Photo: Andrew Alvarez retrieved

Philip V elevated Caracas’s Seminar College of Santa Rosa to University in December 22, 1721, but it didn’t open its doors until August 11, 1725, with an inexplicable four-year delay. The Seminar College had been created by bishop Antonio González de Acuña (Dominican) in 1673, opening on September 30, 1673.

Philip V elevated Caracas’s Seminar College of Santa Rosa to University.

Since the bishopric of Diego de Baños y Sotomayor (1684-1706), there had been a push for the need to turn the seminar into a university, because the trip to Bogota, Santo Domingo or Mexico was too long and expensive, and caraqueños didn’t have the means to graduate in their own city, even having a seminar, which only needed to be decreed as a university. This request was emphatically and consistently made by the seminar’s rector, the ordinary mayors and bishop Escalona y Calatayud until, the king finally agreed, creating the Royal University of Caracas by Royal Decree, on December 22, 1721, as we’ve said.

The first eleven rectors were appointed by the bishop and were presbyters. Later, with the Royal Decree of 1784, the rector was elected by the Cloister and the first elected candidate was doctor José Domingo Blanco, in 1785. Simón Bolívar, President of the Republic of Colombia, sanctioned the Statutes of the Central University of Venezuela on July 24, 1827, after a modification request from the University Cloister, whose members had been unsuccessfully demanding the statutory reform since 1819. The Libertador studied the request and agreed with it, decreeing the change on January 22, 1827. With a clear path, the Cloister elected Dr. José María Vargas,  after doctor José Cecilio Ávila vehemently refused to be re-elected. Vargas obtained 21 out of the Cloister’s 35 votes.

The modern university Vargas had in mind was inspired on his Scottish and English experience. This would be the republican university that would scrap the requisite of “purity of blood,” effective up to that point, and would establish a democratic requirement: “Correctly read and write the elemental principles of Spanish grammar and arithmetics.”

From the independence generation, important civilians that were regrettably overshadowed by the conflict, graduated with university diplomas.

The university was made up of four schools: Philosophy, Theology, Jurisprudence and Medicine. Naturally, Vargas would focus most of his efforts on the latter, and he’s rightly considered the founder of modern medical studies in Venezuela. Dr. Vargas fulfilled his three-year term (1827-1829) at the head of the university and refused to be a candidate for re-election. He did nominate his candidacy as deputy of the Constituent Assembly of Valencia and was elected for the province of Caracas in 1830.

From the independence generation, important civilians that were regrettably overshadowed by the conflict, graduated with university diplomas. Among them, Juan Germán Roscio and Miguel José Sanz, while Cristóbal Mendoza studied in the University of Santo Domingo. A few of the Venezuelan soldiers who fought in the war had an university education, among them Antonio José de Sucre, who studied Engineering and was clearly an outstanding figure.

Neither Miranda, nor Bolívar, nor Páez went to the university. Simón Rodríguez was self-taught. There were few graduates from the University of Caracas who had a substantial participation in the independence, save for Roscio, who wrote the Declaration of July 5, 1811, and the first National Constitution that same year. He’d be the scholar with the most important constitutional, legal, philosophical and theological work, besides Andrés Bello, of course, but Bello’s work is almost entirely Chilean.

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