October 19 – Heidelberg University's First Lecture!

Posted October 19, 2018

The beautiful old university in the beautiful German town of Heidelberg is the very oldest university in Germany! Its first lecture was held on this date in 1386.

It's also one of the world's oldest surviving universities!

And I actually know someone who is a professor there - I feel so lucky that he gave my family a tour!

Here's a few highlights of Heidelberg U's history:

Back in the 1300s, when there was a struggle in the Catholic Church over who was the real pope, German and French spiritual leaders found themselves on opposite sides. The rift caused by this meant that German students and professors in Paris had to leave the university there. A German leader thought that this was a great opportunity for his own people, and he asked Pope Urban VI if he could start up a university in his own land. And the university grew quickly.

Heidelberg started accepting women as students in 1899.

Although OF COURSE the primary language of instruction at Heidelberg is German, there are a lot of graduate degrees offered in English!

Students come from around 130 different countries from around the world to study at Heidelberg - because it is consistently ranked among Europe's and the world's top universities.

As of 2017, there were 33 Nobel Prize winners affiliated with the university.

One of the things I most remember about our tour of Heidelberg was the Studentenkarzer. 

That is - the student jail!

Waaaaaayyyyyy back in the 1500s, townspeople sometimes complained about students "carousing" - I guess drinking and shouting and singing and perhaps cavorting about! I read that one complaint was students setting townspeople's pigs free!

Because of all the complaints, the university created a student jail in which they could keep carousers (as it were) off the street from 3 days to 4 weeks!!!

From the fact that so many put up silhouettes
and their names on the walls, I am thinking that
most students were proud to spend time in the
jail, rather than being ashamed.

So...it's unlikely that having a student jail
reduced the amount of carousing...
The jail existed for more than 300 years, and during that time it was moved several times. It was finally closed in 1914. The latest prison, with its original features and all the accumulated graffiti (and there is a LOT of graffiti), is something tourists and current students can check out, for a small fee.

Most college towns have a bit of a "Town vs. Gown" problem - in other words, townspeople and students often have disagreements. But I am not at all sure that student prisons are common!!

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