Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The College of Sorbonne

A university meeting
Today is the birthday of the founder of the Sorbonne. The Collège of Sorbonne is arguably the best-known college in France, its name becoming synonymous with excellence, especially in the field of theology. It was founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon.

Robert de Sorbon (9 October 1201-15 August 1274) was born in a lower-class family in the Champagne-Ardennes region of northeast France, a wild part of the country prone to spawn legends and tales of adventure. Robert joined the church and studied at Reims and Paris. His devout bearing brought him to the attention of Louis IX, and he was named canon of Cambrai (next door to the Ardennes region) in 1251.

He became a teacher in 1253; in 1257 he created a college in Paris which he called Maison de Sorbonne [House of Sorbon] to teach theology to students who could not otherwise afford a university education. The Maison grew in popularity, however, and was endorsed by the King and by Pope Alexander IV (previously mentioned here and here). The College of Sorbonne grew to become the heart of the University of Paris (which produced such lights as Jean Buridan as well as conflicts). Sorbon became its chancellor until his death in 1274.

Sorbon created an academic environment that was (in the words of one scholar) "as opposed to mere hostel foundations and elementary forms of collegial living."
... Robert of Sorbon, formulated the central idea of the future college system in exemplary fashion: vivere socialiter et collegialiter, et moraliter, et scholariter*—a formulation which implies the existence of a study community organized in the form of a brotherhood and living together in regulated and moral fashion. [P. Glorieux, Les Origines du collège de Sorbon, quoted in A History of the University in Europe: Volume 1, Universities in the Middle Ages]
Among the students were Pope Clement VI and Nicholas Oresme.

*[roughly] "To live socially and collegially and morally and scholarly"

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