7th January 1450

Glasgow University is founded

Pope Nicholas V issued a Papal Bull – or decree – commanding that a university be established in Glasgow. It is now one of the four oldest universities in the English-speaking world after Oxford, Cambridge, and St Andrews.

The Bull itself is somewhat wordy, but the pertinent sections run,

“… our dearest son in Christ, James, the illustrious King of Scots… was very desirous that a university, with every lawful faculty, should be set up and ordained by the Apostolic See in his city of Glasgow, as being a place of renown and particularly well fitted therefor, where the air is mild, victuals are plentiful, and great store of other things pertaining to the use of man is found, to the end that there the Catholic faith may be spread, the simple instructed, equity in judgement upheld, reason flourish, the minds of men illuminated, and their understandings enlightened… [we] erect, by apostolical authority a university in the said city in all times to come for ever, as well in theology and cannon and civil law as in arts, and every other lawful faculty… And that our reverend brother, William [Turnbull], bishop of Glasgow, and his successors for the time being, bishops of Glasgow, shall be rectors of the schools…”

Unfortunately, the Bull went to France with the university’s chancellor, Archbishop James Beaton when he fled the Scottish Reformation in 1560 and it was seemingly lost during the French Revolution. Despite this, it remains in effect, allowing the university to continue issuing degrees.

Calendar changes

The date of the university’s founding is somewhat confusing to anyone using a modern calendar. At the time, we used the Julian calendar, in which New Year’s Eve was 24 March and New Year’s Day was 25 March. That was nine months before Christmas day, so would mark the start of Mary’s pregnancy. The Gregorian calendar, which we now follow, wasn’t introduced until the following century, and not adopted in Scotland and England until 200 years after the founding of the University of Glasgow.

Thus, while the university was founded in 1450 under the Julian calendar, it was unable to celebrate its 550th anniversary until 2001. Clydesdale Bank issued new £50 and £100 banknotes to mark the occasion, dated 6 January 2001. The serial number on each note was preceded with GU for Glasgow University.



Other events that occured in January

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