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Herborn Academy

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Title: Herborn Academy  
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Subject: Johann Heinrich Alsted, Herborn (Hesse), Kaspar Olevianus, Siegen, Johann Heinrich Alting, Ramism, Johannes Buxtorf, Johannes Althusius, Johann Heinrich Bisterfeld, Conrad Vorstius
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Herborn Academy

The Herborn Academy (Academia Nassauensis) was a German institution in Herborn of higher learning very similar to a university, which existed from 1584 to 1817. The school was assimilated into the Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Church of Hesse and Nassau.


In 1584 Count John VI of Nassau-Dillenburg founded the Academia Nassauensis as a post secondary institution. He established it upon the request of his brother William the Silent, Prince of Orange in the year of the latter's death. The sovereign granted the students two warm meals and three liters of small beer per day. The Academy (Paedagogium) was originally located in the Herborn Castle. In 1588 Johann purchased the old town hall and, after expanding it, gave it over for the Academy’s use. This academy, which later took on a distinctively Calvinist cast, was further augmented with four faculties much like a conventional university. It quickly became one of the most important educational locations of the Calvinist-Reformed movement in Europe. In the Netherlands the University of Franeker emerged as a similar academy.

Despite repeated efforts and the undisputed quality of the teaching of the Academy, it was never given the imperial authorization to designate itself a university, largely due to the fact that it was a Calvinist foundation. As a result, the school never possessed the authority to grant doctorates.

In the first heyday, which lasted until 1626, over 300 students were enrolled in Herborn; for example about 400 in 1603.[1] After 1626 the numbers fell sharply before reaching a second peak from 1685 to 1725. After that point average enrollment in Herborn numbered only about 100. A strong fluctuation in enrollment was the common story in Herborn, as in 1745 there was a time when there was less than five students in the city. From its founding in 1584 until its closure in 1817, about 5700 students in total from across Europe studied at the academy. Many came from the Switzerland, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary or Scotland. Of these students 1000 came from Herborn itself.

On 17 December 1811 Napoleon issued a decree for the Duchy of Berg (to which Herborn had been annexed in 1806) to establish a state university in Düsseldorf and to close the Herborn Academy in its favor. After the end of Napoleonic rule, this directive was not overturned and even with the creation of the Duchy of Nassau in 1817, the Academy was not restored. The Academy was abolished in 1817 with only the theological faculty continuing as a theological seminary.[2]

The successor of the Academy, the Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Church of Hesse and Nassau (EKHN), is now located in Herborn Castle. The original buildings are currently used as a hotel and restaurant.


This article incorporates information from the Deutsch World Heritage Encyclopedia.


  • Gottfried Zedler, Hans Sommer. Die Matrikel der Hohen Schule und des Paedagogikums zu Herborn. In: Veröffentlichungen der Historischen Kommission für Nassau. Band 5, Wiesbaden 1908.
  • Carl Heiler. Die Matrikel der Hohen Schule zu Herborn, 1725–1817 / rekonstruiert von Carl Heiler. In: Nassauische Annalen. 55, 1935.
  • Gerhard Menk. Die Hohe Schule Herborn in ihrer Frühzeit (1584–1660). Ein Beitrag zum Hochschulwesen des deutschen Kalvinismus im Zeitalter der Gegenreformation. Historische Kommission für Nassau, Wiesbaden 1981, ISBN 3-922244-42-4 und ISBN 3-922244-43-2.
  • Johann Hermann Steubing. Geschichte der Hohen Schule Herborn. Die Wielandschmiede, Kreuztal 1984 (= Hadamar 1823).
  • J. Wienecke (Hrsg.): Von der Hohen Schule zum Theologischen Seminar Herborn: 1584–1984: Festschrift zur 400-Jahrfeier. Herborn 1984.
  • Hans Haering. Die Spätzeit der Hohen Schule zu Herborn (1742–1817): zwischen Orthodoxie und Aufklärung. In: Europäische Hochschulschriften: Reihe 3, Geschichte und ihre Hilfswissenschaften, 615. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-631-47632-9.
  • Dieter Wessinghage. Die Hohe Schule zu Herborn und ihre Medizinische Fakultät. Schattauer, Stuttgart, New York 2003, ISBN 3-7945-1016-X.
  • Wilhelm A. Eckhardt, Gerhard Menk: Christian Wolff und die hessischen Universitäten. In: Beiträge zur hessischen Geschichte. Band 18, Trautvetter und Fischer, Marburg an der Lahn 2004, ISBN 3-87822-118-5.
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