August 31st 1552 - The Germanicum in Rome
The first suggestion for the establishment of the college is to be owed to Cardinal Giovanni Morone. For ten years already he had, as nuncio on his journeys through Germany, had rich opportunity to recognize the decline of the German clergy.
Morone recommended to Pope Paul III to found in Rome a college for the education of priests. In 1551 he contacted also Ignatius, and Ignatius agreed that the Society of Jesus would take over that task. Yes, Ignatius became the driving force of that undertaking. By order of the Pope he drafted also a sketch of the memorandum of establishment (papal bull), and wrote the constitutions and rules for the college. As first rector he called the scholarly and most dexterous Father André des Freux (Frusius) from Venice.
On October 28th 1552 in St Eustachio the splendid celebration of the inauguration took place, to which cardinals, prelates, diplomats and all the notables in Rome were invited. Father Ribadeneira inspired the listeners with an elegant speech.
Morone was one of the most capable cardinals of his time. At an age of twenty he was already bishop in Modena. He came from Milan. Since 1536 he was nuncio in Germany. In 1542 Paul III appointed him cardinal. By difficult tasks in Germany he represented Rome with great skill and devotion.
His theological views of justification got him later the suspicion of heresis. For more than two years he was kept imprisoned in the Angel Castle (May 1557). The process ended with his acquittal. He was rehabilitated. As the president of the last period he brought the Trent Council to an end.
On urge of Petrus Canisius Pope Gregor XIII detached the college of the aristocrats again from the Germanicum and assigned to it a new study house by the church Andrea della Valle. Already in the following year the college moved into the neighbourhood of the church St Augustino. To secure a good economic basis Gregor XIII gave to the college several estates outside of the city. This landed property soon increased by the estates of the in 1578 established Hungarian College, which was soon non-viable however because of recruiting problems, and was combined with the Germanicum.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth century the college had a flowering period. Nearly all popes were affectionately solicitous about it. By the abolition of the Society of Jesus the College was highly endangered. Under the pressure of the Frenchmen it was closed in 1798. In the meantime Josef II had opened in Paris a 'pseudo Germanicum', to remove the Austrian theologians from the papal influence. But it existed only for a short time.
After Napoleon's fall Pius VII returned to Rome in the year 1814. By decree from May 18th 1818 he ordered the reopening of the Germanicum and entrusted it again to the Society of Jesus. Since the college building was already occupied by the Roman seminary, the only few alumni of that time were accommodated in the Professed House of the Jesuits. Also in the Palazzo Borromeo the alumni, whose number constantly rose, lived still in quite restrained conditions, and experienced here the turbulent time of 1860 to 1870, which ended with Rome's conquest by the Piemontese.
In the year 1845 one succeeded, by the purchase of S. Pastore, to aquire almost a holiday paradise for the college. In 1886 one purchased the hotel Costanzi in the via S. Nicolà da Tolentino at the north slope of the Quirinale. But here too it became cramped. In 1930 the number of the alumni had risen to 140. Again one considered to transfer the college to the outskirts of Rome. Father General Ledóchowski however stood up for the remaining in the city. The old hotel palace was pulled down and a new building was erected. The outside of the groundfloor with about 24 business premises was rented, and so a new financial basis was created.
From the street S. Nicolà one comes into a genuine Roman yard with pillared halls and fountains, with much green, and a lot of flowers. From the new annexed church the life-sized statue of St Petrus Canisius, the patron of house and church, is greeting. The apse has got an enormous mosaic with the topic: Christ, sending his apostles into the world. In the new house one goes by one of the three lifts through eight floors to the roof terrace with a wonderful panorama view over the city.
Thousands of priests have come from the Germanicum, hundreds of bishops, and professors. The dressed in red Germaniker belonged to the streetscape of the Eternal City. Many deplore that the red gowns are no longer worn.