Alte Universität, Graz, Austria

Alte Universität, Graz, Austria

The history of Graz’s famous university begins with the Jesuits and their efforts to beat back Protestantism.

It was a gradual takeover. First, under the protective eye of their Catholic patron, Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria, the Jesuits established a theological and philosophical school. Then, in 1578, they created a college (a.k.a. “seminary”). Seven years later, with the blessing of the pope and the Emperor, the college became a full-fledged university.

In 1607, the Jesuits decided they needed new lecture theaters. A grand building in the Stadtkrone (“City Crown” or “City Center”) was proposed. Ferdinand II – the son of Archduke Charles – laid the foundation stone.

This sentinel on the Hofgasse remained a Catholic stronghold until the late 18th century, when Joseph II decided to usher in educational reforms. He expelled the Jesuits and seized materials. The university became a lowly lyceum for civil servants and medical personnel.

But some institutions have a hard time dying. Under the reign of Francis I, the lyceum was reinstated as the Karl-Franzens-Universität in honor its founders (Archduke Charles II and Francis I). A new campus was built, northeast of the inner city, and the Alte Universität (“Old University”) became a place for functions and events.