Development of Religious communities and the beginning of the University
The town continued to develop economically, the source of its prosperity being cloth and leather. Greater prosperity naturally led to an increase in the number of inhabitants, buildings and places of worship. Population was estimated at over 5,000 in 1279.
Two Augustinian monasteries were founded, St Frideswide's restored and in 1129 the nearby Osney Abbey was built. As the vast majority of learning was in the hands of the monks in medieval times it is understandable that the foundation of new religious institutions were preparing the ground for the university.
The university in Oxford came as a natural growth and was not founded by anyone in particular. At that time there were already prestigious universities notably Bologna in Italy (1088) and Paris (1150). In Oxford public lectures were given by various scholars and, by the 13th century, these gradually became organised following the model of Paris. It soon became renowned for its legal studies and met the approval and support of both church and state. The colleges University, Balliol and Merton were all founded in this century. A list of colleges and the dates of their foundation is available on another page of this site.
In the 13th century the university quickly attracted other scholars from various religious congregations. Within less than half a century Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians followed each other in quick succession. Later, in the last two decades of the century, came the Cistercians and Benedictines.
The rapid development of the university brought a further expansion of population and even more prosperity to the town but all was not positive. This also brought conflict and brawls among scholars, some of which have been documented.