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Charles University obtains rare 14th-century foundation deeds

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Prague, June 29 (CTK) – The Charles University (UK) obtained two rare deeds preceding its foundation, both dating from 1347, the UK’s rector Tomas Zima said at a press conference on Friday.

The first document is a deed of approval by Pope Clement VI with the foundation of the university in Prague and the second is a notary’s transcript of the approval signed by the witnesses. The Charles University was founded by Emperor Charles IV (1316-1376) the next year, in 1348.

“I am happy that on the year of the 670th anniversary of the university’s foundation and the centenary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia, we have achieved something no one was hoping for. It is a historical moment not just for the university and the Czech Republic, but also for the European education,” Zima said.

Zima said the discovery of the deeds was “a discovery of the millenium” and a matter of immense value.

Pope Clement VI was the tutor of young Charles IV at the French Royal Court.

The approval is written on a well-preserved Italian parchment with a lead pope’s seal, the bull. It was issued on January 26. The seal has Apostles Peter and Paul’s heads on its face and the pope’s name on its reverse.

The document says that Clement VI gives permission to Charles IV to establish a university with the right to educate and grant the titles of Masters and Doctors and other grades (titles) valid elsewhere in western Europe.

The transcript dates from June 30 and it is written on a parchment that was used in Bohemia. It is slightly damaged, which may be due to it being used and less taken care of. Of its two wax seals attached to it by the Prague’s Chapter and by the vicar, only the one by the Chapter has been preserved. The deed was issued by notary Petr Michaluv from Prague. His signature and those of significant members of the St Vitus Chapter are also attached to it.

The university was contacted by the J&T bank with the offer of purchasing and reselling the deeds to it three weeks ago. Three expert assessments proved the documents’ authenticity. The original owner of the documents did not wish to disclose his identity to the university. Zima said the purchase cost was in millions of crowns and that the university would not disclose the exact amount either.

The university concluded the contract on Monday and on Wednesday, it placed the documents in its archive.

If the state of the deeds permits it, they will be displayed on significant occasions.

The deeds are to be restored and studied by historians, who will be looking to find out about the way they reached private collections.

According to Zima, they could have been lost during the Hussite wars (1419-1434) or during the Thiry Years’ War (1618-1648).

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