History of Charles University in Prague

The foundation of Charles University in Prague was connected with Charles IV´s effort to make  Prague a seat corresponding to  the importance of its growing power.The idea of giving Prague a university is older.  It goes back to the 13th and 14th centuries, but it failed to be realized either in  our countries or in any other place in central Europe.

As early as 1347, the dokument of Pope Climent VI was issued, by which all the rights and liberties shared by other universities were guaranteed to the university in Prague. The foundation itself was realized in the Charter issued on April 7, 1348 by Charles IV.

Folowing the model of Paris University, Charles University was to consist of four faculties – the faculty of arts, theology and law and medicin faculty. The members of the Prague university community belonged to four digfferent „nations“ – these were  the Czech, Polish, Bavarian and Saxon nations. The new univesrity  soon made a name in the whole Europe, and that‘s why thousands of  students from many countries came to study here.

In its beginnings, the university had no building of its own, lectures were read in the monasteries and private dwellings of university masters. It was only in 1366 that Charles IV founded a college near the Church of St. Nicholas, but this was not big enough and it was necessary to find additional premises. Thus, 22 years later, the university moved into  Rothlev House, today’s Carolinum.

In the last quarter of 14th century many conflicts between the university nations arose, especially those between the Czech and the germans struggling for influence in administering the university. One of  the most important supporter of the Czech side was Master John Huss, – it was he, who contributed a great deal to acceptance of Edict of Kutná Hora, 1409, which made a new division of votes among the univerity nations – the Czech  were given free votes out of four. This had made Charles University the centre of Czech culture.

There were many important changes in the further history of our oldest university – in 1654, after the Battle of the White Mountain, the Jezuit college was adjoined and the university was given a new name – Charles-Ferdinand university. In 1784 German was introduced as the teaching language instead of Latin and it was used exclusively till 1882, when the university was devided into German and Czech  sections.  Well over 200 years were to pass before the original name – Charles University – was restored.

You have surely heard about the closing of the Czech universities by the Nazis on November 17, 1939. They were reopened in 1945, and it was in this very year that German part of the university was abolished.

In the time of Nazi occupation the foundation letter, authenticated by a golden seal, was taken away from our country and concealed at an unknown place in West Germany.