Paris, France | C.1270

Photo Credit: Sam Jemai

In the Latin Quarter of Paris, the historic Sorbonne serves as the face of an institution whose history spans 800 years. Founded at the very beginning of the 13th century, the Sorbonne as an institution has survived in some form or another ever since.

The school began as a way to challenge the teachings of the school at Notre Dame. A guild of teachers established their own rules and statutes into a new “university,” based out of various buildings on the left bank of the Seine. Theologian, Robert de Sorbonne, established a Faculty of Theology, called “Sorbonne College,” which gained royal recognition in 1257.

The various colleges became the University of Paris, and grew in popularity and influence over the course of the next several centuries. An attempt was made in the 17th century to unite the various outposts of the college, but the University remained spread out. 

Suppressed by the French Revolution, reopened by Napoleon, closed again in 1882,  and reorganized and reopened in 1896, the University at last sought a permanent premise. This change was accompanied by several historic changes in the school, including the democratization of the student body, creation of research laboratories, and enrollment of women. The Arts and Sciences department moved into the new building, named the “Sorbonne,” in 1901. 

The University of Paris was divided into 13 separate universities in 1970. Today, these universities are managed by the Chancellerie des Universit’s de Paris, with offices in the Sorbonne. The historic building houses part or all of several higher education and research institutions.

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