The University of Heidelberg was established in the town of Heidelberg in the Rhineland in 1386. It was founded at the behest of the Count Palatinate and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, Ruprecht I, in order to provide faculties for the study of philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, and medicine. The Great Schism in 1378, which split European Christendom into two hostile groups, was initiated by the election of two popes after the death of Pope Gregory XI in the same year. One successor was in Avignon (elected by the French) and the other in Rome (elected by the Italian cardinals). The German secular and spiritual leaders voiced their support for the successor in Rome, which had far reaching consequences for the German students and teachers in Paris: they lost their stipends and had to leave. Palatine Elector Ruprecht I recognized the opportunity and initiated talks with the Curia, which ultimately lead to the creation of the Papal Bull of Foundation which can be considered the establishment of the University of Heidelberg. On October 18, 1386 a ceremonial fair commemorated the opening of the doors of the university. As a motto for the seal, Marsilius von Inghen, the first Rector of the university chose "Semper apertus" - the book of learning is always open. At this point in time the city of Heidelberg could not have had more than 3500 inhabitants and in the first year of existence the university had almost 600 enrolled. On October 19, 1386 the first lecture was held.
The university's official title is Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg.
Among the prominent thinkers to have been associated with the university are Georg Hegel, the existentialist philosopher-psychologist Karl Jaspers, the political theorist Hannah Arendt, the philosopher of hermeneutics Hans-Georg Gadamer, the critical theorist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas, and the philosopher of discourse ethics Karl-Otto Apel.
See also: Mediaeval university