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University of Palermo

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The Convent of St. Dominic of Palermo may be considered the nucleus of the future University of Palermo. In this convent instruction was given in theology and philosophy, not only for the Dominicans, but also for the public. In 1469 Father Tommaso Schifaldo gave lessons there in Latin Literature. A theological lecturer, Father Salvo Cassetta, had so large a following that he lectured in the public square; he was also well versed in mathematics. In 1553 the commune wished to have a medical school and called upon the famous Gianfilippo Ingrassia. His lectures too were delivered at the Convent of St. Dominic. In 1555 the commune also engaged Dominican professors of philosophy, including the historian Fazello. The chair of jurisprudence was founded in 1556, and the first professor was Geo. Ant. de Contovo. At the end of the sixteenth century nothing more was heard of the Dominican School. From 1591, philosophy and theology were taught in the Jesuit College (founded in 1550). In 1599 the number of chairs was increased. The college had the right of conferring degrees in these two sciences. The courses of the Jesuits were well attended.

In 1632 the Jesuit Pietro Salerno, gave his patrimony to the university which was about to be established in the college of the order. The royal concession was obtained and furthermore a contention arose between the rector of the college and the archbishop, each of whom desired to be chancellor; this controversy hindered the formation of the university itself, that is, of the two other faculties, law and medicine. Courses in medicine were given until 1621 in the Spedale Grande (Academy of Anatomy) through the initiative of Dr. Baldassare Grassia. On the failure of this, another similar course began in 1645, in the house of Camillini, which course continued, supplemented by instruction in mathematics. On the suppression of the Jesuits, their college was entrusted to secular priests. In 1777 the Senate of Palermo began to erect a complete university, which was established 1779 with three chairs in theology, four in law, six in medicine, seven in philosophy and the natural sciences. The great professors were Spedalieri in philosophy, Cari in law, Sergio in political economy, Father Bernardino d' Ugria and the Benedictine Eutichio Barone the natural sciences, Maronglia in mathematics. In 1780 new chairs were added, and in the following year the university acquired the right of conferring degrees. In 1805 it was enacted that the rectors should be taken from the Theatine Order which furnished many renowned professors, e.g., the astronomer Piazzi (1786). When the Jesuit Order was re-established, the academy had to change its place; but it was also in that year (1805) that the said academy took the name of university. Among the professors we amy mention: Scina, Gorgone, Amari, Ugdulene, and the late Canizarro (1826-1910).

The university has the usual four faculties of jurisprudence, medicine, letters, and philosophy and sciences, besides a practical school for engineers and a school of pharmacy. It has also a botanical garden, a cabinet of physics, including chemistry, mineralogy, geology, physiology, and anatomy, an astronomical observatory, various clinics and an archaeological museum. The number of students in 1909 was 1535; regular professors, 68; special professors, 111. It supports 84 chairs, and more that 123 teachers.


Sampolo, La R. Accademia degli Studi di Palermo (Palermo, 1888); Aube, Sur l'instruction publique en Sicile et particlierement sur l' Universite de Palermo (Paris, 1872).

About this page

APA citation. Benigni, U. (1911). University of Palermo. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Benigni, Umberto. "University of Palermo." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Sally Nutini. Dedicated to Ignazia R. Pappalito.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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