Foundation of the University of Paris (January 15, 1200)

Foundation of the University of Paris (January 15, 1200)

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The first two decades of the 13th century saw the birth all over Europe (in the Christian West to be more precise) a certain number of universities, at Paris, Bologna, Oxford, Montpellier, Salamanca, ... They are a turning point in the history of education, being marked by real autonomy, unlike the schools of the monasteries, for example. They adopt their own rules, relatively independent of political and religious authorities. Moreover, their growth is parallel to that of the cities in this period of "beautiful Middle Ages".

The charter of Philippe Auguste

If the University of Paris does not exist as such, teachers and students are already gathered in the capital, which has nearly a hundred thousand inhabitants, within the theological school of Notre-Dame, or even of private schools. Tensions and brawls with the bourgeoisie are numerous, debates heated, and this threatens security in a Paris that the king has decided to promote and cherish. Philippe Auguste therefore decides to take matters in hand and grants in a charter of January 15, 1200, the "ecclesiastical court" to all the members of the corporation. universitas magistrorum and scholarium Parisiensis, appeared at the end of the previous century. This is the official birth of theUniversity of Paris.

The University of Paris, the most prestigious in Christendom

The Philippe Auguste charter grants members of the University the specific status of cleric : they are exempt from taxes and military duties, and depend only on ecclesiastical tribunals. Whoever lays a hand on them risks excommunication! It was recognized by Pope Innocent III (a former student) in 1215, a papal decision confirmed in 1231 by Gregory IX. It was Robert de Courçon who organized it, by laying down its statutes: the right to demand from its members an oath of obedience and to exclude recalcitrant; right to fix the organization of education and to recruit teachers, to elect officials to ensure the application of its statutes and to represent it before the other powers, and especially the right to strike in the event of violation of these statutes by the king (the 15th century will be crossed by numerous strikes, often of several months)! Education is divided into four faculties (canon law, medicine, theology and liberal arts) and students housed in colleges.

The University of Paris will see its influence continue to grow throughout its history, often at the forefront of ideas and rebellious at the political level (especially in the 15th century), until it submits to Louis XIV and rejects the ideas of Descartes and the Enlightenment, falling into a certain conservatism… The Revolution will complete the “old” University, and it will be necessary to wait until the end of the XIXth century to see it reborn.


- N. CHEVASSUS-AU-LOUIS, "The University: laboratory of medieval thought", in Les Cahiers de Science et Vie, n ° 114, December 2009, p 24-31.

- F. MENANT, H. MARTIN, B. MERDRIGNAC, M. CHAUVIN, The Capetians: history and dictionary (987-1328), Robert Laffont, 1999.

- J. FLORI, Philippe Auguste, Tallandier, 2007.