Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sapientie Immarcessibilis. A Diplomatic and Comparative Study of the Bull of Foundation of the University of Louvain (December 9, 1425)

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sapientie Immarcessibilis. A Diplomatic and Comparative Study of the Bull of Foundation of the University of Louvain (December 9, 1425)

Article excerpt

Sapientie Immarcessibilis. A Diplomatic and Comparative Study of the Bull of Foundation of the University of Louvain (December 9, 1425). By Erik Van Mingroot. Documentation by Marc Nelissen. Translation from the Dutch by Angela Fritsen. [Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, Series I/Studia XXV] (Leuven: Leuven University Press. 1994. Pp. viii, 329; 112 black and white illustrations. 2,200 Belgian Francs paperbound.)

The University of Louvain (Leuven) was founded by Pope Martin V (14171431) with his bull Sapientie Immarcessibilis (Sacrosanct Wisdom) on December 9,1425, at the request of the city of Louvain,Johannes IV of Burgundy, Duke of Brabant, and the collegial chapter of St. Peter in Louvain. The University was granted the same privileges as those enjoyed by the Universities of Cologne, Vienna, and Leipzig. The official opening took place on September 7, 1426, with the first rector, Guillelmus Neve, in attendance. The Faculty of Theology was not authorized until 1432. The medieval foundation existed until October 25, 1797, when with the presence of the French Army it was closed. It was reopened only in 1834-1835 thanks to the efforts of the Belgian episcopate supported by Gregory XVI (1831-1846) with his papal brief Majori Certe Solatio, dated June 10, 1834. The apostolic conservators were: the archbishop of Trier, the abbot of the Canons of Premontre of Tongerlo, and the dean of the Cathedral Chapter of St. Peter at Louvain.

The original bull of foundation was destroyed during the night of August 25/26, 1914, by fire, when the German army besieged Louvain. Fortunately, eleven copies of the bull of foundation survived from the fifteenth century. The first was made in Louvain on August 28, 1426, and was certified by the ducal secretary, Edmund Van Dynter. The 1431 copy of Roman registration kept in the Hauptstaatsarchiv of Hannover, Germany, was destroyed on the night of October 8-9,1943, by allied forces bombing.

Eight copies of the Sapientie Immarcessibilis were made in the sixteenth century, four in the seventeenth, and several later on. A photographic reproduction of the founding bull is given as illustration number III. The author, Erik Van Mingroot did a thorough diplomatic study of the original text of the foundation bull. He should be commended for listing the eighty-five papal bulls related to the foundation of universities between the creation of the University of Toulouse (France) in 1233 and that of Alcala de Henares (Spain) in 1499. The bull of Sapientie Immarcessibilis reveals similarities with the text of the foundation bulls of the University of Copenhagen (1418), that of Geneva (1418), and particularly that of Rostock (1419). The latter founded with the bull Sapientiae Cujus Immarcessibilis can be regarded as some kind of model for Louvain.

The author offers a painstaking description of the diplomatic structure of the foundation bull of Louvain. In a genuine Rabelaisian style he lists his purpose to examine the "typological, external, linguistic, structural, editorial, diachronic, stylistic, institutional, historical and documentary nature" of the bull (p. …

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