University of Oñati. History

An academic institution created in the 16th century whose life lasted, with ups and downs due to its precarious economic situation, until the 20th century. Of all the Basque universities, it is the one that achieved the greatest continuity, welcoming students from the three Basque provinces and Navarre, as well as some from the Cantabrian coast and nearby places.

The creation of the Colegio Mayor and University of Sancti Spiritus (1533) was due to the founding will of Rodrigo Mercado y Zuazola, an ecclesiastic of vast erudition, doctor in both rights, Inquisitor, Bishop of Avila, advisor to the Viceroy of Navarre and the Spanish Crown, as well as President of the Chancery of Granada. The founder himself, fearful of the misgivings of the other universities, arranged for the bull of Paul III on 23rd April 1540, which granted the new institution the same privileges and immunities enjoyed by those of Bologna, Salamanca, Paris, Valladolid and Alcalá. In 1541, it approved the proposals for rector and collegiate councillors made by the town and at the same time sent the aforementioned pontifical bull to the town. By deed of 7 February 1543, he donated all his goods to this College for its endowment, and by the deed he granted on 31 August 1545, he ceded the patronage of this College to Charles V and his successors. His intention was to create:

"a college in which there would be teachers and students who were natives of this town and of all the land of Biscay, where grammar and the arts and canons would be read and where there would be the exercise of letters".

The institution would be set up with its assets and income, as the universal heir of a patrimony that could not be alienated even in case of urgent need. Mercado also handed over his private library:

"I also enclose the greater part of our library, which I have donated to the college, which in good time will be made. I would like all of it to be placed in a safe place and it seems to me that this would be the monastery of the beatas de gubicoa for my love that you all give orders for it and that it be placed as it should be and that it be placed in a high and dry place because books and silver in damp places are soon lost".

The College brought together twelve collegiate professors from the University; two must have been from Oñati, two from Guipúzcoa, two from Vizcaya, two from Alava and the rest from Castile, Aragon, León, Navarre and Portugal.

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