Sorbonne in Paris
The Sorbonne is an edifice of the Latin Quarter, in Paris, France, which has been the historical house of the former University of Paris. Nowadays, it houses several higher education and research institutions such as Panthéon-Sorbonne University, , Paris-Sorbonne University, Paris Descartes University, the École Nationale des Chartes and the École pratique des hautes études.
The name is commonly used to refer to this historic University of Paris or one of its successor institutions (see below), but this is a recent usage, and "Sorbonne" has actually been used with different meanings over the centuries. For information on the historic University of Paris and the present universities, which are its successor institutions or the Collège de Sorbonne, please refer to the relevant articles.
The Collège de Sorbonne
The name is derived from the Collège de Sorbonne, founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon as one of the first significant colleges of the medieval University of Paris. The university as such predates the college by about a century, and minor colleges had been founded already in the late 12th century. During the 16th century, the Sorbonne became a focal point of the intellectual struggle between Catholics and Protestants. The University served as a major stronghold of Catholic conservative attitudes, and as such conducted a bitter struggle against king Francis I's policy of relative tolerance towards the French Protestants - except for a brief period in 1533 when the University was placed under Protestant control.
The Collège de Sorbonne was suppressed during the French revolution, reopened by Napoleon in 1808 and finally closed in 1882. This was only one of the many colleges of the University of Paris that existed until the French revolution. Hastings Rashdall, in The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (1895), which is still a standard reference on the topic, lists some 70 colleges of the university from the Middle Ages alone; some of these were short-lived and disappeared already before the end of the medieval period, but others were founded in the Early modern period, like the Collège des Quatre-Nations and Ecole supérieure Robert De Sorbon.
The Paris Faculty of Theology
With time, the college came to be the centre of theological studies and "Sorbonne" was frequently used as a synonym for the Paris Faculty of Theology despite being only one of many colleges of the university.
Following months of conflicts between students and authorities at the University of Paris at Nanterre, the administration shut down that university on 2 May 1968. Students at the Sorbonne University in Paris met on 3 May to protest against the closure and the threatened expulsion of several students at Nanterre. On Monday, 6 May, the national student union, the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF) — still the largest student union in France today — and the union of university teachers called a march to protest against the police invasion of Sorbonne. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched towards the Sorbonne, still sealed off by the police, who charged, wielding their batons, as soon as the marchers approached. While the crowd dispersed, some began to create barricades out of whatever was at hand, while others threw paving stones, forcing the police to retreat for a time. The police then responded with tear gas and charged the crowd again. Hundreds more students were arrested.
Negotiations broke down, and students returned to their campuses after a false report that the government had agreed to reopen them, only to discover the police still occupying the schools.
When the Sorbonne reopened, students occupied it and declared it an autonomous "people's university". In the weeks that followed, approximately 401 popular action committees were set up in Paris and elsewhere to take up grievances against the government and French society, including the Sorbonne Occupation Committee.
The Sorbonne today
In 1970, the University of Paris was divided into thirteen different universities. These universities still stand under the management of a common rectorate – the Rectorate of Paris - with offices in the Sorbonne. Four of these universities currently include the name "Sorbonne" in their names or are affiliated with the Sorbonne:
- Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris I), which also houses the observatory of the Sorbonne and the Sorbonne Law School.
- (Paris III)
- Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV)
- Paris Descartes University: Faculté des Sciences Humaines et Sociales - Sorbonne (Paris V)
These four public universities maintain facilities in the historical building of the Sorbonne. The building also houses the Rectorate of Paris, the École Nationale des Chartes, the École pratique des hautes études, the Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne and the Library of the Sorbonne.
These should not be confused with two private institutions that bear the name of their creator: College de Sorbon (in the Ardennes) and the Ecole supérieure Robert de Sorbon which specialises in VAE degrees.
Today the word Sorbonne no longer refers to the University of Paris but to the historical building located in the Latin Quarter, the 5th arrondissement of Paris.
- Sorbonne website
- Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne website (Sorbonne French Language and Civilisation Courses)
- Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University Website
- Sorbonne Graduate Business School Website (IAE de Paris 1)
- Sorbonne Law School Website
- Paris IV Paris-Sorbonne University website
- Paris — La Sorbonne historical information