Athenaeum

History

History

The University "Suor Orsola Benincasa" is an old monastic fortress, situated on the slopes of Sant' Elmo Hill, overlooking Naples and its Gulf.

This ancient convent, covers a surface of 33.000 square metres on which stand eight buildings including two churches, cloisters and hanging gardens, remains of two monasteries founded between the XVIth and the XVIIth century by the Neapolitan mystic to whom is today dedicated the University.

Suor Orsola was a particularly significant figure in the religious panorama of the Neapolitan counter-reform; considered as the expression of a militant and basically autonomous religiousness that the institutional church gradually succeeded in bringing back within the limits of a strict obedience to the ecclesiastical authority; thus transforming the independent retreat of Benincasa and her relatives into a lay congregation, under the control of a male religious order.

The settlement is easily recognizable, from an architectural point of view, because it doesn't grow out of a prearranged plan, but it brings with it the chaotic nature of the following overlappings. The leading element of this area of the fortress is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, founded by Orsola in 1580 and restored in the 1700s by Rocco Doyno.

When the Congregation's control passed in the hands of the Theatines, they persuaded Orsola to put together the oblates and a new strict clausura order which became the female St. Gaetano's counterpart. The project, espressed by the mystic in her will, played its part and after her death in 1620 the construction of an impressive hermitage for her Romites began.

The new wing is characterised by a broad and coherent architectural plan, complying with the rules established by the Council of Trent. Actually, the central part, made up of three 'U'-shaped buildings around a charming cloister, is hidden from the outer views by a twenty meters high tufa massive wall.

The destiny of the monastic fortress changed after the Unity of Italy, when the Hermitage of Suor Orsola eluded the law on the state confiscation of the religious orders' assets because they considered as "Pious works of a lay character".

To further strengthen this acknowledgement - brought into force by a judicial case with the Ecclesiastical Fund - a free school was founded. Inaugurated on 10th July 1864, thanks above all to the commitment of Emilio Beneventani, who ruled the lay gouvernment of Suor Orsola (replacing the Government of the Oblates) for more than twenty years, until his death in 1887. With just 32 girls, in the 70s the school hosted 500 female students, formed by a nursery class, five elementary classes and a teaching course of three classes. There was a room for housework assigned to a special teacher and consisting of teaching dressmaking, embroidery and millinery, to which was then added the production of artificial flowers.

Since 1871 French, bookkeeping, acting and choral singing have been taught and in 1878 a telegraphy course was set up.

In 1891, Adelaide del Balzo Pignatelli, Princess of Strongoli joined as Honorary Inspector and in 1901 became the Sole Director. The pedagogical commitment of the Princess was shared, until her death, with Antoinetta Pagliara who bequeathed her private collection of furnishings, paintings and great value antiquities to the Institute, later placed into an interesting museum which is now situated in the ancient hermitage.

Such an educative project was completed in 1885, with the establishment, by the Royal Decree, of the Faculty of Education and recognised officially at a par in 1901 together with those of Rome and Florence. About a century later, with the Reform Decree published by the Official Gazette no 264 of 11/11/1995, the Faculty of Education was reformed by the constitution of the University Institute "Suor Orsola Benincasa" and the activation of the Faculty of Education Sciences.

Alongside the establishment of this Faculty, the Institute, on the basis of the competences inherited and developed over time, established the Faculty of Letters and, more recently (1998/1999), the Faculty of Law.

In 2004, by Dean's Decree published in the Official Gazette no 157 of 7/7/2004, the Institute University turned into the University of Studies Suor Orsola Benincasa.

With its Undergraduate and Postgraduate degree courses, Schools of Journalism, Cinema and Television, research centres, Master degrees and specialization courses, Suor Orsola Benincasa is an educational hub with excellent standards of multidisciplinary and vocational courses and a keen eye to experimentation and the world of business.

Students are at the heart of all the University activities. Their education and training, their interests and expectations are the bedrock upon which the University stands. From the moment they enrol and choose their degree course until they enter the working world, all students benefit from individual tutoring and support, and the opportunity to carry out curricular and extra-curricular internships. Vocational advice and support is provided by the student Internship and Job Placement service, together with the Centre for LifeLong Learning.

Within the three Faculties - Educational Sciences, Modern Letters and Law - the traditional activities pertaining to education, teacher training, restoration and the enhancement and promotion of the artistic/cultural heritage have progressively been expanded to include studies and research activities in the fields of law, modern languages, psychology, communication and economics.

At present the University offers:

6 First Cycle degree courses:
Business Administration and Green Economy
Modern Languages and Cultures
Sciences for Cultural Heritage: tourism, art, archaeology
Communication Studies
Educational Sciences
Technological and Scientific Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology

3 Single Cycle five-year degree courses:
Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage
Law
Primary Teacher Educational Sciences

6 Second Cycle degree courses:
Archaeology and History of Art
Business and Public Communication
Foreign Languages for International Communication and Cooperation
Pedagogy and Lifelong Learning: School, Community, Territory
Administrative Planning and Management of Policies and Social Services
Psychology: Human Resources, Cognitive Ergonomics, Cognitive Neuroscience

In the context of the educational offer within the Campania region, each course of studies presents a number of characterizing traits and specificities due either to the unique nature of its learning path or to the fact that it enables students to acquire highly specialised and vocational skills.

To complete its postgraduate educational programme, the University also offers three schools of specialization in Archaeological Heritage, Historical and Artistic Heritage and in the Legal Professions, a number of Master's Degrees, postgraduate completion courses and Doctoral study programmes. Furthermore, a widespread range of formative activities are carried out in the Centres of Excellence and in the technologically advanced Interdepartmental Centre for Research and Design, Scienza Nuova, where students and research fellows develop innovative projects with prestigious national and international partners, and take part in the numerous cultural initiatives and events which have always been a characteristic trait of this University.

Over the years, the University has always devoted considerable effort to enhancing and promoting its scientific and cultural heritage in the light of the challenges presented by the contemporary world. Always at the forefront in terms of innovation and the acquisition of new competences, it has also gone to great lengths to restructure and modernize the five university complexes with full respect for local traditions and consideration for the needs of individuals and the community.

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