The history of the University of Erfurt

The University of Erfurt is one of the oldest and youngest universities in Germany. What sounds paradoxical at first glance points to a long and varied history. The former Alma Mater Erfordensis with its founding privilege of 1379 is considered the oldest university before Heidelberg (1385) and Cologne (1388). However, the late medieval educational centre, where Martin Luther had already completed his studies of "Liberal Arts", was closed in 1816. Its memory always remained alive, but nevertheless some years were to pass before the university was re-founded in 1994.

The University of Erfurt thus combines centuries-old tradition with a lively present. In the cityscape this is condensed in the historic main building Collegium Maius in the old town and in the modern campus on Nordhäuser Straße. The former home of the Erfurt Circle of Humanists also stands for the coexistence of yesterday and today. As the Studentenzentrum Engelsburg, it contributes significantly to the flair of the university city. In addition, the University of Erfurt is a true civic university. It was founded by the medieval city council on the one hand and by today's university society on the other. The latter was founded in 1987 as the GDR citizens' movement, which not only initiated the re-foundation of the university, but also gave important impetus to the peaceful revolution of 1989.

according to Dr. Steffen Raßloff, Erfurt historian

Timeline

The "old" University of Erfurt – from its foundation to its closure

[Translate to English:] Collegium maius
[Translate to English:] Martin Luther und Eobanus Hessus
[Translate to English:] Humanistenstätte Engelsburg

1293 | The collegiate and monastic schools are merged into a "studium generale"
1379 | Pope Clemens VII in Avignon grants the foundation privilege for the University of Erfurt, which is thus considered the oldest university in present-day Germany.
1389 | Due to the schism, the privilege must be renewed by Pope Urban VI in Rome.
1392 | The municipal university is opened.
1396 | The Archbishop of Mainz becomes chancellor of the university.
1398 | The statutes are first assigned to the law school. In 1412, the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology follows, and in 1417 the Faculty of Medicine.
1412 | Amplonius Ratingk de Berka donates his library with 635 volumes.
1433 | The Collegium amplonianum (porta coeli) receives the deed of foundation of Amplonius Ratingk de Bercka.    
1436 | The Collegium universitatis becomes the Collegium maius.
1501 | Martin Luther begins studying the liberal arts in Erfurt.
1510 | Violent clashes between students and citizens of Erfurt occur. The Collegium maius is destroyed.
1515 | The first part of the "Dunkelmännerbriefe" (Epistolae obscurorum virorum) appears.
1516 | The humanist circle meets under Eobanus Hessus in the "Engelsburg".
1521 | Martin Luther is led in a procession to Erfurt – the occasion for the Erfurt parish priest's storm.
1530 | The Hammelburg Treaty between the Archbishop of Mainz and the city of Erfurt guarantees Catholics and Protestants the practice of their faith.
1632 | During the Swedish occupation the university is converted into a Protestant university.
1648 | The state of the multi-confessional university is restored.
1664 | The University of Erfurt becomes the Kurmainzische Landesuniversität.
1681 | The Collegium maius becomes the headquarters of the university.
1754 | The Academy of Non-Profit Sciences of Erfurt is founded.
1778 | Christoph Martin Wieland draws up an expert opinion on the reform of the university, but Dalberg's attempt at reform fails.
1808 | During the Congress of Princes of Erfurt, Napoleon, among others, supports the last attempts to save the university.
1816 | The University of Erfurt is closed by Prussia.

The "new" University of Erfurt – from its foundation until today

[Translate to English:] Menschenkette, Geschichte Universität Erfurt
Quelle: Stadtarchiv
[Translate to English:] Eingangsbereich Pädagogische Hochschule
[Translate to English:] Studienbeginn Geschichte Uni Erfurt

01/1994 | The "Gesetz zur Wiedergründung der Universität Erfurt und zur Aufhebung der Medizinischen Hochschule" comes into force.
04/1994 | Under the motto "Dare to do something new", the refoundation of the University of Erfurt is sealed with a ceremony in the Augustinian Monastery.
11/1996 | Prof. Dr. Peter Glotz is appointed Rector of the University.
04/1997 | Prof. Dr. Dieter Langewiesche becomes founding dean of the Faculty of Philosophy.
04/1998 | With Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schluchter as Founding Dean, the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies begins its work.
09/1998 | Together with the Thuringian Prime Minister, Dr. Bernhard Vogel, and the Thuringian Minister of Science, Dr. Gerd Schuchhardt, Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Glotz lays the foundation stone for the new university library building.
04/1999 | With the new version of the Thuringian Higher Education Act, the Gotha Research Library together with the Erfurt University Library forms the University and Research Library Erfurt/Gotha.
10/1999 | With the ceremonial enrolment of the first 139 students, the University of Erfurt begins its studies in the Faculty of Philosophy.
10/2000 | The Faculty of Economics, Law and Social Sciences commences with the study courses Law, Social and Economic Sciences.
01/2001 | The Pädagogische Hochschule Erfurt-Mühlhausen (University of Education) is integrated into the University of Erfurt, at the same time the Faculty of Education is founded.
11/2003 | Theological studies are integrated as the Faculty of Catholic Theology.
10/2016 | The Centre for Communication and Information (KIZ) is opened. It houses the University Computer and Media Centre (URMZ) and two lecture halls.
01/2018 | The Gotha Research Library becomes an independent scientific institution of the University of Erfurt.
07/2019 | The University of Erfurt becomes a member of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
10/2019 | Ground-breaking ceremony for the new research building "World Relations" on campus.

Symbolbild für die Geschichte der Universität Erfurt

Campus Building History

The University of Erfurt resides in listed buildings, most of which were built in the 1950s and early 1960s for a teacher training institute.

Buildings for the Pedagogical Institute

  • 1953 the "Pedagogical Institute Erfurt" (PI) was founded (in 1965 it was given the name "Dr. Theodor Neubauer", in 1969 it became the "Pädagogische Hochschule" with the PI Mühlhausen). For the re-foundation of this PI, the campus on Nordhäuser Straße was built in Erfurt in 1952.
  • 1952-1954 saw the construction of the Lehrgebäude I (designed by Johannes Saal), a three-storey long plaster building with regularly arranged high rectangular windows and a hipped roof. On the west side of the building, an extension to the lecture hall was erected (with three high relief friezes by Hans Walther and Helmut Braun). On the north-east side, a two-storey building for the library (today used for offices and teaching rooms) was erected, some of which was extensively clad with travertine panels and decorated with parapet zones in floral and rosette patterns.
  • 1955-1958 saw the construction of dormitories I, III (today staff buildings III) and IV, three-storey plaster buildings with regularly arranged high rectangular windows and hipped roofs, which enclose the southern part of the campus to the east and west. (The large-scale mural on the north façade of dormitory I was not created until 1969 by Herbert Reiher).
  • 1956-1958 the administration building was constructed in the centre of the campus (designed by Hermann Schmidt and Günter Krummbein), a two-storey building with an E-shaped ground plan and a flat hipped roof. The antique pilaster structure and the colonnades have a classicist effect.
  • 1956-1961 saw the construction of the large Auditorium Maximum (designed by Hermann Schmidt), a high rectangular plaster building with a flat hipped roof over an attic. The ground floor is clad on all sides with travertine panels, the upper floors are plastered and structured by high narrow windows and pilasters. A group of figures by Helmut Braun was created above the eaves cornice on the front side facing Nordhäuser Strasse in the east.
  • 1961, the southern part of the campus was completed to the south with the dormitory II (now staff building II); the three-storey plastered building still follows the neighbouring older dormitories I, III and IV in the building language.

New design languages

  • 1958-1962 saw the construction of Teaching Building II (designed by Ingo Gerth and Willi Fieting) in the north of the campus, a three-storey reinforced concrete skeleton structure with a grid facade over a basement; the long sides of the facade are structured by regularly arranged transverse-rectangular windows. Lecture halls and workshops are attached to the north.
  • 1963 the main entrance to the campus was built parallel to Nordhäuser Straße: A flat roof supported by columns connects a glass box, initially used as a bookshop, in the south with the porter's lodge in the north. Towards the street, the building is adorned by a metal mural by Heinz Scharr from the year of construction.
  • 1963-1964 the dormitory V (today: Employee Building I) was built (design: Helmut Seeland), an eleven-storey monolithic structure with an external emergency staircase; this high-rise building is connected to the main entrance by a single-storey low-rise building.
  • 1967, further buildings have been erected on the western edge of the campus, which have since been demolished: a gymnasium built from prefabricated elements in 1967 (design: VEB Hochbauprojektierung Erfurt) and a V-Station in 1975 (design: VEB BMK Süd in Karl-Marx-Stadt) as well as a two-storey multi-purpose building, which gave way to the new building for the university library (see below).
  • 1983 the cafeteria was added north of the central administration building (design: VEB BMK Erfurt - Industrieprojektierung). The large-area low-rise building is of post and beam construction and is stiffened by wall panels and cassette ceiling slabs.
  • 1987, the Plauener Weg dormitory was built from two building parts that are offset to each other and connected by a central staircase. The six-storey building, covered with a flat roof, consists of heavy concrete slabs with uniformly arranged rectangular windows.
  • 1988, a sports hall was erected on the western edge of the campus (design: G. Rgola and A. Bernat, Wissenschaftlich-Technisches Zentrum [WTZ] für Sportbauten Leipzig) as a steel construction with outer walls made of gas concrete elements and continuous bands of windows; a single-storey extension is located in front of it. The sports hall was extended in 2008.

Buildings for the University of Erfurt

  • 1994, the University of Erfurt was refounded; the listed ensembles on the campus of the former Pedagogical Institute and "Pädagogische Hochschule" (University of Education) were used for this purpose. The first new building for the university was the first (and so far the only) construction phase of the university library 1995-2000 (design: Koch und Partner, Munich; other projects of the team include Munich Airport Terminal II 1998-2003 and the sewage treatment plant Munich-Großlappen 2002-2008).
  • 2005, the family villa of the Erfurt seed breeder Franz Martin, built in 1923/24, was renovated and as Villa Martin the campus-near seat of the Faculty of Theology.
  • 2010, the outer facade of the high-rise building on the campus of the University of Erfurt was renovated. In the process, the new extension built for the escape staircase was fitted with a photovoltaic system on the façade.
  • 2014, construction of the Centre for Communication and Information began, which will house the University Computer and Media Centre (URMZ) and two event halls. The URMZ moved in 2016, the lecture halls are available for (teaching) events since 2017.
  • 2019 the ground-breaking ceremony for the new research building "World Relations" on the campus took place.

Building for the Studierendenwerk Thüringen on the campus

  • The Max Kade house on campus was inaugurated in 2014; it offers living space for 50 students and houses the "Campus-Kinderland" with childcare facilities for 80 children.
  • In 2019, the student residence at Nordhäuser Straße 78 was inaugurated; it offers living space for 247 students.

Sources: Günther Lucke, Anlage zur Eintragung in die Denkmalliste, Az. EF EIN 1 L 09-013 (1993); St. Burucker, Projekt 31: Pädagogische Hochschule Erfurt, in: J. Behrens, M. Mann, B. Zimmermann (Hgg.), Architektur in Erfurt von den 20ern bis zur Gegenwart. Erfurt: VHT 1999, 76-81; eigene Recherchen.

Kai Brodersen

Reading tip (German only)

[Translate to English:] Broschüre Universitätsgesellschaft Erfurt

Erfurt. The oldest and youngest university in Germany.
2014 | 52 pages | available free of charge from the Universitätsgesellschaft and Press Office of the University

Download brochure
Order form for sending by mail
Website of the Universitätsgesellschaft

Campus artwork

The buildings of the University of Erfurt are decorated with numerous contemporary art objects, murals and architectural decorations.

Main entrance (1963)

Steel Sculpture

Kunst am Eingangsbereich der Uni Erfurt

On the occasion of the redesign of the entrance area after the construction of dormitory V (today employee building 1), a steel sculpture designed by Heinz Scharr (*1924) was erected in the same period, which had a striking effect on the entrance area of the Pädagogische Hochschule (University of Education).

The overall composition is characterized by clearly contoured persons (which is the nature of technology), but also by strong black and white contrasts. The conception of the figures is clearly reminiscent of Fernand Leger, especially with regard to the representation of the faces. Since his works do indeed contain elements of a socialist-heroic impetus, it is quite conceivable that the Frenchman influenced the creator of the metal sculpture.

Auditorium Maximum (1956-1961)

Stone Mosaics

Campuskunst Audimaxreliefs

Three stone mosaics designed by Gottfried Schüler (1923-1999) are installed in the foyer of the lecture hall. They thematise structure (left), leisure - friendship - love - family (centre) and music - learning - art (right).

Due to the material they are not very colourful. The figures are represented in an angular and abstract way, so that the choice of colour together with the cubic forms makes one think remotely of cubist pictorial inventions. Similarly, some figures - strongly depicted in profile - in front of a light background are reminiscent of paintings in Egyptian pyramids. A black outline makes the figures stand out clearly against the background.

Figure group

Campuskunst Akt am Audimax

The group of figures on the gable above the neoclassical portico was designed by Helmut Braun (*1925), who was also involved in the high reliefs on the auditorium extension of the teaching building I.

It depicts a female and a male allegorical figure, unclothed, with their legs crossed in front of their shame, holding a globe with their arms in their middle, on which a dove of peace is depicted. The limestone version was the work of the master stonemason Otto Lehmann from Erfurt.

Teaching building I (1952-1954)

Friese

Kunst am Lehrgebäude 1

The high relief Friese were created by Hans Walther (1888-1961) and Helmut Braun (*1925). They thematize literature, art and music (north side, created by Braun and Walther) and various teaching situations (west side, created by Walther, south side, created by Braun).

 

Mural

In front of Auditorium 3 there is a monumental mural from 1966, created by the Erfurt artist Lutz Gode (*1940), which shows students (in a style reminiscent of New Objectivity art).

Oil painting

Ölgemälde im Lehrgebäude 1

Also by Lutz Gode from 1990 is an oil painting in front of lecture hall 4, a slightly abstract figurative composition.

Two further landscape-format oil paintings hang in the same corridor: "Landschaft mit Erntearbeitern" (Landscape with Harvesters), a painting in the style of 19th-century Realism by the Erfurt artist Karl Ortelt (1907-1972), and "Industrielandschaft bei Sondershausen" (Industrial Landscape near Sondershausen) by the Erfurt artist Wolfgang Taubert (1909-1990), which is also reminiscent of 19th-century Realist works in terms of its theme and style.

Teaching building II (1958-1962)

Glass windows

Campuskunst im Lehrgebäude 2

In the staircase of Building II, which was erected in 1958-1962 in a steel skeleton construction, there are two north-facing stained glass windows measuring 6 x 10 m, which extend over several storeys and completely fill the wall. The windows were built in 1963 according to a design by Otto Kayser (1915-1988) and Gottfried Schüler (1923-1999) and were manufactured in Magdeburg using glass cutting and etching techniques.

The windows each fill out the "compartment" of the wall consisting of ten units. Each of the high rectangular "compartments" is divided into nine areas by metal bars. Originally, the building included the subjects of mathematics and physics; the abstract glass windows, on which signatures and formulas of Einstein, Planck and Copernicus can be read, take this theme into account.

Verwaltungsgebäude (1965)

Bronze bust of Theodor Neubauer

Büste Theo Neubauer auf dem Campus der Universität Erfurt

In front of the administration building there is a bronze bust of Theodor Neubauer on a stele together with an inscription. The Pedagogical Institute was renamed "Pädagogische Hochschule Theodor Neubauer" in 1965, and the bronze bust also dates from this year.

It was created by Walter Arnold (1909-1979), who was a professor at the College of Fine Arts in Dresden at the time.

Student residence I (1969)

Mural

Wandbild im Wohnheim auf dem Campus

In 1969, the cornice of the belt was removed from the north gable of student residence I and instead a large mural was added, created by the Weimar artist Herbert Reiher in sgrafitto technique.

The mural shows young people in front of grey-green, earth-coloured and white geometric surfaces: a man and two women doing sports. The figures are marked by outlines and have no colour of their own, so that the background colours shine through them.

We offer a more detailed and illustrated presentation of the art (German only) on campus written by Ulrike Wollenhaupt-Schmidt with supporting documents for download.

 

Translated with DeepL Translator (free version)