The Lycée Saint-Louis (French pronunciation: [lise sɛ̃ lwi]) is a post-secondary school located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, in the Latin Quarter. It is the only public French lycée exclusively dedicated to providing classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles (CPGE; preparatory classes for the Grandes Écoles such as École Normale Superieure, École Polytechnique, CentraleSupélec in engineering and ESSEC Business School, ESCP Business School, and HEC Paris in commerce).

Lycée Saint-Louis

75006 Paris

Coordinates48°50′58″N 2°20′29″E / 48.84944°N 2.34139°E / 48.84944; 2.34139
Former names
  • Collège d'Harcourt (1280-1820)
  • Lycée Saint-Louis (1820-present)
TypePublic funded classes préparatoires
Established1280 - 742 years ago
School districtLatin Quarter
Number of students1,416
MascotSaint Louis
West side of the Lycée Saint-Louis, Paris VIe, one of the most famous lycée preparing to the grandes écoles.

Saint-Louis has graduated many notable alumni, including five Nobel laureates, one Fields laureate, one President of France, as well as major intellectual figures such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Émile Zola or Louis Pasteur.



Collège d'Harcourt

The collège d'Harcourt in a map of 1775.

The lycée Saint-Louis was formerly known as the Collège d'Harcourt (Latin: Collegium Harcurianum).[1] The Collège d'Harcourt was founded in 1280 by Robert and Raoul d'Harcourt to offer food and housing for around forty students from underprivileged backgrounds. Starting from its beginning, it was not only a simple student residence but also a place of teaching, this activity took more and more importance over time. During the Wars of Religion, it was a Catholic stronghold. As a result, Henri IV confiscated the college's property and dismissed its director. Once peace returned, the king reformed the teaching of the colleges: initially intended to train clerics and academics through theological studies, the college was transformed into an institution where the children of the gentry, Parisian bourgeoisie and scholarship holders from Normandy studied.

The college started to become famous in the 16th century, and great historical figures such as Racine, Boileau and Perrault attended it in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In the 18th century, it was a stronghold of Jansenists and graduated several of the philosophes and Encyclopédistes of the Enlightenment and therefore opposed the influence of the Jesuits in education, whose stronghold was located couples meter away, at the college of Clermont.

The original building was demolished in 1795 and the present one was built on its site in 1814.[citation needed]

In the course of the tumultuous 19th century, the lycée was successively turned by force into a prison, barracks and reformatory.

Lycée Saint-Louis

The lycée in the background on a picture from 1938 taken from the Place de la Sorbonne

In 1812, a decree of Napoleon I ordered the reopening of the Collège d'Harcourt according to the plans of J.-B. Guynet, in order to accommodate an imperial lycée. However, it was not until October 1820 that the "Collège Royal Saint-Louis" took over from the former Collège d'Harcourt, and welcomed again boarders in 1823. In 1848, following the French Revolution of 1830, it changed its name to "Lycée Saint-Louis", after being called "Lycée Monge " for several months.

The lycée is primarily devoted to the instruction of science (since 1885, the boarding school only welcomed scientific students) and in scientific classes préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles (established in 1866, the only ones present at the school since the closing of the last high school class in 1969). In 1843, a student from the school won the first prize in mathematics for the first time in the concours général. The classes préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles opened in 1866 and allowed students to take the competitive exams for the École polytechnique, the École normale supérieure (in science), Centrale, the École forestière and Saint-Cyr, and were expanded in 1885 to include preparation for the École navale.

A statue of Saint Louis stands in the middle of the central courtyard. According to an old tradition now fully integrated to the school’s folklore, students that have succeeded in getting in Polytechnique have to thank their alma mater by splashing the statue with red or yellow paint depending on whether the year is even or odd. Few days later, the statue is simply painted back white explaining why its traits have become a little bit faded over the years.



The school offers mainly scientific courses including MPSI (Mathematics, Physics, Engineering), PCSI (Physics, Chemistry and Engineering) for the freshmen, and MP (Mathematics, Physics), PC (Physics, Chemistry), PSI (Physics, Engineering) for seniors as well as BCPST (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology). The lycée has also courses relying heavily on Mathematics and preparing students for the highly selective French Business Schools, they are only intended for students who have completed a scientific Baccalauréat. The lycée Saint-Louis, as its neighbors the lycées Louis-le-Grand and Henri IV, commonly known as "the three Lycées of the Sainte-Geneviève hill", is renowned for its selectivity, the quality of its teaching and its results in the various competitive examinations.



The school has a 350 m2 (3,800 sq ft) library (open until 10:15 p.m. for boarders and day students), a mixed dormitory with 356 beds (234 single rooms, 61 double rooms) and a chapel. It also has a cafeteria, in addition to the dining hall, and classrooms are available to students outside of their normal hours of use.

The campus also has sports facilities: a sports field and two multi-sports gymnasiums (ultimate, basketball, volleyball, badminton, etc.), a gym, a billiard room and a climbing wall. Students have two mandatory hours of sports per week and the sports association allows access to its facilities at noon and in the evening.

Notable alumni


Notable teachers



  1. ^ H.L. Bouquet (1891). L'ancien collège d'Harcourt et le lycée Saint-Louis. Paris.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)


  • L'ancien collège d'Harcourt et le lycée Saint-Louis, Bouquet, H.L., Paris, Delalin frères, 1891.
  • Du collège d'Harcourt, 1280, au lycée Saint-Louis, 1980, Fusellier, E., Euvrard, M., Paris, A.P.E. du lycée Saint-Louis, 1980.
  • Septième centenaire !, Humblot, H., in Bulletin d'information de L'association des parents d'élèves du lycée Saint-Louis. 1978/1979.