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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

The University of Paris


13-14th century


Medieval Paris was full of religious buildings.

By the 14th century, there were more than 80 churches, abbeys and monasteries!

Abbeys owned huge amounts of land on the Left Bank in particular.

They would attract thousands of students, from across Europe, who came to train to become men of the Church or increasingly state administrators.

These students would roam the streets and inns of Paris - instantly recognisable thanks to their distinct tunics and "tonsures", the shaving of their scalps.

There are stories of students getting in trouble with local residents.

Part of the problem was that students did not depend on local law, but were under the jurisdiction of the Pope!

Two of the most famous abbeys were Sainte Geneviève and Saint Germain des Prés ("Saint Germain of the fields").

Their towers are still visible at the Lycée Henri IV and in the square of Saint Germain des Prés.

On the Right Bank, today's Musée des Arts et Métiers was the abbey of Saint Martin des Champs ("Saint Martin of the fields").

There also remains the convent of the Cordeliers and the college of the Bernardins.

This period also saw the construction of Notre Dame cathedral, which began in the 11th century and took 200 years!

To learn more about Notre Dame, check out our walk : Secrets of Notre Dame.

As mentioned, many abbeys and monasteries taught students who travelled to Paris from all over Europe.

The abbeys taught theology, law, medicine, grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astrology, music....

These programs soon merged together to form one of the first universities - the University of Paris.

In order to host this influx of students, colleges (from the Latin "colligere", to assemble) were created : the College of the Germans, of the Danish, of the Swedes, of the Scots, of the Lombards...

Fun fact : the area around Saint Michel is today known as the Latin Quarter.

This comes from the Middle Ages, when most of the students spoke and were taught in Latin!

La Joconde, de Vinci (1519)


Medieval Townhouses

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