This is an article about the French convent of Port-Royal. For information on the Canadian community and early French colony see: Port Royal, Nova Scotia. For information on the South Carolina town see: Port Royal, South Carolina. For information on the former Jamaican capital see: Port Royal.
It was established in 1204, but became famous as an educational institution when its discipline was reformed in 1602 by its abbess Jacqueline Arnauld . The Arnauld family became its patrons and the convent's subsequent history was directed by a number of the holders of that name. In 1625 most of the nuns moved to a new Port-Royal in Paris, which subsequently became Port-Royal de Paris while the older one was known as Port-Royal des Champs.
At the original site, several schools were founded, which became known as the "Little Schools of Port-Royal." These schools became famous for the high quality of the education they gave. In 1634, Jean du Vergier de Hauranne became director of the convent; he was a follower of Jansenism and from that point forward the convents and schools of Port-Royal became intimately associated with that school of theology.
The atmosphere of serious study and Jansenist piety attracted a number of prominent cultural figures to the school. The playwright Jean Racine and the theologian and mathematician Blaise Pascal were products of Port-Royal educations, and Pascal defended the schools publicly against the Jesuits in the Jansenist controversies within the Roman Catholic Church.
However, as a result of the Jansenist purges in Catholicism, the schools of Port-Royal were regarded as tainted with heresy. In 1679, the convent was forbidden to accept novices, heralding its eventual dissolution. The convent itself was decreed abolished by a bull from Pope Clement XI in 1708, the remaining nuns were forcibly removed in 1709, and the buildings themselves razed in 1710. A celebrated history of Port-Royal and its influence was written by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve in 1859.