Collège des Quatre-Nations

The Collège des Quatre-Nations ("College of the Four Nations"), also known as the Collège Mazarin after its founder, was one of the colleges of the historic University of Paris. It was founded through a bequest by the Cardinal Mazarin. At his death, he also bequeathed his library, the Bibliothèque Mazarine, which he had opened to scholars since 1643, to the Collège des Quatre-Nations.

The name of the college alludes to the four nations of students at the medieval parisian university, but it was not intended for students of the historical university nations, but for those coming from territories which had recently come under French rule through the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659). According to the Cardinal's will it was to have the following composition:

  • Flanders, Artois, Hainaut and Luxembourg (20 students);
  • Alsace and other Germanic territories (15);
  • Roussilllon, Conflent and Cerdagne (10);
  • Pignerol, and the Papal states (15)

The building was constructed on the left bank of the Seine, opposite the Louvre and according to the design of Louis Le Vau. The tomb of Mazarin is in the college chapel.

After the colleges were suppressed during the French revolution, the complex was used for various purposes until, in 1805, it was given to the Institut de France. It has since become known as the Palais de l'Institut de France.

Notable students of the college include the encyclopedist Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783), the painter Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), the critic Julien Louis Geoffroy (1743-1814) and the chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794).