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University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia

With a unique set of exceptional attributes

One of the oldest universities in Europe

It is founded in 1290 in Lisbon on the initiative of King D. Dinis. It is part of the scarce batch of fifteen universities active in Europe, at the end of the 13th century. After a period of alternation between the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra, the definitive transfer takes place in 1537, by the hand of D. João III and counting on the strong influence of the Santa Cruz Monastery. The only University in the Portuguese universe until 1911

The University of Coimbra was for several centuries the only university institution in the cultural and scientific space of Portuguese influence, with the exception of the period between 1559 and 1759, when it coexisted with the University of Évora. Its impact was universal, at a time in history when Portugal and Spain were structuring the first world-scale empires with the expansion and maritime discoveries.


First university center through an urban expansion operation

The university reform of D. João III, and the consequent definitive transfer of the institution to Coimbra, led to the development of a school center in order to accommodate the large influx of students and to promote the continuous granting of academic degrees. Rua da Sofia is an urban exponent of the time, a new paradigm and European avant-garde model. It was planned as a new structural axis for urban growth on the edge of the city and with a specific program - the university.


Model of new architectural technologies

The University of Coimbra, through the collegial network built since the 16th century, was the scene of several architectural experiences that were constituted as new typological models at the aesthetic, artistic and programmatic level. Examples are the church and cloister of Colégio da Graça and Colégio de Jesus.


The University that occupies a palace

The oldest nucleus of the University of Coimbra is located in the Paço das Escolas and corresponds essentially to the oldest royal address in the country, the former Paço Real de Coimbra. Its uninterrupted use, previous in 5 centuries to the installation of the University, with a continuous consolidation and constructive evolution, turn it into a unique and absolutely original building in the context of European university architecture.


The exceptionality of the Joanine Library

Founded as a study bookstore, reserved for the service of the university community, it assumes itself as one of the most stunning libraries in the world, contributing to this, both its form and decorative richness, as well as its valuable bibliographic fund composed of about two hundred thousand volumes , dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and which can still be consulted today. Example of university reforms in the ideological, pedagogical and material fields

During its history of more than seven hundred years, the University of Coimbra has undergone several reforms with correspondences in various fields of knowledge and teaching, materially registered through its built heritage: from the Joanine reform to the Pombaline reform, from the action promoted by the Estado Novo to the democratization of teaching and consequent expansion of facilities.


University of secular academic traditions

There are traditions characteristic of symbolic practices associated with academic cyclical festivities, whose origins are lost in its seven centuries of history. From institutionalized academic culture (Honoris Causa PhDs, Solemn Opening of Classes, etc.) to more spontaneous manifestations such as the procession of Latada.


University of cultural and scientific expansion

As a literary workshop and a center for the diffusion of new ideas, the University of Coimbra had and has an extremely important role in forming and simultaneously incorporating new knowledge that since the Discoveries has changed the world scientific landscape.


University of cultural and scientific dissemination through the Press

The University of Coimbra assumed in Portugal a primary role in the field of scientific research, developed and promoted within it. The known origins of the functioning of the first academic press, called the Real Oficina da Universidade, go back to the 16th century. In addition to this, others would come to be founded in the academic circle such as that of the Real Colégio das Artes, that of the Companhia de Jesus and that of the Monastery of Santa Cruz de Coimbra.


Holder of an important collection in the areas of science and biological heritage

There are several collections of objects and scientific specimens owned by the University of Coimbra, gathered mainly since the 18th century, whose importance goes beyond national relevance, due to its enormous variety and quantity of original objects. The collections of Natural History and Physics stand out. Connected with these scientific objects is also the enormous biological heritage present in the Botanical Garden.


University of language consolidation, diffusion and expansion

As the seat of the only Portuguese university, Coimbra has, over the centuries, become an important cultural pole, with the cultured norm of this city having a great influence on students' linguistic knowledge, which would eventually influence the peoples of other geographical spaces. Also important is the passage through the institution of many important names in national literature.


The participation of the University in the formation of the Portuguese State

The University of Coimbra, responsible for the training of the main national leaders, was one of the main and one of the most energetic institutions to participate in the ideological formation of the Portuguese State over the centuries. Considered the political “thermometer” of the country, the university institution followed the country's political and social upheavals, oscillating between the manifestations of support for the regimes in force or in opposition.


University of elite training for a multi-continental space

Given the exclusivity it enjoyed, for a long period of time, the University of Coimbra played a major role in the training and acquisition of skills, with a strong impact on the exercise of managerial, diplomatic and governmental tasks. As the only university in the entire geographical area of Portuguese administration, its action was extended to the training of professionals working in these territories.


Exhibition model of scientific heritage

Aware of the importance and value of its great collection of scientific objects, the University of Coimbra understood that these should be the target of public exposure in a renewed and current museum structure. The Science Museum is already operating in the renovated Chemical Laboratory and the second phase of its installation at Colégio de Jesus is in the design phase.


Model for the integration of archaeological and architectural heritage

Within the scope of the interventions carried out in recent years, archaeological activity has enabled the identification and rescue of a series of objects and architectural structures that help to understand the history and material evolution of the University of Coimbra, sometimes proving documented evidence, either written sources than cartographic sources.


Historical heritage recovery model

The intervention in the historical architectural heritage of the University of Coimbra has been guided by actions that respect the concepts, methods, techniques and practices of architectural rehabilitation in force in each historical period. The University of Coimbra aims to develop proposals, correcting, balancing and advancing the affirmation of this area and its heritage, as a factor of economic and social development, with respect for people, their culture and social organization, and for their differences .

Four great architectural and historical nuclei that correspond to the moments of creation, developments, restructuring and consolidation of the University of Coimbra:

- Rua da Sofia schools, where the history of the University began

- Pátio das Escolas, the heart of the University of Coimbra, with Mozarabic sediments, memories of the 1st Portuguese dynasty and one of the most beautiful libraries in the world

- Pombaline reform buildings, marks of the 18th century knowledge revolution

- Complex of the Estado Novo, due to the change of Alta de Coimbra.


Source: DGPC (