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University of Paris

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The University of Paris originated in the 12th century. In 1970 it was reorganised as 13 autonomous universities (University of Paris I–XIII). The university is often referred to as the Sorbonne or La Sorbonne after the collegiate institution (Collège de Sorbonne) founded about 1257 by Robert de Sorbon. However, the university itself was older and was never completely centred on the Sorbonne. Of the thirteen current successor universities, the first four have a presence in the historical Sorbonne building, and three include "Sorbonne" in their names.

Origin and early organization

Similar to the other early medieval universities (University of Bologna, University of Padova, University of Oxford), the University of Paris was formally established after its beginning by a royal charter or papal bull. It grew up in the second half of the twelfth century around the Notre Dame Cathedral as a corporation similar to other medieval corporations, such as guilds of merchants or artisans. The medieval Latin term universitas had the more general meaning of a guild. The university of Paris was known as a universitas magistrorum et scholarium (a guild of masters and scholars). Later universities such as the Charles University in Prague or the University of Heidelberg had different origins.

The university had four Faculties: Arts, Medicine, Law, and Theology. The Faculty of Arts was the lowest in rank, but also the largest as students had to graduate there to be admitted to one of the higher faculties. The students were divided into four nationes according to language or regional origin: France, Normandy, Picardy, and England. The last came to be known as the Alemannian (German) nation. Recruitment to each nation was wider than the names might imply: the English-German nation included students from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. For more details see 'The four nations' section below.

The faculty and nation system of the University of Paris (along with that of the University of Bologna) became the model for all later medieval universities.

The original schools

Three schools were especially famous at Paris, the palatine or palace school, the school of Notre-Dame, and that of Sainte-Geneviève Abbey. The decline of royalty brought about the decline of the first. The other two were ancient but did not have much visibility in the early centuries. The glory of the palatine school doubtless eclipsed theirs, until it completely gave way to them. These two centres were much frequented and many of their masters were esteemed for their learning.

The first renowned professor at the school of Ste-Geneviève was Hubold, who lived in the tenth century. Not content with the courses at Liège, he continued his studies at Paris, entered or allied himself with the chapter of Ste-Geneviève, and attracted many pupils via his teaching. Distinguished professors from the school of Notre-Dame in the eleventh century include Lambert, disciple of Filbert of Chartres; Drogo of Paris; Manegold of Germany; Anselm of Laon. These two schools attracted scholars from every country and produced many illustrious men, among whom were: St. Stanislaus of Szczepanów, Bishop of Kraków; Gebbard, Archbishop of Salzburg; St. Stephen, third Abbot of Cîteaux; Robert d'Arbrissel, founder of the Abbey of Fontevrault etc. Three other men who added prestige to the schools of Notre-Dame and Ste-Geneviève were William of Champeaux, Peter Abelard, and Peter Lombard.

Humanistic instruction comprised grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (trivium and quadrivium). To the higher instruction belonged dogmatic and moral theology, whose source was the Scriptures and the Patristic Fathers. It was completed by the study of Canon law.

The school of St-Victor arose to rival those of Notre-Dame and Ste-Geneviève. It was founded by William of Champeaux when he withdrew to the Abbey of St-Victor. Its most famous professors are Hugh of St. Victor and Richard of St. Victor.

The plan of studies expanded in the schools of Paris, as it did elsewhere. A Bolognese compendium of canon law called the Decretum Gratiani brought about a division of the theology department. Hitherto the discipline of the Church had not been separate from so-called theology; they were studied together under the same professor. But this vast collection necessitated a special course, which was undertaken first at Bologna, where Roman law was taught. In France, first Orléans and then Paris erected chairs of canon law. Before the end of the twelfth century, the Decretals of Gerard (or Girard) La Pucelle, Mathieu d'Angers, and Anselm (or Anselle) of Paris, were added to the Decretum Gratiani. However, civil law was not included at Paris.

In the twelfth century, medicine began to be publicly taught at Paris: the first professor of medicine in Paris records is Hugo, physicus excellens qui quadrivium docuit.

Two things were necessary to be a professor: knowledge and appointment. Knowledge was proved by examination, the appointment came from the examiner himself, who was the head of the school, and was known as scholasticus, capiscol, and chancellor. This was called the licence or faculty to teach. The licence had to be granted freely. No one could teach without it; on the other hand, the examiner could not refuse to award it when the applicant deserved it.

The School of St-Victor, which shared the obligations as well as the immunities of the abbey, conferred the licence in its own right; the school of Notre-Dame depended on the diocese, that of Ste-Geneviève on the abbey or chapter. The diocese and the abbey or chapter, through their chancellor, gave professorial investiture in their respective territories where they had jurisdiction.

Besides Notre-Dame, Ste-Geneviève, and St-Victor, there were several schools on the "Island" and on the "Mount". "Whoever", says Crevier "had the right to teach might open a school where he pleased, provided it was not in the vicinity of a principal school." Thus a certain Adam, who was of English origin, kept his "near the Petit Pont"; another Adam, Parisian by birth, "taught at the Grand Pont which is called the Pont-au-Change" (Hist. de l'Univers. de Paris, I, 272).

The number of students in the school of the capital grew constantly, so that lodgings were insufficient. French students included princes of the blood, sons of the nobility, and the most distinguished youths of the kingdom. The courses at Paris were considered so necessary as a completion of studies that many foreigners flocked to them. Popes Celestine II, Adrian IV and Innocent III studied at Paris, and Alexander III sent his nephews there.

Illustrious German and British students included Otto of Freisingen, Cardinal Conrad, Archbishop of Mainz, St. Thomas of Canterbury, and John of Salisbury; while Ste-Geneviève became practically the seminary for Denmark. The chroniclers of the time called Paris the city of letters par excellence, placing it above Athens, Alexandria, Rome, and other cities: "At that time", we read in the Chroniques de St-Denis, "there flourished at Paris philosophy and all branches of learning, and there the seven arts were studied and held in such esteem as they never were at Athens, Egypt, Rome, or elsewhere in the world" ("Les gestes de Philippe-Auguste"). Poets said the same thing in their verses, and they compared it to all that was greatest, noblest, and most valuable in the world.

File:Sorbona in snow.jpg
The Sorbonne covered in snow

Soon, the university required greater organization to maintain order among the students and define the relations of the professors. First, the professors formed an association, for according to Matthew Paris, John of Celles, twenty-first Abbot of St Albans, England, was admitted as a member of the teaching corps of Paris after he had followed the courses (Vita Joannis I, XXI, abbat. S. Alban). The masters as well as the students were divided according to national origin, for as the same historian states, Henry II, King of England, in his difficulties with St. Thomas of Canterbury, wished to submit his cause to a tribunal composed of professors of Paris, chosen from various provinces (Hist. major, Henry II, to end of 1169). This was probably the beginnings of that division according to "nations" which was later to play an important part in the university. After a decision made by Celestine III, both professors and students had the privilege of being amenable only to the ecclesiastical courts, not to civil courts. Other decisions dispensed them from residence in case they possessed benefices and permitted them to receive their revenues.

The three schools of Notre-Dame, Ste-Geneviève, and St-Victor may be regarded as the triple cradle of the Universitas scholarium, which included masters and students; hence the name University. Heinrich Denifle and some others hold that this honour is exclusive to the school of Notre-Dame (Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis), but the reasons do not seem convincing. He excludes St-Victor because, at the request of the abbot and the religious of St-Victor, Gregory IX in 1237 authorized them to resume the interrupted teaching of theology. But the university was in large part founded about 1208, as is shown by a Bull of Innocent III. Consequently the schools of St-Victor might well have furnished their contingent towards its formation. Secondly, Denifle excludes the schools of Ste-Geneviève because there had been no interruption in the teaching of the liberal arts. Now this is far from proved, and moreover, it seems incontestable that theology also had never ceased to be taught, which is sufficient for our point. Besides, the chancellor of Ste-Geneviève continued to give degrees in arts, something he would have ceased to have done when the university was organized if his abbey had no share in its organization. And while the name Universitas scholarium is quite intelligible on the basis of the common opinion, it is incompatible with the recent (Denifle's) view, according to which there would have been schools outside the university.