A little history of the Institut de France
This story began with a will. Cardinal Mazarin’s one! In order to found a collège ("school"), he gave his library and 45 000 livres!
A school for 60 children born in poor noblemen families. They came from Alsace, Flanders, Italy, Roussillon... That’s why the place was called at that time... collège of the Four-Nations!
Architects Lambert and Dorbay raised it, based on plans by famous Louis Le Vau, from 1663 to 1691. During the French Revolution, the school was transformed into a jail (the famous doctor Guillotin was locked here!) then it closed in 1802.
3 years later, Napoleon I founded here the Institut de France.
Nowadays it houses the 5 academies: the Académie Française (founded by Richelieu in 1635), the Academy of Fine Letters (Colbert, 1664), the Academy of Sciences (Colbert, 1666), the Academy of Fine Arts (1816) and the Academy of Political sciences (1832).
But there’s also the Mazarine library, which was fit out on the location of the old tower of Nesle!
It was the first public library in France: we have here 500 000 manuscripts... The Institute was restored between 1962 and 1974.