The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Month: January 1644

Tuesday 5 January 1644

The next day, we went into the University, and into the College of Navarre, which is a spacious, well-built quadrangle, having a very noble library.

Thence to the Sorbonne, an ancient fabric built by one Robert de Sorbonne, whose name it retains, but the restoration which the late Cardinal de Richelieu1 has made to it renders it one of the most excellent modern buildings; the sumptuous church, of admirable architecture, is far superior to the rest. The cupola, portico, and whole design of the church, are very magnificent.

Chapelle de la Sorbonne. Author unknown

We entered into some of the schools, and in that of divinity we found a grave Doctor in his chair, with a multitude of auditors, who all write as he dictates; and this they call a Course. After we had sat a little, our cavalier started up, and rudely enough began to dispute with the doctor; at which, and especially as he was clad in the Spanish habit, which in Paris is the greatest bugbear imaginable, the scholars and doctor fell into such a fit of laughter, that nobody could be heard speak for a while: but silence being obtained, he began to speak Latin, and made his apology in so good a style, that their derision was turned to admiration; and beginning to argue, he so baffled the Professor, that with universal applause they all rose up, and did him great honors, waiting on us to the very street and our coach, and testifying great satisfaction.


  1. Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duc de Richelieu, died 4th December, 1642. He rebuilt the College in 1629; the Church in 1635. The Church was finished in 1659. There is a splendid triple portrait of Richelieu by Philippe de Champaigne in the National Gallery. It was made to assist the Roman sculptor Mocchi in framing a bust.  –AD 

Monday 4 January 1644

I passed this day with one Mr. J. Wall, an Irish gentleman, who had been a friar in Spain, and afterwards a reader in St. Isidoro’s chair, at Rome; but was, I know not how, getting away, and pretending to be a soldier of fortune, an absolute cavalier, having, as he told us, been a captain of horse in Germany.

It is certain he was an excellent disputant, and so strangely given to it that nothing could pass him. He would needs persuade me to go with him this morning to the Jesuits’ College, to witness his polemical talent.

We found the Fathers in their Church at the Rue St. Antoine, where one of them showed us that noble fabric, which for its cupola, pavings, incrustations of marble, the pulpit, altars (especially the high altar), organ, lavatorium, etc., but above all, for the richly carved and incomparable front I esteem to be one of the most perfect pieces of architecture in Europe, emulating even some of the greatest now at Rome itself.

L’église des Jésuittes de la rue Saint Anthoine : fondée par le Cardinal de Bourbon Oncle d’Henry le Grand et augmentée par le Cardinal de Richelieu. Artist unknown, 17thC. Source: Institut national d’Histoire de l’art

But this not being what our friar sought, he led us into the adjoining convent, where, having showed us the library, they began a very hot dispute on some points of divinity; which our cavalier contested only to show his pride, and to that indiscreet height, that the Jesuits would hardly bring us to our coach, they being put beside all patience.