The name Sorbonne ("La Sorbonne") is commonly used to refer to the historic University of Paris in Paris, France 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. 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.That was where Marie Curie was attending and her husband Pierre Curie in 1891 Then the year after they got married.

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.

The entire University of Paris

During the later part of the 19th century, the buildings of the Collège de Sorbonne were re-used for the Faculties of Sciences and Letters of what was at the time known as the "Academy of Paris", the name used for the faculties of the former University of Paris within the centralized structure known as the University of France, created in 1808 but dissolved into its constituent universities again in 1896. As a result of this, "Sorbonne" became a colloquial term for the entire University of Paris.

The use of Sorbonne for the Faculty of Theology is the usage still noted in the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) and the Catholic Encyclopedia from 1913, [CathEncy|wstitle=Sorbonne] neither of which yet indicate that the word could stand for the university as a whole. Even though neither of these early 20th century English-language encyclopedias is likely to have been up-to-date with current French usage, it still shows that this was an innovation and not yet widely spread.

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;
* (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.

Today the word Sorbonne no longer refers to the University of Paris but to the historical building located in the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.


In 1894 the International Olympic Committee was born in the rooms of this university.

In the 1986 hit "Opportunities (let's make lots of money)", the English Pop duo Pet Shop Boys wrote and performed the verse:

"You can tell I'm educated, I studied at the Sorbonne.
Doctored in mathematics, I could have been a don.
I can program a computer, choose the perfect time.
If you've got the inclination, I have got the crime."
The 1969 hit "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarstedt includes the line:
"I've seen all your qualifications
You got from the Sorbonne"


External links

* [ Sorbonne website] (in French)
* [ Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne website] (Sorbonne French Language and Civilisation Courses)
* [ Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University Website]
* [ Paris IV Paris-Sorbonne University website]
* [ Paris — La Sorbonne] historical information

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sorbonne — • This name is frequently used in ordinary parlance as synonymous with the faculty of theology of Paris Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Sorbonne     Sorbonne      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • sorbonne — (la) établissement public d enseignement supérieur, situé à Paris (Quartier latin). V. Sorbon. ⇒SORBONNE, subst. fém. I. Arg., vx. Cerveau, esprit, tête en tant que siège de la pensée. Quand il a mis quelque chose dans sa sorbonne, le diable ne… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Sorbonne —   [sɔr bɔn] die, , Anfang des 13. Jahrhunderts als Zusammenschluss der Magister und Scholaren entstandene und bis zur Neugliederung (1968) einzige Universität in Paris, der Mittelpunkt des Quartier Latin. Neben ihr entstanden allmählich… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Sorbonne — Sorbonne, die altberühmte Theologenschule in Paris, gegründet 1254 von Robert de Sorbon (geb. 1201 zu Rethel in der Champagne, gest. um 1270 in Paris), Hofkaplan Ludwigs des Heiligen, bestätigt 1268 durch Papst Clemens IV. Ursprünglich Alumnat… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Sorbonne — Sorbonne, ursprünglich das im 13. Jahrh. von Robert (s.d. 40) von Sorbon in der Champagne zu Paris gestiftete Collége, um Studenten der Theologie unentgeltlich Wohnung, Kost u. Beaufsichtigung bei ihren Studien zu gewähren. Das Haus in der Straße …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Sorbonne — Sorbonne, ursprünglich eine Magisterinnung an der Pariser Universität, gestiftet um 1250 von Robert von Sorbon, später bis 1789 die theol. Fakultät das.; jetzt ein Gebäudekomplex von wissenschaftlichen Instituten nebst Universitätsbibliothek …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Sorbonne — (–bonn), ursprünglich Bildungsanstalt zu Paris für junge Weltgeistliche, 1253 von Ludwigs IX. Kaplan Sorbon gestiftet, erweiterte sich zur theologischen Fakultät der Universität zu Paris, war im 15. u. 16. Jahrh. von großer Wirksamkeit,… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Sorbonne — 1560, from Sorbon, place name in the Ardennes. Theological college in Paris founded early 13c. by Robert de Sorbon (b.1201), chaplain and confessor of Louis IX …   Etymology dictionary

  • Sorbonne — [sôr bän′; ] Fr [ sō̂r bō̂n′] n. [Fr, after the founder, Robert de Sorbon (1201 74), chaplain of Louis IX] 1. a former theological college in Paris, established about the middle of the 13th cent. 2. the University of Paris; specif., the seat of …   English World dictionary

  • Sorbonne — Pour les autres utilisations du mot Sorbonne, voir Sorbonne (homonymie). Sorbonne Lieu cinquième arrondissement de …   Wikipédia en Français