The Sorbonne has its origins in the school founded in 1253 at the University of Paris by Robert de Sorbon, named after a village in the Ardennes. Sorbon was the chaplain and confessor of King St. Louis. The king confirmed the foundation in 1257. It taught theology mainly to poor students and has grown rapidly. Paris became a major cultural and scientific center in Europe since the thirteenth century with over 20,000 students.
In 1469, it was at the Sorbonne that installed the first printing machine in France, at the initiative of King Louis XI, the prior of the Sorbonne, Jean Heynlin and its librarian, Guillaume Fichet.
Cardinal Richelieu, who was student at the Sorbonne in 1606-1607, became headmaster in 1622 after the death of Cardinal Harley. He begins renovating buildings that now have a beautiful chapel that contains his tomb.
Under the French Revolution, the buildings are closed to students in 1791 and the Sorbonne is dissolved with the Universities of Paris and the provinces as a result of the law abolishing the Chapelier corporations. In 1794, the chapel is transformed into a temple of the goddess Reason. Napoleon Bonaparte transforms the site into artists studios.
From 1806, Napoleon reorganized the entire French education system, and calls it the Imperial University, founded in Paris with five faculties: the Faculty of Sciences, the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Theology, the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Medicine. The Sorbonne became the seat of the first three faculties and the Rector of the Academy of Paris. At the Restoration, the Duc de Richelieu, Prime Minister of Louis XVIII, wants to honor the memory of the Cardinal by making the Sorbonne one of the greatest places of learning in the world. He built an amphitheater of 1,200 seats. Prestigious professors, such as François Guizot and Victor Cousin, provide for the education.
The reconstruction of buildings are done in the seventeenth century because it is too cramped and uncomfortable, and several times during the nineteenth century this is done as well. The work is entrusted to the architect Henri Paul Nénot during the third republic. The demolition of buildings is carried out between 1884 and 1894 while the first stone of the new building was laid in 1885. The first part of the building was inaugurated in 1889 for the centenary of the French Revolution by President Sadi Carnot. The whole work is completed in 1901. Meanwhile, the teaching of Catholic theology is abolished by an Act of 1885. On 23 June 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded at the Sorbonne the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which gave birth to the modern Olympic Games.
The University of Paris is recreated in 1895 by group of five faculties and the Sorbonne became the seat of the University. The Sorbonne is famous worldwide as one of the finest institutions of learning.
Histoire des universités de Paris