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§ 26. The University of Wittenberg.
Grohmann: Annalen der Universität zu Wittenberg, 1802, 2 vols. Muther: Die Wittenberger Universitäts und Facultätsstudien v. Jahr 1508. Halle, 1867. K. Schmidt: Wittenberg unter Kurfürst Friedrich dem Weisen. Erlangen, 1877. Juergens: II, 151 sqq. and 182 sqq. (very thorough). Koestlin, I., 90 sqq. Kolde: Friedrich der Weise und die Anfänge der Reformation, Erlangen, 1881; and his Leben Luther’s, 1884, I., 67 sqq.
In the year 1502 Frederick III., surnamed the Wise, Elector of Saxony ( b. 1463, d. 1525), distinguished among the princes of the sixteenth century for his intelligence, wisdom, piety, and in cautious protection of the Reformation, founded from his limited means a new University at Wittenberg, under the patronage of the Virgin Mary and St. Augustin. The theological faculty was dedicated to the Apostle Paul, and on the anniversary of his conversion at Damascus a mass was to be celebrated and a sermon preached in the presence of the rector and the senate.
Frederick was a devout Catholic, a zealous collector of relics, a believer in papal indulgences, a pilgrim to the holy land; but at the same time a friend of liberal learning, a protector of the person of Luther and of the new theology of the University of Wittenberg, which he called his daughter, and which be favored to the extent of his power. Shortly before his death he signified the acceptance of the evangelical faith by taking the communion in both kinds from Spalatin, his chaplain, counsellor and biographer, and mediator between him and Luther. He was unmarried and left no legitimate heir. His brother, John the Constant (1525–1532), and his nephew, John Frederick the Magnanimous (1532–1547), both firm Protestants, succeeded him; but the latter was deprived of the electoral dignity and part of his possessions by his victorious cousin Moritz, Duke of Saxony, after the battle of Mühlberg (1547). The successors of Moritz were the chief defenders of Lutheranism in Germany till Augustus I. (1694–1733) sold the faith of his ancestors for the royal crown of Poland and became a Roman Catholic.
Wittenberg152152 Probably, Weissenberg, from the white sand hills on the Elbe. So Jürgens II., 190. The original inhabitants of the region were Slavs (Wends), but expelled or absorbed by the Saxons. The town dates from the twelfth century. was a poor and badly built town of about three thousand inhabitants in a dull, sandy, sterile plain on the banks of the Elbe, and owes its fame entirely to the fact that it became the nursery of the Reformation theology. Luther says that it lay at the extreme boundary of civilization,153153 "In termino civilitatis." a few steps from barbarism, and speaks of its citizens as wanting in culture, courtesy and kindness. He felt at times strongly tempted to leave it. Melanchthon who came from the fertile Palatinate, complained that he could get nothing fit to eat at Wittenberg. Myconius, Luther’s friend, describes the houses as "small, old, ugly, low, wooden." Even the electoral castle is a very unsightly structure. The Elector laughed when Dr. Pollich first proposed the town as the seat of the new university. But Wittenberg was one of his two residences (the other being Torgau), had a new castle-church with considerable endowments and provision for ten thousand masses per annum and an Augustinian convent which could furnish a part of the teaching force, and thus cheapen the expenses of the institution.
The university was opened October 18, 1502. The organization was intrusted to Dr. Pollich, the first rector, who on account of his extensive learning was called "lux mundi," and who had accompanied the Elector on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1493), and to Staupitz, the first Dean of the theological faculty, who fixed his eye at once upon his friend Luther as a suitable professor of theology.
Wittenberg had powerful rivals in the neighboring, older and better endowed Universities of Erfurt and Leipzig, but soon overshadowed them by the new theology. The principal professors were members of the Augustinian order, most of them from Tübingen and Erfurt. The number of students was four hundred and sixteen in the first semester, then declined to fifty-five in 1505, partly in consequence of the pestilence, began to rise again in 1507, and when Luther and Melanchthon stood on the summit of their fame, they attracted thousands of pupils from all countries of Europe. Melanchthon heard at times eleven languages spoken at his hospitable table.
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