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LMU embarks on its 55th decade

Munich, 06/22/2012

LMU has had a place in the history of scholarship for 540 years. Every June, the University recalls and celebrates its foundation – in Munich, of course – although its story began elsewhere.

  1472-2012 - LMU wird 540

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LMU Munich traces its origins to Ingolstadt where, in June 1472 Martin Mair, Doctor of Laws, gave the oration at the opening of the new institution. Its founder, Ludwig IX the Rich, Duke of Lower Bavaria-Landshut, was present to hear Mair contrast the enduring “pearl of learning” with the transience of worldly power and dominion, and assert that deep study alone could open the way to a blameless and blissful life, and make men “like unto God”…

Mair’s “pearl of learning” can be equated with the less portentous, but no less imposing, modern idiom “university of excellence”. And that the latter term applies to LMU Munich was confirmed in no uncertain fashion only a week ago. In the Second Phase of the German Excellence Initiative, all of the University’s proposals for Graduate Schools and Clusters of Excellence, as well as its strategy for institutional development LMUexcellent, were approved for funding.

The foundations for this success story were laid with the establishment in Ingolstadt of an institution of higher learning, the Hohe Schule. With ducal support and protection, this humanist college soon became known as a superb training ground for practitioners of the classical disciplines of Theology, Law and Medicine, and renowned for the quality of its preparatory courses in the liberal arts.

Political and social challenges

The college was domiciled in Ingolstadt for more than three centuries, during which it was confronted with huge political and social challenges. For much of the 16th century it was a center of the Counter-Reformation, a role which was further consolidated in later years under the leadership of the Jesuit Order. The influence of the Catholic religion on the institution’s ethos began to decline only in the 18th century, under the impact of the Enlightenment.

The removal of the University of Ingolstadt to Landshut in 1800 represented a more radical break, and precipitated a name change. In 1802 King Maximilian I. Joseph of Bavaria renamed the University “Ludovico-Maximilianea”. The new name, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, which it still bears, thus honored both the founder and the King himself as major benefactors of the University.

LMU in Munich

Ludwig I, Maximilian‘s successor and also a notable patron of the arts and sciences, soon decided that the leading university in his kingdom should be sited in his capital city. So LMU was moved again, and has been firmly established in Munich since 1826. The University had always been housed in pre-existing buildings designed for another purpose - the Pfründnerhaus (Prebendary’s House) in Ingolstadt and the Dominican Monastery in Landshut - and in Munich it was provisionally accommodated in St. Michael’s Jesuit College. Although resources were scarce, the King ultimately had a new building erected for the University’s use. This was the Hauptgebäude or Main Building, construction of which began in 1835.

A little less than a century later, LMU entered on the darkest chapter in its history. The University was forced into conformity with National Socialist ideology (“Gleichschaltung”) under the administration of a “Führer-Rektor”. This made genuinely free research and teaching more and more difficult, particularly in disciplines that were especially susceptible to ideological manipulation.

Among the student body, there were courageous individuals who actively resisted the Nazi regime, and many of them paid with their lives. The LMU students Hans and Sophie Scholl, who had printed and distributed leaflets protesting against Nazi policies, were arrested on campus and subsequently executed, as were other members of their White Rose movement, both then and later.

The years of tyranny and war were followed by a period of reconstruction. Not only had many buildings on campus been destroyed or badly damaged, the University’s academic standing had also suffered. Over time, LMU succeeded in regaining its former stature, and is once again acknowledged to be a first-rate educational and research institution, with an excellent national and international reputation.

Seen from this perspective, LMU’s history confirms the validity of Doctor Martin Mair’s assertion in his oration on the occasion of University’s foundation - the pearl of learning has indeed prevailed against the pretensions and perversions of power, and continues to flourish.


For further information on the history of LMU Munich, see :

For more on the history of LMU’s Main Building in Munich, see :

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