The Medieval University Experience

The experiences of medieval university students are familiar: they missed their mothers, asked for money and got into trouble.

Carving of medieval university students on the tomb of the scholar Giovanni da Legnano, Bologna, 14th century. Sailko (CC BY 2.5).

Starting university has always been a difficult time for children and parents – and the experience was no different for medieval scholars and their families. Although, like today, some scholars remained close to their families, many young men travelled far for their studies and had to adjust to a long-distance relationship with their relatives. Universities provided new families: the university was personified as the alma mater (nourishing mother), responsible for her children; masters became paternal figures and role models, and peers resembled brothers to compete and play with. What did this mean for the relationships between the scholars and their own families?

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