Magazine article History Today

The University of Basel Founded: April 4th, 1460

Magazine article History Today

The University of Basel Founded: April 4th, 1460

Article excerpt

In northern Switzerland on the River Rhine, Basel was well known in 15th-century Europe for the Ecumenical Council of bishops and laity held there, which with intervals in Ferrara and Florence lasted from 1431 to 1449. The council was remarkable for its hostility to the papacy. In 1439 it declared Pope Eugenius IV deposed and elected an anti-pope, Felix V, in his place.

One of the laymen at the council was Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, diplomat and poet, in his capacity as secretary to the Bishop of Fermo. He shared the council's attitude, but by 1442 he had decided it was futile. He later took orders, rose rapidly in the Church and became pope as Plus II in 1458. He was soon involved in the founding of Switzerland's first university, at Basel, which he authorised in a bull of November 1459.

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The new university became a stronghold of humanism and the Protestant Reformation. The Dutch humanist scholar and thinker Desiderius Erasmus taught there from 1522 and began his translation of the Greek New Testament there. …

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