In 1502, Frederick The Wise, Elector of Saxony, founded the Electoral Saxonian State University in Wittenberg with the name LEUCOREA (“leukos oros” = “white mountain” in Greek, a reference to the name of the city of Wittenberg), which would become world-renowned.
After the university was granted royal privileges by Maximilian I on 6. July, 1502, the ceremonious inauguration took place on 18. October, 1502. Martin Pollich of Mellerstadt, the personal physician of Frederick The Wise, was made the founding Rector. Since papal confirmation of the university did not occur until 1507, this constituted the first sovereign founding of a university in Germany. University operations commenced with 416 students, learning in rooms of the Augustinian and Franciscan monasteries. The ‘Fridericianum’ college was the first building erected for university purposes, in 1503/04 by the master builder Konrad Pflüger.
Many important scholars from different academic faculties can be named, but particularly Martin Luther, starting in 1512, had the greatest effect on Wittenberg. The LEUCOREA became a place of world history when Luther, with his 95 theses on indulgences in 1517, ushered in the Reformation and thus prompted repercussions lasting to the present. With the appointment of 21-year-old Philipp Melanchthon as a professor for the Greek language, who quickly became a close friend and theological confidant of Luther, the young university gained even more prominence. Beginning with his opening lecture in 1518, Melanchthon initiated an extensive reform of the university, which conveyed the close connection between humanism and the Wittenberg Reformation. This, most notably, led to Wittenberg becoming the most well-attended university of the kingdom between 1530 and 1620.
Around two centuries later, in 1694, Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg – later to be Frederick I, King of Prussia – founded a university in Halle which was committed to the prominent contemporary intellectual trends pietism and enlightenment, embodied by August Hermann Francke, Christian Thomasius and Christian Wolff. As a so-called Reform University, it was the most-frequented alma mater in German-speaking countries in the 18th century.
Both the LEUCOREA and the Fridericiana in Halle experienced difficult setbacks during the Napoleon era. Following the incorporation of Wittenberg into Prussia, the universities in Wittenberg and Halle were united in 1817, to become the United Friedrichs University, situated in Halle. Since 1933, the university has been referred to as the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.
These events had drastic impacts on the city of Wittenberg. The Fridericianum was converted to barracks and later used for residential purposes. The newly founded Preacher’s Seminary of the Protestant Church was displaced to teaching in the Augusteum.
After academic freedom was regained in 1990, the idea began to take root to establish another university institution in Wittenberg, which would be traditionally and historically closely linked to the university in Halle. On 1. April, 1994, the LEUCOREA was established, by decision of the regional parliament. The ceremonial inauguration took place on 31. October, 1995, while the tedious renovations of the building succeeding the historical Fridericianum were still taking place. Remodelling measures were complete in 2001 with the opening of the “Stipendiatenhaus” – historically a hall of residence for the recipients of scholarships from the electors.
|1502||Foundation of the Electoral Saxonian State University LEUCOREA by Frederick The Wise, Elector of Saxony|
|1512||Martin Luther becomes Professor of Theology in Wittenberg|
|1517||Luther initiates the Reformation with his 95 theses on indulgences|
|1518||Philipp Melanchthon becomes a Professor at the LEUCOREA|
|1694||Foundation of the Reform University Fridericiana in Halle|
|1817||Foundation of the United Friedrichs University Halle-Wittenberg (since 1933 Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)|
|1994||Initiation of the LEUCOREA Foundation at the historical university location in Wittenberg|
|1995||ceremonial inauguration of the LEUCOREA|