Bologna: Birthplace of the University

Torre degli Asinelli, Bologna, Italy (Joseph Loconte)
The modern university could use some intellectual nourishment, Bolognese-style.

This essay series explores Italy’s unique contribution to the rich inheritance of Western civilization, offering a defense of the West’s political and cultural achievements.

Bologna, Italy — The idea of the university, of an institution devoted to freedom of thought in the pursuit of truth, stretches back nearly a millennium. Its origins can be traced here, when a daring and powerful woman invited a famous scholar to teach Roman law to a small group of ambitious young men.

The Countess Matilda, heiress to vast tracts of land in Tuscany and a friend of Pope Gregory VII, was as fervent in her quest

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Joseph Loconte is director of the Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation and the author of God, Locke, and Liberty: The Struggle for Religious Freedom in the West.


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It’s all familiar and boring, the recasting of an American archetype into a new mold to instruct, because they can’t come up with archetypes of their own.