The opening ceremony

On 4 April 1460, at between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, the solemn founding mass to open the university was held in the Basel Cathedral.

On 4 April 1460, at between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, the solemn founding mass to open the university was held in the Basel Cathedral, following preparations for the elaborate opening ceremony made by the City Council, most likely during the first weeks of 1460 with the bishop of Basel, Johann von Vennigen, who was to serve as chancellor of the new institution. The opening date was set for 4 April, with the bishop receiving the representatives of the City Council in the Bishop’s Court one day earlier to be presented with the papal Bull of Foundation. The deputies asked the bishop to assume the office of chancellor, as provided by the bull, and to execute the papal endowment. Declaring the preservation of mutual rights, the bishop declared his acceptance of the office. Early the next morning (on St. Ambrose’s Day), the bishop and the cathedral chapter celebrated the founding mass with the clergy and congregation under the sign of the Holy Ghost.

During the celebration of the mass, the Founding Charter was once again presented by the representatives of the City Council to the bishop, who had it read aloud by his notary, followed by two liturgical chants, the “Veni sanctae spiritus” and the “Te Deum laudamus.” The bishop and City Council then jointly declared the university established, and the bishop, by virtue of his chancellorship, appointed the provost of the Basel Cathedral, Georg von Andlau, as rector. During the celebrations, the notaries posted the original papal bulls on the church door, later replacing them with certified copies for everyone to read. According to the notarial instruments produced to evidence its occurrence, the founding act in the cathedral was witnessed by episcopal official Lorenz Kron, doctor of liberal arts and medicine Wernher Wölfflin, and the licentiate of decrees Hieronymus Künlin, as well as other clerics. Wölfflin became a professor of medicine at the new university and served as its rector in 1462. Master Peter zum Lufft, doctor of decrees and vicar general, also attended the founding mass, later serving as rector in 1461 and 1467.

The Bull of Foundation, which had played such a crucial part in the university’s opening ceremonies in Basel, stood further in a broader context of Pius II’s papal amicicia for Basel: in the same year 1460, the pope granted an Agnus Dei, relics, and an indulgence to Dean Johann Werner von Flachsland, brother of the mayor of Basel and papal chamberlain – favors still commemorated today in the Agnus Dei ostensorium from the cathedral treasury, which shows the image of the pope as founding patron on the reverse side.

The first matriculation book of the newly founded university also contained, right at the beginning on the third page, a miniature depicting the ceremonial opening mass together with the handing over of the Founding Charter. This matriculation book was in use until 1567, thus reminding the newly enrolled students of the founding act itself.

Three days later, on 7 April 1460, the rector publicly announced the opening of the university and invited students to enroll.