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Innsbruck University

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Innsbruck University, officially the ROYAL IMPERIAL LEOPOLD FRANCIS UNIVERSITY IN INNSBRUCK, originated in the college opened at Innsbruck in 1562 by Peter Canisius, at the request and on the foundation of the Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, who in this way made effective his long-cherished plans for an institute of higher learning for the people of Tyrol. The imperial edict of foundation was read from every pulpit in Tyrol on 12 May, 1562, and the school opened under the direction of the Fathers of the newly founded Society of Jesus on 24 June of the same year as a gymnasium with four classes, in which elements, grammar, and syntax were taught. A fifth and lowest class of elements was added in 1566. In 1599 Ferdinand expressed the wish that the programme of studies be widened so as to include a studium universale. This was done, however, only in 1606, when a new building for the gymnasium was completed, whereupon courses in philosophy (dialectics) and theology (casuistry and controversies) were begun, the other subjects being rhetoric, humanities, syntax, and upper and lower grammar. Logic was added in 1619. Until 1670 the erecting of the gymnasium into a university had been repeatedly discussed and planned, but without result. In 1670-71 the course in philosophy was extended to three years; in 1671-72 two chairs of scholastic theology were founded, as well as one of law (institutiones) and in the following year two of jurisprudence and one of canon law. In 1672 also the gymnasium was raised to the rank of an academy, and in 1673 this academy received the name and rank of a university, although lectures in medicine did not begin until 1674.

The Emperor Leopold I of Austria promulgated the imperial decree of foundation in 1677, and it was in the same year that Pope Innocent XI granted the new university the customary rights and privileges. The faculty then consisted of fifteen professors: five for theology, four each for philosophy and law, and two for medicine. Of these, three of the professors of theology, all of those of philosophy and the professor of canon law in the law faculty were Jesuits; two members of the secular clergy lectured in the first-named faculty, and the rest were laymen. The complete organization of these four faculties followed ten years later. The chancellor of the university was the Prince-Bishop of Brixen, in the Tyrol, who was usually represented in Innsbruck by a vice-chancellor. Until 1730 the university remained essentially unchanged. The number of professors rose to eighteen. The eighteen years following, however, witnessed a widening of the study plan; the Government of Maria Theresa began to interfere more directly in the inner work of the university. During the next period, from 1748 to 1773, this state domination increased, reaching a maximum under Joseph II. In 1773 when, upon the suppression of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, who up to this had made up one-half of the professors and under whom the theological faculty became the most eminent of the four, ceased to lecture, the university numbered 911 students, distributed as follows: 325 in theology, 116 in law, 43 in medicine and 437 in philosophy.

Joseph II published an order for the suppression of the university on 29 November, 1781, but on 14 September, 1782 issued a decree allowing it to be continued as a lyceum with two university faculties, philosophy and theology, and facilities for the study of law and medicine. In 1783 the Government established at Innsbruck a general theological seminary for the whole of Tyrol, only to close it again in 1790. The university was recalled to life by Joseph's successor, Leopold II, to be again suppressed by the Bavarian Government in 1810, leaving a lyceum with merely philosophical and theological courses. This condition of affairs lasted until 1817, when courses in law and medicine were added. From the departure of the Jesuits in 1773 until 1822, when it was completely suppressed, the theological faculty, in which the principles of Josephinism and Gallicanism reigned almost supreme, ad been in continual conflict with the Bishop of Brixen, who had no right of supervision, not even over purity of doctrine, which suffered grievously in the interval. At one time even the "Imitation of Christ" was a forbidden book. In 1826 the university was again restored, this time by the Emperor Francis II of Austria. It consisted at first of only two full faculties, philosophy and law. In 1857, mainly through the efforts of Vincent Gasser, Prince-Bishop of Brixen, the theological faculty was added and entrusted once more to the Jesuits, who have since, with two exceptions, been the sole professors. The complete organization of the restored university was reached when the medical faculty was reconstituted in 1869.

The most illustrious teachers of the university have been and are mainly in the theological faculty. Since the restoration of the latter in 1857 the best known of these have been: in dogmatic theology, Cardinal Steinhuber (died 1907), Stentrup (died 1898), Kern (died 1907), and Hurter, the latter still lecturing since 1858; in moral theology, Noldin (retired 1909); in sacred eloquence, Jungmann (died 1885), the author of a well-known work on æsthetics; in moral theology and sociology, Biederlack; in canon law and ecclesiastical history, Nilles (died 1907); in Scripture, Fonck (called to Rome, 1908); in ecclesiastical history, Grisar (professor honorarius since 1898). Dr. Ludwig von Pastor, author of the well-known "History of the Popes", is professor of history in the faculty of philosophy, in which the eminent Austrian meteorologist Pernter (died 1909) was at one time professor. To this faculty belongs also the cartographer von Wieser. The theological faculty has frequently suffered the attacks of "liberal" professors, who form the large majority in the faculties of the profane sciences in the Austrian universities. These professors have several times endeavoured to have the theological faculty suppressed, but it has ever found a faithful protector in the Emperor Francis Joseph I. This faculty also took the leading part in the controversy following upon the blasphemous attack on the Church in 1908 by Dr. Ludwig Wahrmund, professor of canon law in the law faculty.

Intimately connected with the theological faculty, though no official part of it, is the seminary (Theologisches Konvikt), where the majority of the students of theology reside. This institution, called the "Nikolaihaus", was first opened for poor students in 1569, closed in 1783, and reopened for the theologians in 1858. It is almost exclusively through the theological faculty and the "Nikolaihaus" that Innsbruck is known outside of Austria-Hungary, especially among Catholics. In the fifty years since the restoration of the faculty, 5898 students, from nearly every civilized country, have frequented the lectures in theology, of whom 2983 are alumni of the "Nikolaihaus". Of these students, 4209 belonged to the secular and 1689 to the regular clergy; they represented 202 dioceses and Apostolic vicariates, and 73 provinces, cloisters, etc., of the regulars. North America has contributed 443 students, with few exceptions all from the United States; England is represented among the alumni by 10, and Ireland by 15 students. The "Nikolaihaus" is governed by a regens who is a member of the Society of Jesus. A Jesuit father also is always university preacher, and the university sodality is under the direction of another Jesuit. Innsbruck is the theologate of the Austrian and Hungarian provinces of the Society of Jesus. The influence of the university since its restoration, as in its earlier periods, has been important. Naturally this influence has been felt most of all in the Tyrol, which to a large extent owes to the university its culture, especially among the clergy and in the medical and legal professions. In particular, the presence of theological students from all parts of the world has made the influence of the faculty of theology of great weight in the education of the clergy, and in the development of theological science during the last fifty years, an influence which has been spread and augmented by the faculty organ, the "Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie", a quarterly now in its thirty-third year. Innsbruck is one of the eight Austrian state universities. The university buildings number about 40 (including institutes clinics etc.). There is also a university church in charge of the Jesuits. This church was erected during the years 1620-40 by Archduke Leopold V of Austria and his wife Claudia de' Medici. The buildings for the medical, chemical, and physical sciences are new and well equipped. The library contains over 225,000 volumes, including many valuable manuscripts. The number of students averages about 1000, that of the professors and privat dozenten over 90. In 1908-09 the number of students registered in the winter semester was 1154, thus distributed: theology, 355; law, 293; medicine, 213; philosophy, 293. In the summer semester (1909) the total was 1062. In this same year there were 105 professors and privat dozenten.


PROBST, Geschichte der Universität in Innsbruck seit ihrer Entstehung bis zum Jahre 1860 (Innsbruck, 1869) ; PROBST, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Gymnasien in Tirol (Innsbruck, 1858); HOFMANN, Das Nikolaihaus zu Innsbruck einst und jetzt (Innsbruck, 1908); AHERN in The Messenger (December, 1908).

About this page

APA citation. Ahern, M.J. (1910). Innsbruck University. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Ahern, Michael Joseph. "Innsbruck University." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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

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