17 rue de la Sorbonne
The observatory at the Sorbonne has been passed by time and science, superceded by giant radio telescopes, made obsolete by complicated sensors floating in the skies it was meant to explore, beyond the imaginations of the people who built a 150 foot tower in Paris 130 years ago.
But it’s still beautiful, and like most of Paris, it’s a challenge to what it means for a place to become obsolete.
I heard that the pockmarks on the side of the tower have something to do with the 1944 liberation of Paris. I can’t substantiate this, but it would have probably made for a great observation post or sniper hide. For those close to its mission, it must have been painful to watch something dedicated to further understanding our world caught up in the greatest war that world had ever seen. But, again, so goes Paris.
Education under the name Sorbonne has been a going concern since the 13th century. It closed during the French Revolution and was restored by Napoleon decades later. It was long a part of the even older University of Paris, until a 1968 student uprising caused the many schools of the university to splinter apart. Those schools have coalesced over the decades, though, and featuring today’s Paris-Sorbonne University, plan to form a new university again in a few years. It’s like everything else in Paris: seldom destroyed, but challenged and changed, adapting to the times as best it can.
If you call ahead, you can tour the tower in small groups for a few Euro a piece.