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1921 – 2021: The Catholic University of Milan celebrates its first century.

The Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore is one of the Milanese institutions that has shaped the role of education in Milan and Italy. Thousands of students every year enroll in the many courses of study, which the university offers, from all over the country and from abroad.

History of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

On December 7th 1921 the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore was officially founded as per the will of economist Giuseppe Toniolo.

In 1919, five intellectuals particularly prolific in the sector of education, father Agostino Gemelli, Ludovico Necchi, Francesco Olgiati, Armida Barelli and Ernesto Lombardo founded the Giuseppe Toniolo Institute of Higher Studies as a guarantor and founder of the Catholic University.

On 7 December 1921, Father Agostino Gemelli inaugurated in Milan, in the presence of Cardinal Achille Ratti, the future Pope Pius XI, the birth of the new University and the first active courses are those of Philosophical Sciences and Social Sciences.

During the twentyfive years following the foundation, other degree courses will be initiated such as Literature and Philosophy, Law (1924), Political and Economic Sciences (1926), Education Sciences (1936) and Economics and Commerce (1947).

Before the war, in the middle of the Fascist era, the University moved to the monastery next to the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, where it still is today. The two cloisters designed by Bramante thus become the symbol of the University. The same cloisters during the resistance against the fascist regime will become the seat of the meetings of the partisan groups by the will of Professor Ezio Franceschini who will later become rector of the University.

During the years of the so-called “economic boom” or “Italian miracle”, following the end of the Second World War, the Catholic University opened various branches throughout the country.

The faculty of agriculture was inaugurated in 1952 in Piacenza, while the course of studies in medicine was begun in Rome in 1958 and later the Agostino Gemelli hospital was built, still today the hospital to which the Vatican refers.

During the 1960s, on the other hand, courses in mathematics, physics and social sciences began in Brescia.

Nowadays the Catholic University can count on 12 courses of study, 7 postgraduate schools spread in 5 cities (Milan, Rome, Piacenza, Cremona and Brescia) which every year gather more than 38.000 students.

A hundred years of continuous education

According to the official statute of the Catholic University of Milan, the institution

“aims at assuring the presence of committed people in the academic and cultural world who are prepared to address and solve the problems of society and culture, enlightened by the Christian message and Christian moral principles.”

Università Cattolica Statute, Article 1

It is then pretty clear how the initial thoughts of those personalities who have started this venture a hunudred years ago is still alive today. The aim was not just the education of young generations of professionals. The Catholic University intends to educate people who are willing to make the university’s mission their own. That is to operate in the world of work, school, health according to the Christian principles that are the basis of the university education system itself.

For this reason, for instance, it is mandatory for all the students to pass not just one, but three exams of theology. This course aims at providing the young adults who belong to the community of this university to face the many challenges of life ( and not just the working life) according to “the Christian message”. Theology becomes then a method to approach life.

Enrolling at this specific university becomes then a mission, a mission that many have accepted:

“In the last 100 years we have shaped a significant quota of our country’s establishment: eminent representatives of institutions, politics and law, academics and intellectuals, entrepreneurs and managers, teachers and professionals, bishops, journalists, publishers and writers. Plus, many others, known and less known, who have helped to promote the prestigious reputation of Università Cattolica in Europe and around the world.”

Università Cattolica official website

P.S: If you happen to be nearby the Catholic University there are a couple of things you must see. One would be for sure the Basilica of Sant’ Ambrogio and just behind it there is the Tempio della Vittoria.

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