Charles University celebrates 660th anniversary

Carolinum

Monday marks 660 years since the founding of Charles University, the oldest university in Central Europe. On this day back in 1348 Emperor Charles IV issued an edict calling for the founding of a university in Prague bearing his name. Politicians, cultural figures and academics gathered in Prague’s Carolinum, the university’s historic building, on Monday to commemorate the anniversary. Related events are scheduled to take place throughout the year. Ruth Fraňková spoke to Jan Škrha, the vice-rector of Charles University about the history and reputation of the country’s most esteemed place of learning:

“Charles University was founded in 1348 by Charles IV and it was the 31st University in Europe and the oldest one in the central European region. At the time it was founded the University had four faculties. Right now we have altogether 17 faculties. So only four of them have the 660-year old tradition.

What were the original four faculties?

“It was the faculty of theology, faculty of law, faculty of medicine and faculty of arts.”

How many students studied at Charles University in the first years of its existence?

It was only several dozen, and later several hundred. Of course it’s a great difference in comparison with the present day, when we have approximately 48 to 49,000 students.

Who attended the university in those days?

“It was mainly local people. Of course the languages were different. It was mainly Latin and afterwards German and Czech.”

When did Czech become the official language at the university?

“Very early. Already at the end of the 14th century. So the Czech language was the leading one already at the beginning of the 15th century.”

Are there actually any original buildings preserved to this day?

“Yes, that is the Karolinum – the headquarters of Charles University. The grounds of this house date back to a time before the reign of Charles IV.”

How does it feel to be working at this historical institution?

“Of course it is not easy because we have these important roots but we also need to look into the future, to incorporate the modern developments from all over the world. At present we have more than 190 agreements between Charles University and universities around the world. I think that is promising for our future development.”