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History of the University

Paris has been around for more than 2000 years, and it has preserved many of its historical neighbourhoods. Most notably the Latin Quarter. The latin quarter is actually the cradle of the university of Paris, which is where it bears its name. « Latin » because the language of study was not French in the Middle Ages but Latin!

The university of Paris was first created by the king of France Philippe Auguste in the year 1200. In those days, most of its members including the teachers, were religious members. There were no assigned colleges, teachers would hold their classes in religious buildings (churches, abbeys) or in the streets. Four different subjects were taught: canonical law (religious law), medicine, theology and finally humanities. Which include grammar, rhetoric, algebra, geometry, music, astronomy.

The king of France Philippe Auguste

A new college was added to the University of Paris in 1254, it was the Sorbonne college ! It was founded by Robert de Sorbon, an esteemed member of the clergy. With the approval of the king of France, Robert created a whole infrastructure, privileging access for destitute students, creating a grant for them. All students would have to pass an exam to enter the college, including doctoral students. Because of the high academic standards Robert maintained, important members of the church and the nobility would come from all around Europe to consult the scholars on matters of religious moral.

Robert de Sorbon

Furthermore, the Sorbonne library had one of the most important collections during the Middle Ages. It was one of the sources for the diffusion of knowledge around Europe. Although it has much evolved since the Middle Ages but it is an active and public college to this day. Its main buildings can be found between the rue des Ecoles, the rue Saintt Jacques, and the boulevard Saint Michel. The best view to admire its chapel, the oldest part of the university still around today, is from the place de la Sorbonne. Also known to be the seat May 1968 protests in France.

Fun fact :

The Sorbonne boasts an important alumni. Jackie Kennedy, Simone de Beauvoir a feminist writer and existentialist philosopher and Pierre Trudeau, ex Canadian Prime Minister.

What other prestigious schools with beautiful buildings can I see in Paris?

1. The Lycée Charlemagne, nestled in the courtyard of a convent from the 17th century, right in the heart of the Marais district .

2. Lycée Henri IV, with its gorgeous bell tower, that you can see rising just behind the Pantheon of Paris in the Latin Quarter.

3. The Lycée Louis Le Grand, also in the Latin Quarter, where the much vilified character of the French Revolution, Robespierre, studied.

If you want a more in depth look at History of the University in Paris, you can follow our Latin Quarter tour.

To learn some other things about school in France, you can read our article entitled “French schools and College in Paris”.

If you want to know more about activities in Paris, don’t forget to drop us a line at !

Article written by Tobias.

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