Situated on a hill overlooking the city, the University of Coimbra comprises a cluster of buildings dedicated to the production and dissemination of knowledge, which has grown and evolved over more than seven centuries, and which unquestionably constitutes its own noble and well-defined urban area within the city of Coimbra. On a par with the remarkable physical presence of the buildings, themseives, which are in many cases quite exceptional, and its history, which make it one of Europe's most ancient universities, the University possesses traditions and cultural features, peculiar to the institution, which have endowed it with a unique identity as a symbol of learning, both at home and abroad. The history of Portugal's universities goes hand in hand with the history of the University of Coimbra. Portugal's first university originated in the 13th century and its creation was closely linked to three fundamental documents: the so- called Suplica, or petition, of 1288, signed by the Portuguese clerical elite of the time, in which the creation in Portugal of a Estudo Geral, or academy, was requested; the royal decree of 16' March 1290, signed by Dom Dinis, which created the Estudo Geral in Lisbon, and the Papal Bull of gm August 7290, which officially recognised the newly created institution. In 1308 the University was transferred from Lisbon to Coimbra, but was to return to Lisbon from l338 to 1354, when it was established once again in Coimbra, remaining there until 1337 when it returned yet again to Lisbon for another two centuries, before finally returning to Coimbra in 1537. The royal decision to establish the University in Coimbra was related to the Renaissance idea that universities should be created in small urban centres and not in large cities. On its return that year, the University was partly housed in the Alcapva Palace, overlooking the town, following the reforms of Dom JoSo Ill, which not only marked the end of an era and put an end to the medieval odyssey of the Esiudo Geral, but was also the most important and far-reaching university reform before the period of the Enlightenment. From this time on, the University would be recognised as a prestigious institution outside Portugal, whilst also becoming the centre for the training of the elite for all the territories under Portuguese administration, as it remained the only university in the whole of the Portuguese Empire until the beginning of the 20" century, with the sole exception of the University of Evora, which existed between 1559 and 1779. The reform of the Santa Cruz monastery, which also dates from this period, gave rise to a network of colleges for residential students, sustained by the monastery, the most noteworthy being the College of Jesus, which was the first to be created by the Company of Jesus. The college became famous for its sixteenth-century commentaries on the principal works of Aristotle, known as Conimbricenses, a document which did the rounds of the main European universities and Colleges, influencing the education of major intellectuals, such as Rene Descartes. The Alcavva Palace, formerly known as the Paco Real de Coimbra, and later as the Paco Real das Escolas, became the seat of the University from the time of Dom Jog0 Ill's reforms, as all the previous efforts and plans to build dedicated buildings came to nothing. As a consequence, it was always taken for granted that the University was under royal patronage, occupying a building which was known as a royal palace, unlike the majority of European universities, which, from the 15th century onwards, owned their own buildings. In 1597 the Crown formally donated the building to the University, and it became known as the "Pace das EscolasJJ, a name it still boasts today. The origins of this building go back to the Islamic period, when the alcacova or castle was built, in the oriental quadrangular design, with semi circular towers, although vestiges of the Roman period dating from the lSt century AD have been discovered in recent archaeological excavations. The ancient Islamic castle suffered extensive damage at the time of the Christian conquest of the city, in 1064, and alterations were introduced to the towers on the southern side whilst an albacar or corral was added, extending the fortified area to the west, whilst the building was converted into the residence of the Christian governor. It was in this royal palace that the Count and Countess Dom Henrique and Dona Teresa, and the King, Dom Afonso Henriques, resided. It was also here that many of the Portuguese princes of the time were born, whilst the celebrated meeting of the nobles, which elected Dom Jo5o I, was held here in 1385. The monarch made a number of alterations to the palace, introducing a series of windows, later to be altered by Dom Pedro, the Duke of Coimbra, who had the albacar demolished and built a second building, perpendicular to the first, and launched work on the chapel. The sixteenth century alterations carried out in the time of Dorn Jo5o I transformed the palace into the more elaborate royal residence which would later become the University's final home. In 1717, construction began on one of the most important buildings of the University of Coimbra. Known at the time as the Casa da Livraria, now the University Library, it is a remarkable example of Baroque art and was one of the most important European libraries of its day. The Marques de Pombal's reforms brought about changes of international relevance, and experimentalism became part of university teaching. The Faculties of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy were created, along with the start of building works or alterations to existing buildings, such as to the former Jesuit College to house the Teaching Hospital, the Pharmaceutical Dispensary, the Museum of Natural History, the Chemistry Laboratory, the Astronomical Observatory, the Botanical Gardens and the University Press. The University continued to thrive after Pombal's death, and between 1799 and 1859 it was responsible for the supervision of public education. Always closely linked to the state, the University never achieved the same degree of autonomy as its European counterparts, having depended on Pombal's reforms even through the Liberal period, in the absence of any real project of far-reaching reform, whilst Law continued to be the most important subject area in the University. Despite certain conservatism, throughout its history the University has played a leading role in a number of important debates, particularly after the Liberal period, such as the revolt of the liberal academic generation against university decadence, or the struggle of the Brazilian students at the time of Brazilian independence or, to name only the most significant, the polemical "Coimbra Question" or the Commemorations of Cam6es or Pornbal, which were used as a pretext for the struggle against the Monarchy. With the advent of the first Republic, the University of Coimbra ceased to be the only university in the country, losing some of its privileges and the symbolism it enjoyed, whilst, in compensation, the Faculties of Arts and Sciences were created. When Salazar came to power, the University played a leading role in the formation of ideologies which were to contribute to Salazarism, such as the monarchist neo-traditionalist movement known as Lusitanian Integralism and the Catholic social movement linked to the CADC (Centro Academico de Democracia Cristi). The repressive character of Salazar's dictatorship infected the University, leading to the expulsion of professors, and to administrative and police repression, which gradually undermined its autonomy. The Coimbra Academic Association (MC) became one of the most important forces in anti-government protests and it campaigned for its own democratic organization and took part in Presidential election campaigns where it supported the democratic opposition candidates such as Norton de Matos and Humberto Delgado. It also provoked academic crises and promoted the struggle of elites against the Colonial War, whilst creating anti-fascist cultural organisations such as the Academic Theatre Companies (TEUC and CITAC). Due to all the campaigning against the regime organized directly by Coimbra student organisations, the Government of the dictatorship intervened and part of the campus, the upper part of the town, (Alta), with its historic buildings, was destroyed to allow the construction of new buildings in the nationalist monumental architectural style of the regime, enabling closer control to be kept over the student protest movements. New Faculties of Arts, Medicine, Sciences, Economics and Engineering were created. With the 1974 revolution, the University began a new period in its life, now confronted with the growth of the city, which, until the beginning of the 20" century had been little more than the higher part of the town, the university campus (Alta), which was clearly dominant as regards the lower part (Baixa), which was markedly middle class and lacking any influence on the life of the city. The institutionalisation of democratic organization in universities brought with it the rejuvenation of academic institutions of a cultural character, as well as changes in the academic customs, the so-called praxes, which lost much of their social critique. The University of Coimbra at the beginning of the 21st century is suffering from an institutional and scientific identity crisis, as it attempts to define a new structure out of the natural conflict between autonomy and strong centralized control whilst trying to take full advantage of its past, an indispensable, yet insufficient, resource on which to build the future of a university which has opened its doors to the world again. In the years after the return to democracy, the democratisation of education brought a significant increase in Coimbra's student population, which led to a number of somewhat arguable decisions. The massification of university teaching led to a certain amount of University reorganization, and certain faculties were transferred to two external annexes, a process which, when completed, may enable the recuperation of the AIta University campus. The history of the University, which it could be said, not only merges with the history of universities in Portugal, but also the history of the country and the Portuguese Colonial Empire, is too rich to be dealt with here, but a few key points will provide some idea of its importance. "The University of Coimbra is one of the most ancient European universities, and its existence has been documented since the beginning of 14' century. *The University of Coimbra was finally established in the city which gave it its name, as the expression of the Renaissance idea which favoured the establishment of universities in small towns rather than large cities. *Coimbra was one of the earliest and most important nuclei of cultural development in Portuguese history, whilst it was the also first political seat of the country, which was linked to the important role played by the Santa Cruz monastery. *The University of Coimbra played a crucial role in the formation and consolidation of the Portuguese language, and became one of the main ancient centres of linguistic innovation and dissemination, by cultivating rudite standards for the language, and influencing, over several centuries, the linguistic standards of the student community in Portugal and the Empire. *The University of Coimbra's intellectual output influenced the political organization, town planning and culture of the Portuguese Empire, but also had a direct influence on the education of the European intellectual elite in the area of Philosophical thought. *The only university in the whole of the territory under Portuguese administration for several centuries, the University of Coimbra taught the Empire's elites and contributed decisively to the ideological production of those in power, whilst, at the same time, it taught the student elites of the Colonies who would later organize and lead the resistance movements against the regime. The University of Coimbra was responsible for what was most conservative and also what was most advanced in the creation of the national identity, having initiated the first protest movements of the cultural elite which brought about the fall of the last European dictatorship and the last European Colonial Empire. *The whole history of the University and its periods of growth, retraction and reorganisation, in direct association with the exercise of political power, has left its mark in terms of the built heritage and the urban planning of the campus (Alta)- the Paco das Escolas, which includes the library which dates from the time of Dom Joao Ill, known as Biblioteca Joanha, the ancient Colleges; the Botanical Gardens; the Machado de Castro National Museum and the Church of St. John of Almedina; the New Cathedral or Se Nova and the College of Jesus; the Church of the Holy Cross, the Manga and Sereia Gardens ; the Chemistry Laboratory; the ancient Cathedral School or Se Velha, the student rooming-houses or repijblicas, on campus; the twentieth-century university buildings) an important heritage cluster which expressively illustrates the different functions of the institution, not forgetting its artistic and architectural quality, which is, in some cases, outstanding.