A group of university buildings is situated in the area between the Boulevard Saint-Michel, the Rue des Écoles, the Rue Saint-Jacques, and the Rue Clovis. This area known as the Latin Quarter has been home to the Paris University since the 13th century.
A college founded here by Robert de Sorbonne, the chaplain of King Saint Louis, became the seat of the Theology Faculty of the Paris University. The Sorbonne remained a bastion of theology until the 18th century. In 1626, Cardinal Richelieu reconstructed the Gothic buildings of the University. However, the only old building that has survived to our days is the church built by architect Jacques Lemercier in 1635-1653, which was modeled after Baroque buildings in Rome. The elegant façade of the church is decorated with columns, pilasters and sculptures. The building is topped with a graceful dome. In the transept of the church, there is the Tomb of Cardinal Richelieu (built in 1694 by sculptor François Girardon to the design of Charles Le Brun). The other buildings of the university ensemble were built in the late 19th century.
Peter I visited the Paris University on June 3/14, 1717. His Travel Journal says: “On the 3rd day of June, in the morning, His Majesty visited the Academy where the Sorbonne professors made proposals on the unification of faith, speculating that this could be easily done”. Theologian Lawrence-Francis Boursier showed the Tsar around the University Church and the Library. When Peter began to examine Slavic manuscripts, Boursier found the moment appropriate to speak for the unification of churches. However, “the Tsar shook his head and said, laughing, that he was a soldier and did not interfere with theology”. Peter proposed that professors of the Sorbonne should prepare a memorandum for the unification of churches and promised to deliver it to the Russian bishops. In their response sent to Paris on June 15, 1718, the latter wrote that they could not decide on the matter without consent of the four Patriarchs of the East.
There is an anecdote about the Tsar’s visit to the Sorbonne, claiming that he hugged the statue on the tomb of Cardinal Richelieu and said, “I would have given half of my state to a person like you so that they would teach me how to rule the other half”.
Currently, the university buildings around the church house the Paris University III (Sorbonne Nouvelle) and the Paris University IV (Sorbonne).