Sorbonne, Robert De

, founder of the celebrated college called after him, was born October 9, 1201, at Sorbonne, otherwise Sorbon, a little village of Rhetelois in the diocese of Rheinis, whence he had his name. His family was poor and obscure, and not of the blood royal as Dupleix imagined. He distinguished himself as a student at Paris, and after having taken a doctor’s degree, devoted his whole attention to preaching and religious conferences, by which he soon became so celebrated that St. Louis wished to hear him. This prince immediately conceived the highest esteem for Sorbonne, invited him to his own table, took great pleasure in his conversation, and in order to have him more constantly about his person, appointed him his chaplain and confessor. Robert, being made canon of Cambray about 1251, and reflecting on the pains it had cost him to obtain a doctor’s degree, determined to facilitate the acquisition of learning to poor scholars. For this purpose he judged that the most convenient and efficacious plan would be to form a society of secular ecclesiastics, who, living in a community, and having the necessaries of life provided for them, should be wholly employed in study, and teach gratis. All his friends approved the design, and offered to assist him both with their fortunes and their advice. With their assistance, Robert de Sorbonne founded, in 1253, the celebrated college which | bears his name. He then assembled able professors, those most distinguished for learning and piety, and lodged his community in the rue des deux portes, opposite to the palace des Thermes. Such was the origin f the famous college of Sorbonne, which proved the model of all others, there having been no society in Europe before that time where the seculars lived and taught in common, ‘i he founder had two objects in view wi tins establishment, theology and the arts; but as his predilection was to the former, he composed his society principally of doctors and bachelors in divinity. Some have said that his original foundation was only for sixteen poor scholars (boursiers) or fellows; but it appears by his statutes that from the first establishment, it consisted of doctors, bachelor-fellows, bachelors not fellows, and poor students as at present, or at least lately. The number of fellows was not limited, but depended on the state of the revenues. The number in the founder’s time appears to have been about thirty, and he ordered that there should be no other members of his college than guests and associates (hospites et socii), who might be chosen from any country or nation whaieu-r. A guest, or perhaps as we should call him, a commoner, was required to be a bachelor, to maintain a thesis, tailed, from the founder’s name, Robertine, and was to be admitted by a majority of votes after three different scrutinies. These hospites remained part of the establishment until the last, were maintained and lodged in the house like the rest of the doctors and bachelors, had a right to study in the library (though without possessing a key), and enjoyed all other rights and privileges, except that they had no vote in the assemblies, and were obliged to quit the house on becoming doctors. For an associate, Socius, it was necessary, besides the Robertine thesis, to read a course of philosophical lectures gratis. In 1764, when the small colleges were united with that of Louis-le-grand, the course of philosophy was discontinued, and a thesis substituted in its place, called the second Robertine.

As to the fellowships, they were granted to those only among the Socii who had not forty livres, of Paris money, per annum, either from benefices or paternal inheritance; and when they became possessed of that income, they ceased to be fellows. A fellowship was worth about five sous and a half per week, and was held ten years. At the end of seven years all who held them were strictly | examined, and if any one appeared incapable of teaching, preaching, or being useful to the public in some oilier way, he was deprived of his t<-!! /wship. Yet, as the founder was far from wishing to exclude the rich from his college, but, on the contrary, sought to inspire them with a taste for learning, and to revive a knowledge of the sciences among the clergy, he admitted associates, who were not fellows, “Socii uon Bursales.” These were subject to the same examinations and exercises as the Socii, with this only difference, that they paid fn - e sols and a half weekly to the honse, a sum eqnal to that which the fellows received. All the Socii bore and still bear the title of “Doctors or Bachelors of the House and Society of Sorbonne,” whereas the Hospites have only the appellation of “Doctors or Bachelors of the House of Sorbonne.” Their founder ordered that every thing should be managed and regulated by the Socii, and that there should be neither superior nor principal among them. Accord’ngly he forbade the doctors to treat the bachelors as pupils, or the bachelors to treat the doctors as masters, whence the ancient Sorbonists used to say, “We do not live together as doctors and bachelors, nor as masters and pupils; but we live as associates and equals.” In consequence of this equality, no monk of whatever order, has at any time been admitted “Socius of Sorbonne;” and from the beginning of the seventeenth century, whoever is received into the society takes an oath on the gospels, ’ That he has no intention of entering any society or secular congregation, the members of which live in common under the direction of one superior, and that if after being admitted into the society of Sorbonne, he should change his mind, and enter any such other community, he will acknowledge himself from that time, and by this single art, to have forfeited all privileges of the society, as well active as passive, and that he will neither do nor undertake any thing contrary to the present regulation.“Robert de Sorbonne permitted the doctors and bachelors to take poor scholars, whom he wished to receive benefit from his house; and great numbers of these poor scholars proved very eminent men. The first professors in the Sorbonne were William de Saint Amour, Odon de Douai, Gerard de Rheims, Laurence the Englishman, Gerard ^‘Abbeville, &c. They taught theology gratis, according to the founder’s intention; and from 1253, to the revolution, | there have been always six professors at least, who gave lectures on the different branches of that science gratis, even before the divinity professorships were established. Fellowships were given to the poor professors, that is, to those whose incomes did not amount to forty livres; but it appears from the registers of the Sorbonne, that the first professors above mentioned, were very rich, consequently they were not fellows. Robert de Sorbonne ordered that there should always be some doctors in his college who applied particularly to the study of morality and casuistry; whence the Sorbonne has been consulted on such points ever since his time from all parts of the kingdom. He appointed different offices for the government of his college. The first is that of the Proviseur, who was always chosen from among the most eminent persons. Next to him is the Fn‘ciu’, chosen from the Socii bachelors, who presided in the assemblies of the society, at the Robertine acts, at the reading of the Holy Scriptures, at meals, and at the Sorboniques, or acts of the licentiates, for which he fixed the day; he also made two public speeches, one at the first, the other at the last of these. The keys of the gate were delivered up to him every night, and he was the first person to sign all the acts. The other offices are those of” Senieur, Conscripteur, Procureurs, Professors, Librarian, &c.“There is every reason to believe that the Sorbonne, from its foundation, contained thirty-six apartments, and it was doubtless in conformity to this first plan that no more were added when cardinal Richelieu rebuilt it in the present magnificent style. One, however, was afterwards added, making thirty-seven, constantly occupied by as many doctors and bachelors. After Robert de Sorbonne had founded his divinity college, he obtained a confirmation of it from the pope, and it was authorized by letters patent from St. Louis, uho had before given him, or exchanged with him, some houses necessary for that establishment in 1256, and 1258. He then devoted himself to the promotion of learning and piety in his college, and with success, for it soon produced such excellent scholars as spread its fame throughout Europe. Legacies and donations now flowed in from every quarter, which enabled the Sorbonists to study at their ease. The founder had aLvays a particular partiality for those who were poor, for although his society contained some very rich doctors, as appears from the registers and other monumeiHs remaining | in the archives of the Sorbonne, yet his establishment had the poor principally in view, the greatest part of its revenues being appropriated to their studies and maintenance. He would even have his college called” the House of the Poor,“which gave rise to the form used by the Sorbonne bachelors, when they appear as respondents, or maintain theses in quality of Antique; and hence also we read on many Mss. that they belong to the” Pauvrcs Matures de Sorbonne.“The founder, not satisfied with providing sufficient revenues for his college, took great pains to establish a library. From the ancient catalogue of the Sorbonne library drawn up in 1289 and 1290, it appears to have consisted at that time of above a thousand volumes; but the collection increased so fast, that a new catalogue became necessary two years after, i. e. in 1292, and again in 1338, at which time the Sorbonne library was perhaps the finest in France. All the books of whatever value were chained to the shelves, and accurately ranged according to their subjects, beginning with grammar, the belles lettres, &c. The catalogues are made in the same manner, and the price of each book is marked in them. These Mss. are still in the house. Robert de Sorbonne (very different from other founders, who begin by laying down rules, and then make it their whole care to enforce the observance of them,) did not attempt to settle any statutes till he had governed his college above eighteen years, and then prescribed only such customs as he had before established, and of which the utility and wisdom were confirmed to him by long experience. Hence it is that no attempt towards reformation or change has ever been made in the Sorbonne; all proceeds according to the ancient methods and rules, and the experience of five centuries has proved that the constitution of that house is well adapted to its purposes, and none of the French colleges since founded have supported themselves in so much regularity and splendour. Robert de Sorbonne having firmly established his society for theological studies, added to it a college for polite literature and philosophy. For this purpose he. bought of William de Cambrai, canon of S. Jean de Maurienne, a house near the Sorbonne, and there founded the college tie Culvi, in 1271. This college, which was also called” the little Sorbonne,“became very celebrated by the great men xvho were educated there, and subsisted till 1636, when it was demolished by cardinal Richelieu’s order, | and the chapel of the Sorbocne huilt upon the same spot. The cardinal had, however, engaged to erect another, which should belong equally to the house, and be contiguous to it; but his death put a stop to this plan: and to fulfil his promise in some degree, the family of Richelieu united the college du Plessis to the Sorbonne in 1648. Robert de Sorbonne had been canon of Paris from 1258, and became so celebrated as to be frequently consulted even by princes, and chosen for their arbiter on some important occasions.’ He bequeathed all his property, which was very considerable, to the society of Sorbonne, and died at Paris, August 15, 1274, aged seventy-three, leaving several works in Latin. The principal are, a treatise on” Conscience,“another on” Confession,“and” The Way to Paradise,“all which are printed in the” Bibl. Patrum." He wrote also other things, which remain in ms. in the library. The house and society of Sorbonne is one of the four parts of the faculty of theology at Paris, but has its peculiar revenues, statutes, assemblies, and prerogatives. 1


Dict. Hist. de L’Avocat.