The Sorbonne Opens Its Doors


I am still learning.” —- Michelangelo




In my next life, I want to come back as a student at the Sorbonne.

Today, we stepped inside this pinnacle of education and culture usually off-limits to anyone but students and staff. This weekend all of France celebrates Journees du Patrimoine, when all government-owned buildings open their doors for free public tours.  The Sorbonne was high on my list of places to see.

Students at the Sorbonne climb gleaming marble steps with railings of filigreed wrought iron embellished with gold.  They are surrounded by sculptures and frescoes depicting the history of Paris and the establishment of its institution for higher learning, and they walk on mosaic floors. Under intricately carved gilded ceilings and dazzling chandeliers, they present their work.  They hear lectures seated on green velvet benches under a gothic rotunda, while statues of Robert du Sorbonne and Descartes look over their shoulders.

In between classes, they greet friends in a courtyard or sit on the steps of the chapel where Cardinal Richelieu is buried. The biblioteeque?  Light pours in through the tall windows that dwarf the bookcases. The walls, a cool, welcoming shade of green with ivory woodwork, display frescoes of learned men from long ago. Brass lamps with milky glass shades illuminate the scribblings of each student-researcher.

Do Sorbonne students complain about boring profs? Whine about the papers they have to write? Pull all-nighters during finals week?  Do they sign up for puff courses to pad their GPA’s? Do they cut class, and sleep in instead? Or are they so inspired by the rarified air of this institution that they work their tails off to learn, learn, learn?

My dear teacher friends, I thought of each one of you as I drank in every bit of this temple of academia. I treasure my new authentic Sorbonne sweatshirt.  Hmmmm…. wonder if they offer any scholarships for retirees from the Illinois?



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