About our school
Lycée Chateaubriand de Rome is a French school belonging to the Agency for French Teaching Abroad (AEFE), which regroups 330,000 students over 494 schools and 135 countries.
The system used in our school is that of the French National Education; we are not a bilingual school, though our students are taught Italian at a high level (both in language and literature).
Our school spans over 3 sites (Strohl-Fern, Malpighi and Patrizi) and hosts 1,500 students, from Nursery all the way to Year 12.
The site of Strohl-Fern, located near the park of Villa Borghese, hosts all the students from Primary school to Year 8. The students from Year 9 to Year 12 attend school near Porta Pia.
Created in 1903, Lycée Chateaubriand, which is nowadays directly managed by l’AEFE, hosts approximately 800 students in Primary school and 700 students in Secondary school; there are 4 classes per Year. Our school offers 3 streams: L (Literature), ES (Economic and Social Sciences) and S (Scientific), which can be chosen as such or combined with Esabac (a double diploma— French and Italian) or European Section in English.
The excellent results of our students, year after year, have enabled them to pursue their studies in very selective universities.
Our students are Italian nationals (40%), French/Italian nationals (20%), French nationals (20%), with the remaining 20% being of various other nationalities. Lycée Chateaubriand promotes this diversity through various actions, with the aim of educating our students with a high degree of open mindedness, while at the same time promoting our culture far beyond the scope of our school.
Our school’s history
Our school was founded at the beginning of the 20th Century thanks to the determination of the French Embassy in Vatican City by Monseigneur Charles Dumaz, who was at the time choirmaster at the church St-Louis-des-Français. The objective was to “make it easier for the children of French families or foreign families, whether remaining in Rome for a long or a short period of time, to study following the methods and the programs used in the schools in France.”
The first class opened on November 3rd, 1903 in an apartment at Via Sistina, 20. There were at the time 10 students: 3 of them were French, 3 Swiss, 2 Romanians and 2 Americans. The next year, 2 new French students, 3 Russians and 2 Brazilians joined them.
Italians could not attend this school at the time because the Italian government would not allow it. At the beginning the teachers were Mgr Dumaz and another teacher, who was also editor at the International Institute of Agriculture (which later would become the Food and Agriculture Organization). Some residents of Villa Médicis and some students of the French school of Rome also gave a helping hand from time to time, especially when there were exams.
In 1907 the school was moved to via della Scrofa, 115 in a new apartment, both bigger and closer to Mgr Dumaz’s house at Saint-Nicolas-des-Lorrains. At the end of the First World War, there were approximately 50 students, and the numbers were rising. In 1920, the French government granted a financial aid to what was at the time called the “French Secondary school Chateaubriand.” Associate professors were then sent by the ministry of “Public Instruction” (as it was called at the time). It became then necessary to find another, more spacious, location for the school.
After moving for 3 months via Giulia at Palazzo Ricci Paracciani, the school finally — and definitely — settled via di Villa Patrizi in October 1920, in a villa which was at first rented and then purchased in 1921, and which also hosted three services of the French Embassy in Italy. The school took the name of “lycée” and Mgr Dumaz became the headmaster, a function he occupied until his death in July 1929.
The villa hosted all the students, from Year 1 to Year 12, until 1958. As more and more students joined the school, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to progressively move some classes to Villa Strohl-Fern, which had been given to the French state some 20 years beforehand. Originally, this villa of 20 acres was part of Villa Borghese.
The idea was to create a model school capable of hosting 1,500 students in the park of the Villa. Unfortunately this proved impossible, due to difficulties with the municipality of Rome, which explains why the school is now scattered over different sites.
The constant rise in the number of students as well as the necessity of creating a modern science facility led the French state to purchase a new building at the end of 1980. At the time, this building hosted a private school managed by the community of canonesses of St Augustine.
Biography of François-René de Chateaubriand
François-René, viscount of Chateaubriand (St Malo, Sept. 4th, 1768 - Paris, July 4th, 1848) is a French writer and politician.
Chateaubriand belonged to a noble family from St Malo and lost his mother when he was very young; he spent a rather morose childhood in the castle of Combourg, in Brittany.
With Corneille and Rousseau as his references, he fled the French Revolution and travelled to the United States and then to London— an exile which proved difficult. With his Essai sur les Révolutions (1797), he started a career as an author.
Upon his return to France in 1800, he became famous thanks to the publication of Le Génie du Christianisme (1802). He was then appointed secretary in Rome, then minister in the Valais by Napoléon Bonaparte; however, he was shocked by the assassination of the Duke of Enghien and resigned before joining the ranks of the opposition. In 1811, he became a member of the prestigious Académie Française.
In 1814, Chateaubriand was appointed French Ambassador in Sweden. The next year, he became “Pair” (one of the highest distinctions of the time). In 1821 he became Ambassador in Berlin, and the next year in London (where his Chef invented the steak “à la Chateaubriand”) and then Rome; he then was appointed minister of Foreign Affairs in 1822.
In 1823, he succeeded in conquering Cadix during the Spanish expedition.
Chateaubriand is considered as the father of Romanticism in French literature, much like Goethe in Germany and Lord Byron in Great Britain.
While the romantic and liberal youth saw in him a leader, he spent most of his time trying to finish his Mémoires d’outre-tombe, an outstanding autobiography spanning over forty years and which was only published after his death.
His contemporaries were fascinated by his style and his tales about the new world— America. His Génie du Christianisme became an instant success, as it was published during the Concordat and while Bonaparte favoured a return of religion— mainly for political reasons.
He was named the “enchanter”, first by his sister Lucile (his chaste love for her can be witnessed in René), then by Delphine de Custine, Natalie de Noailles, Claire de Duras, as well as Céleste, whom he somehow ended up marrying, but most of all by Juliette Récamier, who became his favourite mistress.
As he requested in his will, he is buried in a grave facing the sea on the island of Grand-Bé, which can only be reached by foot when the sea makes way.
Essai sur les révolutions (1797)
Le génie du christianisme (1802)
Les martyrs (1804)
Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem (1811)
De Bonaparte et des Bourbons (1814)
Les Natchez (1826)
Vie de Rancé (1844)
Mémoires d’outre-tombe, posthumes (1848)
Letter from Edmonde Charles-Roux
Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, Ladies, Gentlemen,
My common story with Lycée Chateaubriand is a fairly long one, made of gratefulness, admiration for the teachers I have had, affection, friendship— in a way, a family story.
This is why I have chosen to start my speech by quoting my father, as he was standing here for a graduation ceremony. Being a diplomat, my father had enjoyed two stays here in Rome, firstly in Palazzo Farnese, then as the French Ambassador in Vatican City. He thus spent some 14 years in Rome. During his first stay — before I was born — he directed his attention to the transformation of what was at the time a fairly modest free school for boys, into a State school which would soon become co-educational.
Here is what he told the students at the time: “One day, you too will be former students of Chateaubriand. Your headmaster has been one of the proudest men to ever live, and I cannot advise you to imitate him in that respect. Still, I cannot but admit that I would be very happy if, should I meet one of you someday under this sky or another, I could feel a sense of pride while you tell me that you are a former student of Chateaubriand. I should not consider it vanity, rather the proof that you have kept good memories from this school, and that you are grateful for having studied here, and still feel sympathy for the French culture and ways, which we have tried to pass onto you.”
Let us therefore start with a few good memories from this school that I hold dear.
I joined Lycée Chateaubriand as a student in 1931 or 1932. At the time, I had never been to school, for there was no French school in Prague, where I came from. Governesses and private tutors had somehow managed to teach me the basics so I could start in Year 6. My father’s choice to “send his daughter to a coed school” attracted the attention of many. He was the Ambassador in Vatican City and, for the longest time, had contemplated sending me to St Catherine d’Alexandrie in via Torino, just like Gilberte Male, the daughter of Emile Male from l’Academie Française. And yet here I was, in a State school, and a coed one! I cannot thank my father enough— never once did I regret his choice.
Lycée Chateaubriand had moved to via di Villa Patrizi in 1921 and, as I joined it 10 years later, it had become some fantastic Babel tower. Students of 18 different nationalities studied there. This had been the case from the very beginning and would remain thus until the tragic events of 1940 which led the school to close during World War II. This, however, would be the case once again when the school reopened— French students were sometimes a minority.
One may notice, by the way, a common point between Lycée Chateaubriand and the Foreign Legion: the way students, as well as legionnaires, were recruited mirrored — or rather was the consequence of — political upheavals of the time: revolutions, coups d’état, terrorist attacks… that would spell the end of many an empire.
At the time when I joined Chateaubriand, the clear majority of students were of Slavic origins, and one would be used to hearing people roll the Rs. My new friends were called Jeanne Volkoff (Bulgarian), Nathalie Evseef (Russian), Varia et Nikita Haltzeff (Russian), Vladimir Mascianovitch, Rachic et Pachic, all Yougoslavians — and let us not forget the most beautiful of them all, the misses Volkonsky et Scherbatoff. But that wasn’t all: two important members of the administration also rolled the Rs. These were Mrs Evseef, who was the mother of the aforementioned Nathalie and executive secretary, and Monsieur de Zdrolevsky, who was a study supervisor; he was a former officer of the Tsar’s guard, wore a red moustache and his first name was impossible to forget: Avenir (future). He also gave private horse-riding lessons to the students who wanted.
When the beginners would finally succeed in jumping over a fence for the first time, Monsieur de Zdrolevsky would solemnly hand them their first crop; as for those who were on their way to become true riders, they would be handed, with the same solemnity, their first spurs.
Concerning Mrs Evseef, she too was very much loved, despite educating girls in the same way as when she was at the Smolnyi (St Petersburg’s noble girls’ high school before the October Revolution). She would watch them closely, forbidding any fancy haircut or lipstick, and never hesitated to warn a girl’s parents if some young lad came expecting her after school too often.
War changed the mentalities and put an end to those outdated ways, but war did not stop Mrs Evseef, who had been working at Chateaubriand from 1932, from getting her job back afterwards. I saw her again, many years later; she was listing the names of her students who had disappeared— lost, maybe killed. I can still hear her, with her soft voice, saying “War has changed everything. For the second time, my world has changed. We need to learn our lessons.”
Some former students and teachers of our school have indeed shown a great example, in many domains. Listing them all would take too much time; let me then tell you about those, French and Foreigners, who gave their life to fight for freedom and to build a new world.
For instance, Guy Paluel, who studied at Chateaubriand in the 1920s; he was the captain of the 10th regiment of Moroccans skirmishers. He fell in St Just, Oise, in 1940.
Or the son of a Polish Ambassador in Rome, whose name I cannot remember; he studied here in the 1930s, and enrolled in the French army. He fell in Cassino in May 1943.
Or André Lassagne, who taught Italian in this school in 1938. He was arrested by the Gestapo in Calluire, where Jean Moulin also got arrested. He was sent to a concentration camp and came back, terribly weakened. He died shortly after.
Finally, I believe I should mention a true hero, who taught Sciences at Chateaubriand between 1937 and 1939. His name was Daniel Trocmé, and he was born in 1912. He was protestant. Here are a few words about the fate of that martyr, who loved freedom and justice above all, as his brother, doctor Charles Trocmé, said.
After leaving Rome in the aftermath of a terrible defeat which led to the occupation, Daniel Trocmé became in 1942 in charge of a shelter for outlaw children, located in a small and isolated village in Haute Loire— in Chambon sur Lignon, precisely. It has since then become a place of pilgrimage and remembrance. When Daniel chose to be in charge of this shelter, he knew perfectly well what he was doing and the potential consequences; he did it because his cousin, André Trocmé, who was a pastor at Chambon, had asked him to do so.
The shelter hosted about 20 boys from various backgrounds: jews, Spanish-born, Czech-born, Polish-born, one English, two French and two orphans. Daniel Trocmé then also became in charge of a small neighbouring house, which served as a shelter for 16 foreign students.
In June 1943, Daniel Trocmé was arrested by the Gestapo. He was taken, along with all the students and imprisoned in Moulins, where his parents, terrified, tried to reach him in vain. By the end of August 1943, he was taken to the camp in Compiègne, and then sent to Buchenwald and then, to an extremely tough concentration camp in Dora, with the salt mines.
Finally, he was sent to the extermination camp in Maidanek where he died in April 1944, at 32 years old. His name is inscribed on the higher plate of Yad Vashem; Daniel Trocmé is a righteous man whose name appears in this place of commemoration close to Jerusalem.
What lesson should we learn from that? Well, certainly that the students of your generation are lucky to live in a time of peace, and to start working without having known war and a divided Europe, as those of my generation have.
This does not mean, however, that there won’t be any troubles. In this world in peace, your main asset, your most precious quality, will be culture, for we need to build a common European culture. This will undoubtedly be the most interesting and exciting adventure of the next century.
This century will belong to those who can speak many languages, and can speak them well. And among them, of course, is the French language. If you like it, it will serve you well. I, as a writer, can guarantee you that. The French language is both flexible, lively, precise, sweet and strong at the same time— demanding, too. Knowing it will help you immensely, and I have no doubt you will feel a strong connection with it, and that you, too, will become one of its advocates, so that it can remain first.
And then, I believe now is the time to say to you all “It is up to you! And all the best!”