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As an article published in 1976 in the “Rheinische Kunststätten” (“Rhenish art locations”) concedes, the University of Bonn, which was founded by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III, with a foundation deed dated 18 October 1818, cannot be compared to Heidelberg or Cologne. However, it stands “at the beginning of a glorious new era of intellectual and political life in the Rhineland”. As the university itself writes, the founding of the University of Bonn came in an “age of idealism and new enlightenment”, and today, the principles of the “Humboldt ideal of unity between research and teaching” are still followed. Later, Heinrich Heine and Karl Marx enrolled here as students, as did Friedrich Nietzsche and Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schumann and Max Ernst. Currently, the university has around 31,000 students, and an “excellent reputation in Germany and abroad”.
Do all the young people know that for centuries, the main building of their university was the residence of the archbishops and electorate princes of Cologne, and that with its 480-metre front, it is one of the largest Baroque palaces in Europe? After the previous building was destroyed in 1689 during the Palatinate war of succession, electorate prince Joseph Clemens began about ten years later to build a huge new palace. However, neither he himself nor his successors, Clemens August, Max Friedrich and Max Franz, were able to completely finish the residence with its imposing design. To make matters worse, a fire in 1777 caused immeasurable damage. When the university was opened in 1818, only the wing facing the Hofgarten, or courtyard garden, had been built.
It was only when a four-year construction period ended in October 1930 that the original idea by the court master building Enrico Zucalli, a castle-like ensemble with four towers, could be realised. Bonn University, which at that time was the fourth-largest in the German Reich with 8,000 students, now had a princely home. However, in the words of the university, the “intellectual dessication” was followed by “physical destruction: on 18 October 1944, severe bombing of the centre of Bonn also turned the main building of the university to ash and rubble.” However, by the winter semester of 1945/46, the university had already been reopened, and thanks to its tradition and international orientation, it gained “a reputation and appeal”.
(Images: Universität Bonn, Presseamt der Bundesstadt Bonn, Presseamt der Bundesstadt Bonn, Universität Bonn, Fotograf Wolfgang G. Klein, Tourismus & Congress GmbH)