Many of the visitors attracted to the town of Heidelberg neither know of nor care about the existence of its university, all their attention being attracted by the noble castle, one of the finest ruins in Germany, which crowns the hill on whose slope the town is built. The few who know that it is an university town, by noticing the different colored caps of the students in the streets, seldom visit the buildings, and leave the town without seeing a university whose fame is world-wide.
Heidelberg University is one of the oldest in all Germany, and has had an eventful history. It was founded as early as 1356 by the elector Rupert, but did not acquire the sanction of the Pope, then indispensable to institutions of learning, until 1386. It was modeled after the Paris University of more ancient date, and rejoiced in no less than four faculties, who governed and controlled all matters relating to the college, both financial and education. For many years it was without a library, but this was added by one of the later electors. During the stormy period of the reformation it became marked as a Protestant university, and it is here that the celebrated Heidelberg catechism was drawn up by a board of theologians specially appointed for that undertaking. The thirty years' war, responsible for so much damage and destruction, did not let Heidelberg go by unscathed and all but tore the buildings down, yet in 1803 they were restored by the Arch duke Charles Frederick, as renowned as a lover of learning as a warrior. With the university's decided tendency toward a large faculty, three years ago it could boast of thirty-eight ordinary and twenty-six extraordinary professors, with numerous instructors. While the standard of education at Heidelberg is not so high as at some German universities, yet it has always been a favorite college among students, especially foreigners, and the attendance varies from five hundred in summer to eight or nine hundred in winter, of whom a large proportion are English and American. The library of the university has had a varied existence. First kept in the choir of a neighboring church, it consisted of some 3,500 manuscripts, but in 1623 it was sent to Rome by Tilly, who performed many acts of the same nature. Afterwards it went to Paris, but finally was returned to the mother university, minus many valuable manuscripts, but generally intact. A new library, however, had been formed in the mean time, so that now the two together number about 300,000 volumes and some rare manuscripts. Among the few buildings, for the university is situated in the heart of the town and building space is limited, is an Academic Hospital, a Physiological and Zoological Museum, and a large chemical laboratory. There is also a gymnasium or school connected with the university in another part of the town. It is at this university that many of the socalled student duels take place, but this custom has been here at least rapidly on the decline.