Created in 1549 by papal bull, Reims University goes back 458 years. Its origins and a brief history of its major milestones are outlined below.
While the first French universities appeared at the end of the 12C, the founding of a university in Reims was mentioned on the occasion of Henri II's coronation, as recalled by Patrick Demouy, senior lecturer in History (URF Arts Faculty). Archbishop of Reims and a future cardinal, Charles de Lorraine requested founding of the university from the Pope when in Rome for the consistory. The papal bull establishing Reims University was promulgated on 5 January 1548. The king's letters patent followed in March of the same year but were only registered by Parliament on 29 January 1549.
The Arts faculty (at the time the University was made up of four faculties – Arts, Theology, Medicine and Law) was the first to be created at the Collège des Bons Enfants, approximately on the site of the present-day university college. The Renaissance doorway is a rare vestige from this period, flanked by children's heads known affectionately as "Jean qui rit" and "Jean qui pleure" (a play on words between laughing John/people and weeping John/people) situated in Rue Vauthier le Noir.
The Arts faculty brought together the seven liberal arts: grammar, dialectics, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. In the hands of clerics, education was shot through by religion. In the work he devoted to the Collège des Bons Enfants and from which several extracts are taken here, Abbot Ernest Cauly says: "The Cardinal's first thought was for God and religion. For him, this constituted the solid base and sure foundation of his work. Thus, his prime concern was for the religious service of Saint Patrice, which became the college chapel and centre of the University.
Created by a bull of establishment, the Theology, Medicine and Law faculties took longer to be set up than the Arts faculty. The Theology faculty was the first to become operational.
Established by bull in 1550, the faculty of Medicine existed more in name than in reality. It was only at the beginning of the 17C that the Fournier, Beuchène and Bossumet foundations ensured that it had masters, students and premises for the faculty's courses. Finally, the Law faculty only seems to have been organised around 1568.
"Under the auspices of the Cardinal de Lorraine and the impetus of the new university", adds Abbot Ernest Cauly, quoting writer Nicolas Boucher, "Reims became a scientific and literary town. Not only did it draw an increasing number of scholars, but never were there more citizens and never was the town richer in fine, sumptuous and superb buildings, more flourishing in letters, more abundant in men of knowledge".
"Occupied by its laws of prohibition”, notes Abbot Ernest Cauly further on, “the National Convention pushed the issue of public instruction in France to one side. Just one decree appeared on 8 March 1793, a law ordering the sale of estates belonging to colleges and other establishments of instruction, the proceeds of which would go to the State. University, colleges, academies, scientific and literary societies were all ruined by this spoliatory measure".
In the 19C, the school of medicine ensured a permanent place for higher education in Reims, providing a bridge to the rebirth that was to take place in the 1950s and 60s.
It was during the period between 1956 and 1971 that most higher education establishments were created or underwent significant extension. The medicine, pharmacy and dental schools moved to Rue Simon. Higher School of Commerce (ESC) premises were located in the Roosevelt high school. 1956 saw the opening of a School of Science opposite the School of Medicine. In 1957, the Centre Rémois was created, linked to the Centre National des Arts et Métiers (National Centre for Industrial Arts & Crafts). In 1963, Rue d'Anjou was to house the University Literary Centre which, to begin with, was simply an extension of Nancy University. Building of the Science faculty campus was begun in 1962. In 1965, the IUT (Polytechnic) saw the light of day. In the same year, brand new medicine and pharmacy faculty premises took in their first students. In 1968, the Literary Centre became the Arts faculty. During the 1970-71 university year, its students moved onto the Croix-Rouge campus and were soon to be followed by their Law and Economics counterparts. As for the Higher School of Commerce, it left the Lycée Roosevelt for premises close to the Arts and Law campus amphitheatres. A little later in 1978, odontology students in turn moved to a new school located 2, rue du Général Koenig.