Sorbon, Robert de
SORBON, ROBERT DE
Theologian and founder of the Sorbonne, first endowed college of the University of Paris; b. Sorbon, near Rethel, Champagne, France, Oct. 9, 1201; d. Paris, Aug. 15, 1274. He became a master theologian c. 1236, and as a master regent taught at the University of Paris from 1254 to 1274. His teaching career covered the period in which secular and religious teachers engaged in fiery discussions concerning religious perfection (william of saint–amour and gerard of abbeville, 1254–56), the great school strike, and Latin averroism (siger de bra bant). Robert was a contemporary and colleague of thomas aquinas, bonaventure, albert the great, and giles of rome. Named chaplain of Cambrai (c. 1250) and in 1258 at Notre Dame de Paris, he belonged to the circle of friends of Louis IX, who regarded him as a man of great wisdom and chose him as his confessor. J. de Joinville has preserved his memory in a series of vignettes that give evidence of his simplicity and kindliness.
Among his works are a number of frequently revised treatises that deal with moral and spiritual matters rather than with learned speculation: De conscientia, De tribus dietis, De matrimonio, De confessione, and De saporibus (unpublished). He also left about 85 remarkably simple but concrete sermons delivered between 1260 and 1265. Robert de Sorbon's renown, however, does not stem from his works. Having himself experienced the difficulties of poor students in the pursuit of theological studies, he undertook the foundation of a college for "poor lay theology students" that was not to be a mere student hostel but a true house of studies such as those provided by the Dominicans and Franciscans. His project won the interest of the king, the bishops, and even the pope, and he opened the college in October 1257. After a well–organized search for suitable property, he bought almost all the houses (62 at the time of his death) in the neighborhood of Rue Coupe Gueule, a site still occupied by the Sorbonne. He gave the institution carefully planned statutes that provided for the recruitment, common life, and studies of the students who were to live collegialiter, socialiter, moraliter, scholariter, and to participate in the various duties and responsibilities of the house under the direction of the headmaster. Master Robert's college, which usually numbered about 30 theology students, soon became the center of attraction at the Faculty of Theology. The large classrooms conducive to the meetings and scholarly discussions characteristic of the Sorbonne, and the library open to outsiders, contributed to its growth and soon made its name synonymous with the Faculty of Theology and its professors, the arbitrators of orthodoxy.
Bibliography: p. glorieux, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et. al. 14.2:2883–85. p. glorieux, Répertoire des maîtres en théologie de Paris au XIII e siècle 1:340–342. a. l. gabriel, "Robert de Sorbonne," Revue de l'Université d'Ottawa 23 (1953) 473–514.