On this day December 9, 1425
Pope Martin V issued a papal bull establishing the Catholic University of Leuven, the largest, oldest and most prominent university in Belgium.
In the 15th century the city of Leuven, with the support of John IV, Duke of Brabant, made a formal request for a university. Pope Martin V issued a papal bull dated 9 December 1425 founding the University in Leuven as a Studium Generale.
As such it is the oldest Catholic university in the world still in existence today (a fact that holds true even if dated only from its refoundation in 1835). In its early days this university was modelled on the universities of Paris, Cologne and Vienna.
The university flourished in the 16th century due to the presence of famous scholars and professors, such as Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens (Pope Adrian VI), Desiderius Erasmus, Joan Lluís Vives, Andreas Vesalius and Gerardus Mercator.
In 1797 the old university, a bastion of reactionaries, was closed down by the French Republic, as the region was annexed to France during the French Revolutionary Wars.
When the region was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815-1830), William I of the Netherlands founded a new university in 1816 in Leuven as a Rijksuniversiteit (E: State university). Belgium became independent in 1830, and the Belgian bishops founded a new Roman Catholic university in 1834, at Mechelen, which in 1835 was able to return to Leuven, where the Rijksuniversiteit had been closed.