History of the Hôtel des 3 Collèges

Since the Middle Ages, the Latin Quarter has been the area of knowledge and studies. It was so named because Latin was the lingua franca of learning at the time. The hotel is situated in the very heart of an impressive network of Colleges which made Paris a major cultural and intellectual center beginning in the XIII century.

The axis formed by the Rue Cujas contains three of the most ancient and prestigious colleges of Paris :

The College of the Sorbonne was established in 1254 on the corner of Rue de la Sorbonne and Rue du Sommerard by the Canon Robert de Sorbon. It offered theology students board and lodging. The Petite Sorbonne, situated where the university is today, was established in 1271. The Paris University of Theology was based in the Sorbonne until the French Revolution. It was in the Sorbonne that the very first book was printed in France (the Espitolarum Liber by Gasparin de Bergame, 1470). Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) modernized and extended the buildings; his tomb, sculpted by Girardon, is located underneath the chapel of the Sorbonne. Sorbonne 

Cluny college

The College of Cholets was situated on what is currently 4, Rue Cujas. Established in 1292, it used to welcome students from the Amiens, Beauvais, and Senlis dioceses. It was joined to Louis-le-Grand College (formerly Clermont College) in 1763, which took over its site in 1822. Louis-le-Grand was the first school in France to receive the title of Lycée in 1802 and can boast Molière, Voltaire, Crébillon, Robespierre, Delacroix, Hugo, and Baudelaire among its famous alumni.

Established in 1261 by the Abbot of Cluny Yves de Vergy, Cluny College was situated across from the Sorbonne, on the present-day site of the Hôtel des 3 Collèges. The Cluny Order used to send its novices here to learn philosophy and theology. The teachers lived a few steps away in the Cluny Hotel (what is now the National Museum of the Middle Ages). The college church was said to be an architectural marvel worthy of comparison to the Sainte-Chapelle for its elegance and tactfulness.

Closed during the French Revolution, the church was used as a studio by David where he painted the Coronation of Napoleon.


The Cluny College's well is still visible from the lounge overlooking the groundlevel courtyard. It measures 22 metres/24 yards deep.

Cholets college

Other prestigious colleges were or still are close by, such as :

  • Harcourt College (present-day Lycée Saint-Louis) where Racine, Diderot, and Talleyrant studied.
  • Sainte-Barbe College where Ignace de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, was a student.
  • Coqueret College where Ronsard, Baïf, and Du Bellay met and created the renowned Pléiade.
  • Collège de France, established by François I and the humanist Guillaume Budé.