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University of Greifswald

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The oldest university of Prussia, founded in 1456. Even before this, Greifswald had, for a short time, been the seat of a university. In 1436, when on account of dissensions among the townspeople, the University of Rostock was placed under interdict by the Council of Basle, it was removed to Greifswald with the consent of the same council, where it remained for seven years. After the return of the university to Rostock, six professors remained at Greifswald, whereupon the burgomaster, Heinrich Rubenow, himself a doctor of laws and a member of one of the most influential and aristocratic families of the city, conceived the idea of establishing a university in his native city. Pope Callistus III issued the Bull of foundation on 29 May, 1456, and on 17 October the dedication the new university took place, Rubenow, as vice-chancellor and first rector, admitting 173 students to matriculation. The bishop of Kammin was chancellor of the university, for the support of which Duke Wratislaw, IX, of Pomerania and his successors set apart, in addition to certain sums of money, the revenues from certain villages and monasteries. He and Rubenow also established, in connection with the church of St. Nicholas, a college of canons, the members of which were at the same time teachers in the university. During the first years the Greifswald professors were frequently drawn from Rostock and Leipzig, and among them, as among the students, were many Danes and Swedes. At the instance of the Greifswald council, the preacher Johann Knipstro proclaimed the reformed doctrines in the city. Duke Philipp I, who being the son of Palatine Princes Amalie, had been educated at the court of Heidelberg, in 1534 introduced the Reformation into his territories, thus becoming the founder of the Lutheran Church in Pomerania. The confusion and dissensions of these years affected the university seriously; for twelve years the lectures were entirely suspended. They were resumed in 1539, under the auspices of the Reformers, with one professor for each of the three upper faculties, the university being established in the suppressed Dominican monastery.

Philipp I and his sons, in compensation for its property which had been turned over to the Reformed Church, endowed the university with the land of suppressed monasteries. During the Thirty Years War the city and University of Greifswald suffered severely. In 1562 the last Duke of Pomerania, who was without issue, settled on the university as patrimony the former Cistercian Abbey of Eldena, with all its estates, including about twenty villages, in order that the arrears of salary might be paid to the professors, and their future provided for. Although this monastic property was in a sadly neglected condition and heavily burdened with debt, the ten professors accepted the royal gift, which, however, did not yield sufficient revenue to maintain the professors until after the war with Norway and Sweden. When, in 1637, Pomerania was annexed to Sweden of which it remained a possession after the Peace of Westphalia, 1648, Queen Christine repeatedly assisted the Greifswald professors from the royal treasury. During the war between Brandenburg and Sweden, and likewise during the Northern War, the university suffered frequent and serious injury, its property was confiscated and the university was almost deserted. Not until after the Peace of Stockholm (1720) was order restored. In 1730 the foundation of the Society for the Collection and Investigation of National History and Law (Gesellschaft zur Sammlung und Erforschung für die Landesgeschichte und das Landesrecht) and the German Language and German Poetry (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur die Veredulung der deutschen Sprache und Dichtung) occasioned lively literary activity.

In 1775 Gustavus III imposed on the university a new constitution affecting the organization of the teaching body, the several institutions of learning, the administration of its property, and laws governing the student body. By the second Peace of Vienna, in 1815, Swedish Pomerania was ceded to the Kingdom of Prussia, and the University of Greifswald, which had suffered greatly during the Napoleonic wars, gradually became a highly respected school for science, especially for medicine and positive theology. The institutions connected with the university were at the same time improved and enlarged, and many new ones were founded and organized along the most approved lines, e.g. the zoological, anatomical, and physiological institutes, the botanical garden, the institutes of chemistry and physics, the library, and the clinics. In the exhibition of modern lecture-halls, operating rooms, and equipment, at the World's Fair of St. Louis the surgical and woman's clinic of Greifswald received one of the five grand prizes that went to Germany. The increase in the revenues of the estates belonging to the university helped greatly to defray the expenses of the new institutions. The forest land alone yields an annual income of approximately twenty-five thousand dollars, and the rentals over a hundred thousand dollars. During the scholastic year 1908-09, 786 students attended the university. Of late years the competition of Kiel and Münster and of the universities established in the larger cities has so affected Greifswald that now the number of students enrolled is less than at any other Prussian university.


KOSEGARTEN, Geschichte der Universitat Greifswald (Greifswald, 1857); Die Matrikel der Universitat Greifswald (until 1700) (Leipzig, 1893).

About this page

APA citation. Hoeber, K. (1910). University of Greifswald. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hoeber, Karl. "University of Greifswald." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Beth Ste-Marie.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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