The historical debate on the origins of Macerata’s Studium Generale has been extensive and bitter. Some maintain that it is was founded by Pope Nicholas IV in 1290 while others affirm that it was not founded until 1540 by Pope Paul III Farnese. From the abundance of records, one thing is certain: that in September 1290, the Commune of Macerata issued a proclamation according to which: “Quicumque vult ire ad studium legis, vadat addominum Giuliosum de Monte Granario qui permanet ad dictam Maceratam quia ibi retinet Scholam, qui intendit incipere in die festo b. Luce proxime venturo”.

This was the period in which Nicholas IV was Pope, a man from The Marche himself, so Macerata, like other Communes in the area, enjoyed his favour. However, some scholars suggested that the proclamation based on the papal bull of Nicholas IV to set up a Studium Generale can be absolutely ruled out, as there is no documentary evidence to prove this.

Given the available sources, it can be argued that in the year 1290 it was not a Studium Generale that was established in Macerata but a Law school run by a private master who was not qualified to confer gradus doctorales.

However, in contrast with most similar schools of the time which were simply private, this one was set up and run under the protection of the Commune, thus having the features of a public institution.

The proclamation was publicized by the Commune of Macerata in numerous other communes of The Marche as we know from the notary records concerning the publication in individual towns. But the proclamation and the relative evidence are the first, and at the same time, last documents concerning the Law school. We know nothing else about it except that it was set up, as described above, and that presumably it began to function. However, there is no documentary evidence to tell us if and for how long it lasted.

The report issued by Leo X on the 28th May 1518 based on the relatio and supplicatio sent to the Pontiff by the Bishop Pietro Flores, lieutenant of the Cardinal in The Marche, may furnish some information regarding the questions raised above. The report authorised the Macerata College of Curial Lawyers to confer the gradus doctoralis on poor young men of the Province. This papal intervention was requested because of the great number of scolares pauperes in The Marche who attended the various gymnasia schools in the Province, devoting themselves successfully to the study of utrumque ius but who were unable to pay the expenses needed for attending the Studia Generalia in order to graduate. So we may presume - and this is the first point obtained from the report – that at least one of these gymnasia schools was in Macerata and could have been the direct or indirect continuation of the school of Giulioso. This seems all the more likely as the College of Curial Doctors known as Saint Catherine existed in Macerata, the members of which were able to teach Law.

On the other hand the Pope decided that after passing the graduation exam, which was to be organized iuxta stilum Studiorum Generalium, the graduates would enjoy all the prerogatives and privileges “quibus in utroque iure huiusmodi in proximiori Marchiae huiusmodi Universitate iuxta illius mores et ritum graduati gaudent”.

Secondly, this meant that a Studium Generale did not exist in Macerata because if it had the Pope would have referred to it rather than to the Universitas proximior Marchiae. The report of Leo X only solved a very small part of the problems of the youth of Macerata who wished to graduate as it did not cover the members of the wealthiest class who governed the city. In order to graduate they had to continue to attend Studia which were far from home and not always easy to reach.

When Alexander Farnese (Paul III) became Pope, the moment was propitious for the Commune to try and obtain permission for a Studium Generale in Macerata. Paul III had been in Macerata as a Papal legate to The Marche and had had, and still continued to have, very good relations with the town as did his nephew of the same name who was a Cardinal. In fact, it was he who intervened with regard to this question. As soon as Alexander Farnese became Pope, the Commune, between 1534 and 1540, repeatedly sent petitions asking for the erectio of the Studium.

In the spring of 1540 the negotiations with the Roman Curia, which were conducted by delegates plenipotentiary of the Commune, drew to a conclusion and the Pontiff, with the Papal Bull of 1st July 1540 “In eminenti dignitatis Apostolicae”, gave permission for the “Generale Studium cujuscumque facultatis et scientiae licitae” to be founded in Macerata. At the same time, with another Papal Bull of the same date and addressed to the various Bishops of The Marche, it was laid down that they were to publish the first Bull and make sure that it was observed. The Commune, whose financial position was anything but rosy, set about raising funds for the running of the Studium. To this end it invited other Communities of The Marche to contribute, but few did so; it also raised a series of town excise duties. On the other hand, from the 6th September onwards, it began nominating the first Researchers and fixed the start of the scholastic year for the following 18th October.

All went according to plan and on 27th November 1541 the first degree was conferred, in utroque, to Giuseppe Abiamontani from Orvieto. So from that day until the present, apart from a very brief pause during the Napoleonic era of which we shall speak later, the University has continued to operate without interruption. From the beginning, and for many centuries afterwards, the Studio was governed by the “Consiglio di Credenza” of the town, in particular in all matters that involved heavy expenditure. Four or five delegates of this Council called reformatores ac gubernatores Studii, were occupied with the callings of the lectores, and by the doctoral colleges that were gradually being set up. These were colleges of jurists, of the doctores artium ac sacrosanctae medicinae and of theologians who, as set out in the founding Bull, were self-governing and controlled the running of the three facultates through the promulgation of statuta, which were then submitted to the Consiglio di Credenza for approval.

The degree ceremony was held in front of the individual Collegia and was divided into two sessions in the town hall and/or the cathedral, and was presided over by the Vicar of the Bishop or, but this was rare, by the Bishop himself.

In the first session, the candidate was assigned the puncta to discuss, using the “open book” system; in the second, usually the following day, the examinee underwent the real exam discussing the puncta with the various members of the College. Unlike the procedure in other Studia of the same period, the Bishop or the Vicar was only present in a representative capacity. They were permanently delegated to intervene by the Commune and once the candidate had passed the exam in the second session, the Bishop or the Vicar “vires suas transferebat in promotores, dando eisdemcet concedendo licentiam doctorandi” to the candidate. The degree then, through the complex system of delegation and sub-delegation, ended up being conferred by the Commune. As a register of enrolments has never come to light, probably because it never existed, it is impossible to know the number of students who attended the Studium during its long “Communal” period from 1540 to 1824 (with the interruption in Napoleonic times following the union of The Marche to the Kingdom of Italy and the closing down of the University. In its place an Academy with some special schools was set up).

However, we do know the number of graduates in that period as the relative acta graduum were perfectly conserved for centuries in the archives of the Commune (today to be found in the Macerata State Archives). They show the awarding of 4889 doctorates in the period of time mentioned (but they were not just graduates from the town of Macerata, in that there was probably a greater number of those who graduated in utroque at the Studium. They took their doctoral degree ‘in both the Laws’ at the College of the Curial Doctors. In 1585 Sextus V extended the range of Leo X’s report by allowing this College the privilege of conferring the doctoral degree, not only on poor students, but on anyone, without restrictions).

The Studium reopened after the Napoleonic period on the 23rd August 1816 with a provision by Pope Pius VII and a set of rules for its administration drawn up by Bishop Strambi. There then followed a period of serious difficulty for the Studium due mainly to the dire financial situation of the local authority. This continued until the 28th August 1824 when, with Leo XII’s Bull “Quod divina sapientia”, which re-organised all the Universities of the Papal State, Macerata was included among the secondary Universities.

For these, the Bull laid down inter alia that: there were to be at least 17 professorships; that before conferring degrees and other qualifications there was to be an inspection by the Congregation of Studies; the Principal, who had the additional title of Chancellor, was to be the Bishop, and was to have both administrative and jurisdictional powers, the latter concerning the suppression of crimes committed within the University which were to be punished with the maximum penalty of one year in prison; the Chancellor was to be flanked by a Rector, nominated by the Pope on the proposal of the Congregation. He was to have specific duties concerning the organization and smooth running of the courses; each University was to have four Colleges, namely of theology, Law, medicine-surgery and Philosophy; an administrator was to be nominated by the town which was also responsible for his salary; degrees as well as baccalaureus and diplomas could be conferred in theological, legal and philosophical disciplines but only the baccalaureus and diplomas in those of medicine and surgery. The right to confer degrees in these subjects was reserved for the two primary Universities, Rome and Bologna.

Last update Aug 21, 2014