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History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
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§ 93. Oxford and Cambridge.


Literature: Anthony Wood (1632–1695): Hist. et Antiquitates Univ. Oxoniensis, 2 vols. Oxford, 1674. A trans. from MS. by Wase and Peers, under the supervision of Dr. Fell from Wood’s English MS. Wood was dissatisfied with the translation and rewrote his work, which was published a hundred years after his death with a continuation by John Gutsch: The Hist. and Antiquities of the Colleges and Halls in the Univ. of Oxf., 2 vols. Oxford, 1786–1790. Also: The Hist. and Antiquities of Oxf., now first published in English from the original MS. in the Bodleian Library, 2 vols. Oxford, 1792–1796. By the same: Athenae Oxonienses, 2 vols. London, 1691–1692, 3d ed., by Ph. Bliss, 1813–1820, 4 vols. The last work is biographical, and gives an account of the Oxonian writers and bishops from 1500–1690.

Oxford Historical Society’s Publications, 45 vols. Contents: University Register, 1449–1463, 1505–1671, ed. by W. C. Boase, 5 vols.; Hearne’s Collectanea, 1705–1719, 6 vols.; Early History of Oxford (727–1100); Memorials of Merton College, etc.—V. A. HUBER: D. Engl. Universitäten, 2 vols. Cassel, 1839. Engl. trans. by F. W. Newman, a brother of the cardinal, 3 vols. London, 1848.—C. Jeafferson: Annals of Oxford, 2 vols. 2d ed. London, 1871.—H. C. M. Lyte: Hist. of the Univ. of Oxf. from the Earliest Times to 1530, Oxford, 1886.—H. C. Brodrick: Hist. of the Univ. of Oxf., London, 1887.—Rashdall: Universities, II. 319–542.—Jessopp: The Coming of the Friars, pp. 262–302.—Thomas Fuller: Hist. of the Univ. of Cambr. ed. by Pritchard and Wright, Cambridge, 1840.—C. H. Cooper: Annals of Cambr., 4 vols. 1842–1852; Memorials of Cambr., 3 vols. 1884.—Mullinger: Hist. of the Univ. of Cambr. from the earliest times to the accession of Charles I., 2 vols. Cambridge, 1873–1883; Hist. of the Univ. of Cambr., London, 1887, an abridgment of the preceding work. For extensive Lit., see Rashdall, II. 319 sqq., 543 sq.


Next to Paris in age and importance, as a school of philosophy and theology, is the University of Oxford, whose foundation tradition falsely traces to King Alfred. The first historical notice of Oxenford, or Oxford, occurs in 912. Three religious institutions were founded in the town, from any one of which or all of which the school may have had its inception: the priory of St. Frideswyde, Osseney abbey, and the church of the canons regular of St. George’s in the Castle. The usually accepted view connects it with the first. But it is possible the university had its real beginning in a migration from Paris in 1167. This view is based upon a statement of John of Salisbury, that France had expelled her alien scholars and an order of Henry II. forbidding clerks to go to the Continent or to return from it without a license from the justiciar.13031303    Rashdall, II. 331-345, argues the point with much force.

The first of the teachers, Thibaut d’Estampes, Theobaldus Stampensis, moved from St. Stephen’s abbey, Caen, and taught in Oxford between 1117 and 1121. He had a school of from sixty to a hundred pupils, and called himself an Oxford master, magister oxenfordiae. He was ridiculed by a monk as a "petty clerk" tantillus clericellus, one of those "wandering chaplains, with pointed beards, curled hair, and effeminate dress, who are ashamed of the proper ecclesiastical habit and the tonsure," and was also accused of being "occupied with secular literature."

The University of Cambridge, which first appears clearly in 1209,13041304    Mullinger and others find that the priory of Barnwell furnished the germ of the university in the early years of the twelfth century. Rashdall, II. 545, denies this origin. Legend ascribed the foundation of the university to a Spanish prince, Cantaber, of uncertain date, or to King Arthur or to the Saxon king Sigebert of the seventh century. dates from the bull of Gregory IX., 1233, which mentions a chancellor.13051305    Gregory IX.’s bull, addressed to the cancellarius et universitas scholarium Cantabrigiensium, is preserved in the Vatican Archives and printed by Denifle, Universitäten, pp. 370 sq. The university archives were burned by townsmen during riots, 1261 and 1322.

During the Reformation period, Cambridge occupied a position of note and influence equal to Oxford. Fisher, bishop of Rochester, martyred by Henry VIII. and one of the freest patrons of learning, was instrumental in the foundation of two colleges, Christs, 1505, and St. John, 1511. Among its teachers were Erasmus, and later Bucer and Fagius, the Continental Reformers. Tyndale, the translator of the first printed English New Testament, and Thomas Bilney, both of them martyrs, were its scholars. So were the three martyrs, Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, though they were burnt at Oxford. During the Elizabethan period, the university was a stronghold of Puritanism with Cartwright and Travers occupying chairs. Cudworth and the Neo-Platonists flourished there. And in recent years its chairs have been filled by such representatives of the historical and exegetical schools as Bishop Lightfoot, Westcott, his successor at Durham, Ellicott, bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, and John Anthony Hort.

Oxford and Cambridge differ from the Continental universities in giving prominence to undergraduate studies and in the system of colleges and halls, and also in the closer vital relations they sustain to the Church.

In 1149 the Italian, Vacarius, introduced the study of civil law in Oxford, if we are to follow the doubtful testimony of Gervaise of Canterbury, though it is more probable that he delivered his lectures in the household of the archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald.13061306    For the quotation from Gervaise see Rashdall, II. 336. John of Salisbury puts the teaching in the archbishop’s household.

One of the very earliest notices of Oxford as a seat of study is found in a description by Giraldus Cambrensis, the Welsh traveller and historian. About the year 1185 he visited the town and read "before the faculties, doctors, and students" his work on the Topography of Ireland.13071307    Quoted by Rashdall, II. 341. Map, archdeacon of Oxford, is called by Giraldus "an Oxford master." The first degree known to have been conferred was given to Edmund Rich, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. From Geraldus it is evident that the masters were grouped in faculties. As early as 1209 and in consequence of the hanging of three students by the mayor, there was a migration of masters and students, said to have been three thousand in number, from which the University of Cambridge had its beginning.13081308    Roger of Wendover, anno 1290, says that Oxford was completely forsaken of all masters and students who went, some to Cambridge and some to Reading. These students had lived together with a fourth who killed a woman and then fled. For other cessations see Rashdall, II. 395, etc. For other attempts to form universities at Northampton, Stamford, and Durham (by Cromwell), see Rashdall, II. 396 sqq.

The University of Oxford was less bound by ecclesiastical authority than Paris. An unsuccessful attempt was made by the bishop of Lincoln, in whose diocese it was located, to assert supervisory authority. The bull of Innocent IV., issued 1254, was the nearest approach to a papal charter and confirmed the university in its "immunities and ancient customs." In 1201 a chancellor is mentioned for the first time. From the beginning this official seems to have been elected by the university. He originally held his office for a term of two years. At the present time the chancellor is an honorary dignitary who does not pretend to reside in Oxford.

In 1395, the university was exempted by papal bull from all control of bishops or legati nati. This decree was revoked in 1411 in consequence of the disturbances with Wyclif and his followers, but, in 1490, Sixtus IV. again renewed the exemption from ecclesiastical authority.

The university was constantly having conflicts with the town and its authorities. The most notable one occurred in 1354. As usual, it originated in a tavern brawl, the keeper of the place being supported not only by his fellow-townsmen but by thousands from the neighboring country.13091309    Two thousand entered the city gates. See Rashdall’s account, II. 403 sqq.t it was crushed to the earth and a scholar put to death while he was clinging to the friar who held it. Much blood was shed. The townsmen, bent upon paying off old scores, broke into twenty college inns and halls and pillaged them. Even the sanctity of the churches was not respected, and the scholars were hunted down who sought shelter in them. The students left the city. The chancellor appealed the case to the king, and through his authority and the spiritual authority of the bishop the town corporation was forced to make reparation. The place was put under interdict for a year. Officials were punished and restitution of goods to the students was made. The interdict was withdrawn only on condition that the mayor, bailiffs, and sixty burghers should appear in St. Mary’s church on the anniversary of the breaking out of the riot, St. Scholastica’s day, and do penance for the slaughtered students, each burgher laying down a penny on the high altar, the sum to be divided equally between poor students and the curate. It was not till 1825, that the university agreed to forego the spectacle of this annual penance which had been kept up for nearly five centuries. Not for several years did the university assume its former aspect.13101310    Rashdall, II. 411, says, that by the middle of the fifteenth century the "town was almost entirely subjugated to the authority of the university." He also says, II. 416, that "few things are more calculated to make us realize the enormous extent to which civilization has succeeded in curbing the natural passions, even of the lowest strata of modern society, than the annals of the mediaeval university."e did not always reign. The Irish contingent was banished, 1413, by act of parliament for turbulence.13111311    Rashdall, II. 416.

The arrival of the Dominicans and Franciscans, as has been said in other places, was an event of very great interest at Oxford, but they never attained to the independent power they reached in Paris. They were followed by the Carmelites, the Augustinians, and other orders.

The next important event was the controversy over Wyclif and the doctrines and persons of the Lollards, which filled the years of the last quarter of the fourteenth century and beyond.

At the English universities the college system received a permanent development. Endowments, established by the liberality of bishops, kings, and other personalities, furnished the nucleus for corporations and halls consisting of masters and students, each with a more or less distinct life of it sown. These college bodies and their buildings continue to impart to Oxford and Cambridge a mediaeval aspect and to recall on every hand the venerable memories of past centuries. Twenty-one of these colleges and five halls remain in Oxford. The oldest are University College founded by a bequest of William of Durham at his death, 1249; Merton, 1264; Balliol founded by the father of the Scotch king, 1266; Exeter, 1314; Oriel, 1324; Queen’s College, 1340; the famous New College, 1379, founded by William of Wykenham, bishop of Winchester; All Souls, 1438; Magdalen, 1448, where Wolsey was fellow. Among the illustrious men who taught at Oxford, in the earlier periods, were Edmund Rich, Roger Bacon, Grosseteste, Adam Marsh, Duns Scotus, Ockam, Bradwardine, Richard of Armagh, Wyclif.

As a centre of theological training, Oxford has been closely identified with some of the most important movements in the religious history of England. There Wyclif preached his doctrine and practical reforms. There the Humanists, Grocyn, Colet, and Linacre taught. The school was an important religious centre in the time of the Reformation, in the Commonwealth period, and the period of the Restoration. Within its precincts the Wesleys and Whitefield studied and the Methodist movement had its birth, and there, in the first half of the last century, Pusey, Keble, and Newman exerted the spell of their influence, and the Tractarian movement was started and fostered. Since the year 1854 Oxford and Cambridge have been open to Dissenters. All religious tests were abolished 187l. In 1885 the spiritual descendants of the Puritans, the Independents, established Mansfield College, in Oxford, for the training of ministers.


Note.—List of Mediaeval Universities.13121312    Comp. the tables of Denifle, 807-810, Compayré, 50-52, and Rashdall in Table of Contents, vol. II.


Before 1100, Salerno.


1100–1200.—Bologna, 1150?; Paris, 1160?; Oxford, 1170?; Reggio and Modena.


1200–1300.—Vicenza, 1204; Cambridge, 1209; Palencia, Spain, 1212, by Alfonzo VIII. of Castile, abandoned; Arezzo, 1215; Padua, 1222; Naples, 1224; Vercelli, 1228; Toulouse, 1229, by Gregory IX.; Salamanca, 1230, by Ferdinand III. of Castile and confirmed by Alexander IV., 1254; Curia Romana, 1244, by Pope Innocent IV.; Piacenza, Italy, 1248; Seville, 1254, by Alfonso X. of Castile; Montpellier, 1289, by Nicolas IV.; Alcala, 1293, by Sancho of Aragon, transferred 1837 to Madrid; Pamiers, France, 1295, by Boniface VIII.


1300–1400.—Lerida, 1300, by James II. of Aragon and Sicily; Rome, 1303, by Boniface VIII.; Angers, 1305; Orleans, 1306, by Philip the Fair and Clement V.; Perugia, 1308, by Clement V.; Lisbon, 1309, by King Diniz, transferred to Coimbra; Dublin, 1312, chartered by Clement V. but not organized; Treviso, 1318; Cahors, 1332, by John XXII.; Grenoble, 1339, by Benedict XII.; Verona, 1339, by Benedict XII.; Pisa, 1343, by Clement VI.; Valladolid, 1346, by Clement VI.; Prague, 1347, by Clement VI. and Charles IV.; Perpignan, 1349, by Peter IV. of Aragon, confirmed by Clement VII., 1379; Florence, 1349, by Charles IV.; Siena, 1357, by Charles IV.; Huesca, 1359; Pavia, 1361, by Charles IV. and by Boniface VIII., 1389; Vienna, 1365, by Rudolf IV. and Urban V.; Orange, 1365; Cracow, 1364, by Casimir III. of Poland and Urban V.; Fünfkirchen, Hungary, 1365, by Urban V.; Orvieto, 1377; Erfurt, 1379, by Clement VII.; Cologne, 1385, Urban VI.; Heidelberg, 1386, by the Elector Ruprecht of the Palatinate and Urban VI.; Lucca, 1387; Ferrara, 1391; Fermo, 1398.


1400–1500.—Würzburg, 1402; Turin, 1405; Aix, in Provence, 1409; Leipzig, 1409; St. Andrews, 1411; Rostock, 1419; Dôle, 1423; Louvain, Belgium, 1425; Poictiers, 1431; Caen, 1437; Catana, Sicily, 1444; Barcelona, 1450; Valence, France, 1452; Glasgow, 1453; Greifswald, 1455; Freiburg im Breisgau, 1455; Basel, 1459; Nantes, 1460; Pressburg, 1465; Ingolstadt, 1472; Saragossa, 1474; Copenhagen, 1475; Mainz, 1476; Upsala, 1477; Tübingen, 1477; Parma, 1482; Besançon, 1485; Aberdeen, 1494; Wittenberg, 1502, by Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony.



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