The College of Bologna, in the spotlight of the Government

The Royal College of the Spaniards in Bologna was founded on September 29, 1364 at the will of Cardinal Gil de Albornoz, one of the most prominent men in our history according to Menéndez Pelayo. In his will he expressly indicated that “of the rest of my assets I command and order that in the city of Bologna and in a decent place, that is to say, near the General Study a school is made with a convenient room, with an orchard, rooms and chambers , and that a good chapel be built in honor of the blessed San Clemente, and that sufficient income be bought to support twenty-four schoolchildren and two chaplains according to expenditure and the way of life that I will order, which house or school I want It is called Casa de los Españoles. And to the above-mentioned school or house I institute for my universal heir in all my money and in all my crockery and in all my books, in canon law as in civil law as in any other faculty, and in all my other goods than in any way they are due to me ».

We have a private ecclesiastical institution, whose origin must be sought in the fourteenth century in some territories that belonged to the Papal States and not to Spain, and whose foundation is made before an apostolic and imperial notary. The purpose, objective or mission that encouraged the creation of this institution was to provide a series of boys, chosen for their school merits and special distinctions, that is, for their high qualifications in the studies, so that they could have the opportunity to study in the oldest and most important university in Europe at that time, and in the best classrooms that city still had and disposes of.

Arrogance the power to intervene

This tradition has remained until today despite the different avatars, difficulties and other narrownesses that this school has faced and has suffered throughout its history. Now, the current Government of Spain has submitted a request to the Council of State so that it may decide whether it can modify the Statutes and Regulations of the Royal College of San Clemente. The excuse to arrogate the power to intervene is based on the following argument: “It establishes a series of conditions for the appointment of schoolboys who are not consistent with the non-denominational character of the State and with the principle of equality, and which lead to question the intervention by HM the King and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation in school affairs ». Later, he emphasizes another point: «Article 20 of the Statutes of the College establishes that“ the schoolchildren will be appointed by the Board of Trustees through a rigorous contest of merits among the candidates who meet the conditions required by the founder, which will detail the regulation". In this regard, section 1, of article 10, of the Regulations, of the College, states that in order to be named a collegiate, it is necessary: ​​to be Spanish, a Catholic and a son of legitimate marriage, according to the express will of the founder »(although the last requirement has stopped applying for more than thirty years). This document is signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.

The main problem posed by this document is that the school is an institution, of ecclesiastical origin and, in addition, resides in another country over which Spain has no authority. The second is that no State can intervene in a private organization; the third is that they only accept men, but the same thing happens in Eton, where they have studied great politicians and princes of England, and there nobody complains. The same can be said of other schools of university character of enormous prestige.

Without executive authority

But if the above is not enough or you want to underestimate, there is another compelling reason. That document enters into direct collision with what the same Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said in parliamentary headquarters on November 8, 2004, where he recognized that this was not the responsibility of the State. This Government, after recognizing that it would like the articles of its regulation to be modernized, recognizes that it has no authority to act or intervene: «The Royal College of San Clemente of the Spaniards of Bologna is not an institution dependent on the Spanish State nor receives any subsidy of the same. It is a private foundation governed by a board of trustees. The State has only one representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation on its board. Consequently, the State is not competent to vary the rules of the operation of the College of Spain, although it will propose to its Board of Directors the update of its statutes and regulations. In any case, the Board of Trustees would remain sovereign to accept, reject or modify them ».

Later, the Zapatero Government emphasizes: «The Royal College of San Clemente of the Spaniards of Bologna does not grant any academic degree, it only offers a scholarship of residence or major school to its students, who follow the training for the attainment of the degree Doctor of Research from the University of Bologna, in accordance with their curricula and in the dependencies of the aforementioned university with the rest of the students of their campus, who are currently in the process of harmonization in the European university space ». This means that no current educational and pedagogical rules are broken, violated or violated in the European Union.


The current government maneuver seems to be subject to a reform of the statutes approved by Royal Decree on March 20, 1919, and which, precisely, were published on March 22, 1919 by the Gazette of Madrid. This document precisely highlights an interesting fact, that the mission of the College is "to provide Spanish students who meet the conditions determined by the regulations the means necessary to complete their studies at the University or Special Schools of Bologna." Something that has nothing wrong or that justifies a state intervention, especially if the number of schoolboys is so low that it never reaches thirty and also taking into account that «for no reason can lessons be given inside the school building ».

Despite this, the request for the opinion is based on this revision of the statutes to indicate that "the College is a private institution of which the Kings of Spain and the Cardinal Primate are protectors." From here they try to argue an intervention process whose purpose is for a private institution to be governed by the State. But there are several objections to this step, according to College sources. First: this foundation, from the moment it is ecclesiastical, cannot submit to the Spanish regime of foundations, one of the purposes of the Ministry. Second: the 1919 statutes themselves include that any initiative to reform their statutes by the Spanish Government by regulatory rule is in any way improper. And, therefore, if the Government wanted to undertake any kind of modification, it would have to go to the Board of Trustees of the College through the member representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The possibility of applying Spanish internal law to the College "is erroneous" because it resides abroad and the Albornocian foundation can only civilly accept the regime of ecclesiastical foundations in Italy under Article 29 of the Concordat between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, and the current Italian laws of enforcement.

Regarding the intervention of the Government in the organ of this College there is also a clear impediment. This institution does not receive a subsidy from the Spanish State (it has never done so throughout history, as well as from any other State) and, as these same sources affirm, it does not grant any academic degree, but residence or college scholarships to his students, who follow the training for the achievement of the European title of Research Doctor by the University of Bologna, in accordance with their curricula. What's more, the College was already on a path of harmonization with the European university space: Today is a reality because the current Convention between the University of Bologna and the College allows the winners of the national merit competition to enroll in the University of Bologna

And who should be the employer?

One issue of this issue is who is the patron of the College of San Clemente of the Spaniards in Bologna. If the protectors are the Kings of Spain and the Cardinal Primate, as indicated by the statutes, «the patrons of blood ad perpetuam, according to the express will of the founder, the heads of lineage or House of Bathrobe, whose functions and those of the other people who they are mentioned in the foundational clauses hereafter will hold the Board of Trustees ». And more. Article 2 indicates that the Board of Trustees will be chaired at all times by the Head of the lineage or Bathrobe House.


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