate official and legal successor and inheritor of the old University, under the laws in force at the time. It was in turn closed down in 1802.

Subsequent institutions

The first attempt to found a successor university in the nineteenth-century was the State University of Leuven, 1817–1835, where a dozen professors of the old University taught. This was followed by a private Catholic university, the Catholic University of Leuven, established in Leuven in 1835 (initially the Catholic University of Mechlin, 1834–1835). This institution was founded with the intention of restoring the confessionally Catholic pre-Revolutionary traditions of learning in Leuven. In 1968 this split to form the two current institutions: the Dutch language Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the French language Université catholique de Louvain.

The library

From the founding of the University in 1425 up until 1636, there was no official library of the university. Very likely the students had access to manuscripts and printed books preserved in the homes of their professors or colleges.

In 1636, however, a university library was founded in the Cloth hall and was enlarged in 1725 in a baroque style.

In 1797 much of what remained of this library after the depredations of the French occupying forces was sent to the Central School of Brussels, established as the official replacement of the abolished university, although its most precious books and manuscripts were deposited in Paris among the treasures of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The library of the Central School of Brussels came to number about 80,000 volumes, which later became part of the Library of Brussels, and then the Royal Library of Belgium.

Also the rich archives of the old University of Leuven are always existing and stored in the General Archive of the Realm in Brussels.

Indeed, the library burned in 1914 by the Germans was not the original library of the old University of Louvain, but the new library of the new Catholic University of Leuven.

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