The Illuminati, a secret society dedicated to the goals of the radical Enlightenment, is founded in Ingolstadt.

In 1776, together with a number of senior students in Ingolstadt, Adam Weishaupt (1748–1830), godson of Johann Adam von Ickstatt and Professor of Canon Law, founded a secret society whose members referred to themselves as “Perfectibilists” and subsequently “Illuminati”. The society was dedicated to the ideals of the radical wing of the Enlightenment. Its ultimate goal was to foster, by means of a program of education and surveillance, the development of an elite body of men that would eventually take over all key positions in the State. In this way, the group hoped to subvert the hegemony of the territorial princes.In its early years, the society grew rapidly, but by the middle of the 1780s its popularity was in decline, and in 1785 Weishaupt lost his professorship in Ingolstadt as a result of the disclosure of the society’s existence. Shortly afterwards, the Elector Karl Theodor proscribed the Illuminati and the Freemasons. In 1799 Karl Theodor’s successor, Max IV Joseph, chose Maximilian von Montgelas, a former adherent of the Illuminati, as his chief minister. This led to the rehabilitation of many ex-Illuminati, and some later became professors at Ingolstadt University, which was moved to Landshut in the year following Montgelas’ appointment.


  1. Historischer Druck von Adam Weishaupt, dem Gründer des Illuminatenordens
  2. Foto der historischen Deckenverzierung vom Illuminatensaal in Ingolstadt

Adam Weishaupt, founder of the Illuminati Order.

© Stadtarchiv Ingolstadt

The ceiling of the Illuminatensaal in Ingolstadt, where the secret society’s members held their meetings.

© Konstantin Dobeleit

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