Story of the University

On 29 January 1377, Pope Gregory XI accepted the request of Gentile Da Varano, the Duke of Camerino, and issued a Papal Bull (Declaration) in which he granted the city the right to have a general university. In particular, he authorized the interpretation and teaching of Civil and Canon Law and gave permission to award Doctorate and Bachelor degrees.

This was not the founding date of the University, the Papal Bull simply raised to a higher level the existing private university which had been guaranteed by the local authorities. The Papal Bull extended to all of Christendom the validity of university's academic titles, which from then on could be conferred “with apostolic authority”.

No documents survive about the beginning of the University of Camerino. Camerino was at that time the capital of a large territory, its only rival being the city of Fermo.

Camerino was the seat of Government of one of the leading “Signorie” in the political and military affairs of the peninsula and home to magistrates and scholars who were scattered throughout its principal cities.

A fragment of the Statutes of the University of Camerino dated 1355, inform us that the following courses were active in the city: Canon Law, Civil Law, Medicine and Literature. The Bull of 1377 recognized only Legal Studies. The reality is that, following an ancient Justinian law, it was especially easy for a university authority to legitimize a Law School because of the political role played at all times by jurisprudence.

The Pontifical provisions were subject to a time limit and proposed a period of experimentation for the university.
This reservation was due more to the uncertain fidelity of Camerino toward the Papacy than to any failings in its school. The Western Schism, which split the Church for forty years, and the wavering loyalty of the Da Varano between Rome and Avignon, have made it impossible to determine up to now if and by whom definitive recognition was made.

Students initially came to Camerino as a result of an ancient privilege conceded by Frederik Barbarossa to university towns, which was adopted by the Town Council within its Statute; students were exempted from the payment of all taxes and duties and were freed from a range of reprisals, even when hostilities existed between Camerino and their own native city.
Students enjoyed unconditional freedom to enter, live in and leave the city, and this privilege applied also to their servants.

Under the Papal State, the small formal adjustments made to university legislation in 1563 did not resuscitate an institution that had long been without its original cultural and political justification. The decline of the “Signoria” and of Camerino, once capital of the dukedom, into the principal town of a limited Pontifical district, and the economic crisis which had descended on the city signalled the end of the university.

By 1600 the university had disappeared. The college of Doctors survived but limited itself to setting exams for prospective members who had graduated elsewhere. Towards the end of the century, advanced courses were still being taught in the city paid for by the Town Council, but they were organized by academics who were guests in local monasteries.

On 27 November 1726, the General Council of Camerino, seeing an opportunity to increase the number of its teachers, requested Pope Benedict XIII to be permitted to allocate for this purpose certain civic funds which had been tied to other uses. On 15 July, the Pope, with the Bull “Liberalium Disciplinarum” granted the request but required that the courses be organized according to the curricula of, and with the same ends as, the Papal Universities.
Pope Benedict conferred the title “Universitas Studii Generalis” on the university.

With the rebirth of the university, Camerino blossomed as a university town.
Yet the records of the past had sadly been lost and no references were made to the history of the City, nor was the Pontifical concession hailed as a renewal of the university.

Four faculties were initiated: Theology, Law, Medicine (which awarded degrees in Philisophy and Medicine) and Mathematics.
In 1753, a document of Francis I of Hapsburg-Lorraine extended the recognition of degrees from Camerino to the entire territory of the Holy Roman Empire and, among other things, conferred the honour of Count Palatine on the Rector or Vice-Chancellor.

A concise description of the university’s succeeding two and a half centuries of intense and well documented life is difficult. Of major importance were the early years of the Restoration. New science laboratories led to increased and improved scientific research.

In 1870, with the Unification of Italy, Camerino was recognized as a Free University.

It maintained that status until 1958 when it became a State university.