Robert de Sorbon, the founder

The Sorbonne University lies in the heart of the Latin Quarter, the students district on the Rive Gauche.

Sorbonne in Latin Quarter

It’s not the district’s oldest school, but without any doubt the most prestigious.

The private chaplain of Louis XI, Robert de Sorbon founded the college in 1257 to teach theology to talented but poor students.

Placed under royal patronage, Sorbon’s school soon became very influential. 

Many graduates indeed took up position in the political or religious polemics that marked French history.

For example, they heartily debated on the Great Schism in the 14th century, the trial of Joan of Arc a century later or the excommunication of the Jesuits in 1672!

However, this interference was not always popular and eventually resulted in the gradual decline Sorbonne University’s authority.

Cardinal Richelieu rebuilt La Sorbonne University

Sorbonne University on Rue des Ecoles
Facade on Rue des Ecoles

In the 17th century, Cardinal Richelieu, the private counsellor of King Louis XIII, demolished the old Sorbonne and rebuilt it.

However, he spared Sainte-Ursule Church from demolition.

The white marble mausoleum, where he was later laid to rest, was placed in the college church.

The Sorbonne University had already lost all influence when the French Revolution broke out in 1789, but Napoleon revived it in 1808 when he founded the University of Paris.

He commissioned the architect Nenot with its reconstruction.

Nenot’s Sorbonne University spreads over an entire block and includes 22 amphitheatres, exam and lecture rooms!

Rue Saint-Jacques, Rue Cujas, Rue des Ecoles and Rue de la Sorbonne encompass the prestigious college and turn it almost into a fortress.

Place and Rue de la Sorbonne

The Rue de la Sorbonne is one of the district’s oldest streets as it dates from the foundation of Sorbon’s college.

Sorbonne Chapel facade in the college main courtyard
Chapel facade in the college main courtyard

The Place de la Sorbonne was created in the 17th century, during Richelieu’s  reconstruction.

However, it was entirely re-laid out in the last decades and made pedestrian. 

Terraced cafes and bookshops where students and tourists happily mingle border this lively square.

If you look on the ground, you’ll see lighter cobble stones.

They mark the lay-out of the ancient Roman district that spread on the Latin Quarter 2000 years ago.

There is also the remains of a well, disused of course.

Directions: 5th District
Metro: Cluny-La Sorbonne on Line 10
Coordinates: Lat 48.848471 – Long 2.342947

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