Secular schools were especially numerous in Italy; teachers there were usually laymen, not clerics as beyond the Alps. In general the spirit and culture of Italy were less ecclesiastical than elsewhere; indeed, about the year 970, one Vilgardus organized at Ravenna a movement for the restoration of paganism.40 There were, of course, many cathedral schools; those of Milan, Pavia, Aosta, and Parma were particularly competent, as we may judge from such graduates as Lanfranc and Anselm; and Monte Cassino under Desiderius was almost a university. The survival of municipal institutions, the successful resistance of the Lombard cities to Barbarossa (1176), and the rising demand for legal and commercial knowledge worked together to give Italy the honor of establishing the first medieval university.
In 1925 the University of Pavia celebrated the eleven hundredth anniversary of its foundation by Lothair I. Probably this was a school of law rather than a university; it was not till 1361 that it received its charter as a studium generale—the medieval name for a university uniting diverse faculties. It was one of many schools that from the ninth century onward revived the study of Roman law: Rome, Ravenna, and Orléans in the ninth century, Milan, Narbonne, and Lyons in the tenth, Verona, Mantua, and Angers in the eleventh. Bologna was apparently the first of the West European cities to enlarge its school into a studium generale. In 1076, says the chronicler Odofredus, a “certain master Pepo began by his own authority to lecture on the laws … at Bologna, and he was a man of the greatest renown.”41 Other teachers joined him; and by the time of Irnerius the Bologna school of law was by common consent the best in Europe.
Irnerius began to teach law at Bologna in 1088. Whether his studies of Roman law convinced him of the historical and practical arguments for the supremacy of the imperial over the ecclesiastical power, or whether the rewards of imperial service attracted him, he turned from the Guelf to the Ghibelline side, and interpreted the revived jurisprudence to favor imperial claims. Appreciative emperors contributed funds to the school, and a swarm of German students came down to Bologna. Irnerius composed a volume of glosses, or comments, on the Corpus iuris of Justinian, and applied scientific method to the organization of law. The Summa codicis Irnerii, compiled by him or from his lectures, is a masterpiece of exposition and argument.
With Irnerius began the golden age of medieval jurisprudence. Men from every country in Latin Europe came to Bologna to learn the rejuvenated science of the law. Irnerius’ pupil Gratian applied the new methods to ecclesiastical legislation, and published the first code of canon law (1139). After Irnerius the “Four Doctors”—Bulgarus, Martinus, Iacobus, and Hugo—in a series of famous glosses, applied the Justinian Code to the legal problems of the twelfth century, and secured the adoption of Roman law in an ever-widening sphere. Early in the thirteenth century the elder Accursius (1185?-1260), the greatest of the “glossators,” summed up their work and his own in a Glossa ordinaria, which became the standard authority by which kings and communes broke the sway of feudal law, and fought the power of the popes. The papacy did what it could to halt this exhumation of a code that made religion a function and servant of the state; but the new study fed and expressed the bold rationalism and secularization of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and raised a proliferating class of lawyers who labored to reduce the role of the Church in government, and to extend the authority of the state. St. Bernard complained that the courts of Europe rang with the laws of Justinian and no longer heard the laws of God.42 The spread of the new jurisprudence was as strong a stimulus as the Arabic and Greek translations in generating that respect and passion for reason which was to beget and bedevil Scholasticism.
We do not know when a school of arts—i.e., the seven liberal arts—arose in Bologna, nor when was founded its celebrated school of medicine. So far as we know, the only connection among the three schools was in the fact that the graduates of any of them received their degrees from the archdeacon of Bologna. The professors organized themselves into a collegium or guild. About 1215 the students, in whatever faculty, associated themselves into two groups: a universitas citramontanorum or union of students from south of the Alps, and a universitas ultramontanorum or union of students from beyond the Alps. From the beginning of the thirteenth century there were women students in these “universities,” and in the fourteenth century there were women professors on the Bologna faculties.43
The student guilds, originated to provide mutual protection and self-government, came in the thirteenth century to exercise extraordinary power over the teaching staffs. By organized boycotts of unsatisfactory teachers, the students could end the pedagogical career of any man at Bologna. In many cases the salaries of the professors were paid by the student “universities,” and the professors were compelled to swear obedience to the “rectors” of the “universities”—i.e., to the head officers of the student guilds.44 A teacher desiring leave of absence, even for a day, was obliged to obtain permission from his pupils through their rectors, and he was expressly forbidden to “create holidays at his pleasure.”45 Regulations established by the student guilds determined at what minute the teacher should begin his lecture, when he should end it, and what penalties he should pay for deviations from these rules. If he overtalked his hour the students were instructed by the guild statutes to leave. Other guild regulations fined a teacher for skipping a chapter or decretal in his exposition of the laws, and determined how much of the course was to be given to each part of the texts. At the outset of each academic year the professor was required to deposit ten pounds with a Bologna bank; from this sum the fines laid upon him by the rectors were deducted; and the remainder was refunded to him at the close of the year on instruction from the rectors. Committees of students were appointed to observe the conduct of each teacher, and report irregularities or deficiencies to the rectors.46 If these arrangements seem to the modern student unusually sensible, it should be remembered that the law students at Bologna were men between seventeen and forty years of age, old enough to provide their own discipline; that they came to study, not to play; that the professor was not the employee of trustees, but a free-lance lecturer whom the students in effect engaged to instruct them. The teacher’s salary at Bologna consisted of fees paid him by his students and fixed by agreement with them. This system of payment was changed toward the end of the thirteenth century when Italian cities eager to have universities of their own offered municipal salaries to certain Bolognese professors; the city of Bologna thereupon (1289) promised to pay two professors an annual stipend; but the choice of professors was still left to the students. Gradually the number of these municipal salaria increased; and in the fourteenth century the selection of professors passed, with their payment, to the city. When Bologna became part of the Papal States in 1506 the appointment of the teachers became a function of the ecclesiastical authorities.
In the thirteenth century, however, the University of Bologna, and in less degree the other universities of Italy, were marked by a lay spirit, almost an anticlericalism, hardly to be found in other centers of European education. Whereas in these others the chief faculty was theology, there was at Bologna no theological faculty at all before 1364; theology there was replaced by canon law. Even rhetoric took the form of law, and the art of writing became—at Bologna, Paris, Orléans, Montpellier, Tours …—the ars dictaminisor ars notaria, the art of writing legal, business, or official documents; and special degrees were given in this art.47 It was a common saying that the most realistic education obtainable was to be had in Bologna; a favorite story told how a Parisian pedagogue unlearned at Bologna what he had taught at Paris, and then came back to Paris and untaught it.48 In the twelfth century Bologna led the movement of the European mind; in the thirteenth it allowed its teaching to stiffen into a stagnant scholasticism of law; the Accursian gloss became a sacred and almost unchangeable text, impeding the progressive adaptation of law to the flux of life. The spirit of inquiry fled to freer fields.
Italy broke out into universities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Some of them were spawned by Bologna through the emigration of professors or students; so in 1182 Pillius left to set up a school in Modena; in 1188 Iacobus de Mandra went to Reggio Emilia and brought his pupils with him; in 1204 another migration, probably from Bologna, established a studium generale, or union of several faculties, at Vicenza; in 1215 Roffredus left the University of Bologna to open a law school at Arezzo; in 1222 a large secession of teachers and students from Bologna expanded an old school at Padua. Faculties of medicine and the arts were added to this school of law at Padua; Venice sent her students there, and contributed to the professorial salaries paid by the city; and in the fourteenth century Padua became one of the most vigorous centers of European thought. In 1224 Frederick II founded the University of Naples to keep the students of South Italy from flocking north. Perhaps for like reasons, as well as to train men for ecclesiastical diplomacy, Innocent IV established the University of the Court of Rome (1244), which followed the papal court in its migration, even to Avignon. In 1303 Boniface VIII founded the University of Rome, which rose to glory under Nicholas V and Leo X, and won the name of Sapienza under Paul III. Siena inaugurated its municipal university in 1246, Piacenza in 1248. By the end of the thirteenth century schools of law and the arts, and sometimes schools of medicine too, were to be found in every major city of Italy.
The universities of Spain were unique in being founded and chartered by the kings, serving them, and submitting to governmental control. Castile developed a royal university at Palencia (1208), later at Valladolid (1304); Leon had one at Salamanca (1227), the Baleares at Palma (1280), Catalonia at Lerida (1300). Despite this royal connection the Spanish universities accepted ecclesiastical supervision and funds, and some, like Palencia, grew out of cathedral schools. The University of Salamanca was richly endowed in the thirteenth century by San Fernando and Alfonso the Wise, and soon stood on an equal footing of fame and learning with Bologna and Paris. Most of these institutions gave instruction in Latin, mathematics, astronomy, theology, and law; some in medicine, Hebrew, or Greek. A School of Oriental Studies was opened at Toledo in 1250 by Dominican monks to teach Arabic and Hebrew; good work must have been done there, for one of its graduates, Raymond Martin (c. 1260), showed familiarity with all major philosophers and theologians of Islam. Arabic studies were prominent also at the University of Seville, founded by Alfonso the Wise in 1254. At Lisbon, in 1290, the poet-king Diniz gave a university to Portugal.