Academic Prison

Posted by sue on June 15th, 2007

The University of Coimbra was founded in 1290, and the old University site that sits atop the old city of Coimbra had previously been a Royal Palace, the residence of Portugal’s kings in the 12th-14th centuries. (See photos in the previous post.) The interesting things to see there included an amazingly ornate library, a chapel, a large room for various academic ceremonies, and beautiful views of the city.

What I found especially interesting is that the old University complex includes an “academic prison.” The provided literature at the site called it a “prison,” though “jail” might be a more apt translation. It’s thought to preserve part of the medieval prison of the Royal Palace, but was actually used as a jail by the university authorities from 1773 till 1832. The university had the authority to incarcerate students, professors, or officials for disciplinary reasons, so they wouldn’t have to be detained with other kinds of criminals—the university had been granted this power by the King in 1591.

Pictured here is a doorway with an iron gate which leads to a couple of cells.

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