University of Paris

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The Sorbonne, Paris, in a 17th century engraving

The historic University of Paris (French: Université de Paris) first appeared in the second half of the 12th century, but was in 1970 reorganized as 13 autonomous universities (University of Paris I–XIII). The university is often referred to as the Sorbonne or La Sorbonne after the collegiate institution (Collège de Sorbonne) founded about 1257 by Robert de Sorbon, but the university as such is older and was never completely centered on the Sorbonne. Of the 13 current successor universities, the first four have a presence in Sorbonne, and three include Sorbonne in their names. The 13 universities still stand under a common rectorate with offices in the Sorbonne. The Sorbonne remains one of the most famous and prestigious of universities in the world, having produced Nobel Prize winners from its faculty and student body, as well as a number of the greatest intellectuals, political theorists, scientists, engineers, doctors, theologians, and artists of the Western tradition and canon.

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The Sorbonne today, from the same point of view

Origin and organization of the medieval university

Similarly to the other of the earliest medieval universities (University of Bologna, University of Oxford, University of Salamanca), but in opposition to later ones (such as the University of Prague or the University of Heidelberg), the University of Paris was never established through a specific foundation act, such as a royal charter or papal bull. It grew up in the latter part of the 12th century around the Notre Dame Cathedral as a corporation similar to other medieval corporations, such as guilds of merchants or artisans. The medieval Latin term universitas actually had the more general meaning of a guild, and the university of Paris was known as a universitas magistrorum et scholarium (a guild of masters and scholars).

The university, which (together with that in Bologna) became the model for all later medieval universities had four faculties, of Arts, Medicine, Law and Theology. The Faculty of Arts was the lowest in rank, but also the largest as students had to graduate there to be admitted to one of the higher faculties. The students there were divided into four nationes according to language or regional origin, those of France, Normandy, Picard, and England, the last one of which later came to be known as the Alemannian (German) nation. Recruitment to each nation was wider than the names might imply and the English-German nation in fact included students from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

The Collège de Sorbonne

The Collège de Sorbonne was founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon, after whom it is named. It is also the name of its main campus in the Ve arrondissement of Paris, which now houses several universities (heirs to the former University of Paris) as well as the Paris rectorate.

It was originally created for the use of 20 theology students in 1257 as Collège de Sorbonne by Robert de Sorbon (1201-1274), a chaplain and confessor to King Louis IX of France. It quickly built a prodigious reputation as a center for learning, and by the 13th century there were as many as twenty thousand foreign students resident in the city, making Paris the capital of knowledge of the Western world. Today, foreign students still make up a significant part of its campus.

The Sorbonne became the most distinguished theological institution in France and its doctors were frequently called upon to render opinions on important ecclesiastical and theological issues. In 1622-1626, Cardinal Richelieu renovated the Sorbonne (the present buildings date from this time, with restorations dating from 1885). In his honour, the chapel of the Sorbonne was added in 1637. When Richelieu died in 1642 he was placed in a tomb within this chapel.

The faculty's close association with the Church resulted in it being closed down during the French Revolution before it was reopened by Napoleon in 1808 to serve as part of the University of Paris. Between then and 1885 the Sorbonne served as the seat of the university's theology faculties and of the Académie de Paris. At the end of the 19th century, the Sorbonne became an entirely secular institution.

Other colleges

Besides the famous Collège de Sorbonne, there were other collegia, providing housing and meals to students, sometimes for those of the same geographical origin in a more restricted sense than that represented by the nations. There were 8 or 9 collegia for foreign students: The oldest one was the Danish college, the Collegium danicum or dacicum, founded in 1257. Swedish students could during the 13 and 14th centuries live in one of three Swedish colleges, the Collegium Upsaliense, the Collegium Scarense or the Collegium Lincopense, named after diocesal centres in Sweden (Uppsala, Skara and Linköping), the cathedral schools of which the scholars had presumably attended before travelling to Paris. The German College, Collegium alemanicum is mentioned as early as 1345, the Scottish college or Collegium scoticum was founded in 1325. The Lombard college or Collegium lombardicum was founded in the 1330s. The Collegium constantinopolitanum was, according to a tradition, founded in the 13th century to facilitate a remerger of the eastern and western churches. It was later reorganized as a French institution, the Collège de la Marche-Winville.

Student revolt and reorganization

In 1968 it was the starting point of the cultural revolution commonly known as "the French May" (see also situationism), resulting in the closing of the university for only the second time in history (the first having been the invasion by the German army of 1940).

The University of Paris has since been reorganized into several autonomous universities and schools, some of which still carry the Sorbonne name. The historical campus, located in the Quartier Latin, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, featuring mural paintings by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, was split for use between several of the universities of Paris and the Rector's services.

Present universities

The present thirteen universities are:

See also

External link

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