The Founders

The Foundation de Coubertin emerged from the encounter between Yvonne de Coubertin, inheritor of the Coubertin estate, and Jean Bernard, artist, stonecutter and renovator of the French Guildsmen’s Association. They met in 1949, at a moment when Jean Bernard was looking for a place to create a "Guildsmen’s House" in Paris. From these two complementary ideals was born the association for the development of a rural Trade Guild in 1950. The Foundation de Coubertin, as it is today, was recognised as a public utility on the 1st March 1973. Beyond the creation of a workers university, fruit of this commune ambition, the desire of both founders was that the Coubertin estate should become a meeting point of different social spheres, a place where man can find unity.




Yvonne de Coubertin

Born in 1893, Yvonne de Coubertin was the daughter of the baron Paul de Coubertin and the niece of Pierre de Coubertin, initiator of the modern Olympic Games. She obtained a diploma of superior studies in Philosophy in 1919. She was a tenured student at the "École Pratique des Hautes Études" (Practical School of Higher Education) where she met and mixed with numerous personalities from the world of Art and Literature, in particular Louis Lavelle of whom she became his muse. A committed woman and a humanist, she was very interested in teaching and educational problems as well as the very serious desire to defend the university courses for young women. She became chairwoman of the Fénelon Association, which took care of giving these young women a complete education. The mission of this association is today, completely integrated into the Foundation de Coubertin.

Sentient to manual work, she was fascinated by the idea of a university for manual workers, of whom her uncle, Pierre, had been one of her most fervent defenders. The mission of teaching and the opening of the Foundation is inspired directly from these principles. Very much attached to her family estate in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, a domain which she christened "a privileged part of creation", she wanted it to be associated with work. Her encounter with Jean Bernard, in 1949, gave her the occasion to make this dream come true. Upon her death in 1974, she bequeathed the Manor House and its Estate (Domaine de Coubertin) to the Foundation to assure its continued existence.




Jean Bernard

Born in 1908, Jean Bernard was the son of the sculptorJoseph Bernard and grandson of a stonecutter. As a child he often accompaniedhis father when he visited his artist friends, the painter Marcel Lenoir or thesculptor François Pompon. From time to time he visited the workshops of the moulders, casters and the enlargers who worked for him,people such as Hébrard, Valsuani or Alexis Rudier. Very early on he was greatlyinfluenced by two of his uncles: Georges, a spectacle manufacturer and a finemetal polisher and by Louis who was a Master Guildsman Stonecutter. At the ageof 16 he undertook his first fresco, three years later he illustrated theGospel according to Saint John, of which 130 copies were published.

He devoted 8 years of his life to this undertakingwhere he meticulously engraved the 2,000 pieces of wood which where used toprint the 250 illustrations and illuminations of this book. His work wasnoticed by Joseph Magrez, who was the secretary for the Guildsmen Stonecuttersin Bordeaux. The friendship of these two men became the starting point towards,what was later to become, a renewed Trade Guild Association.

Jean Bernard devoted a part of his life to the Trade Guild Association.He was at the origin of the Guildworkers association of the “Compagnons duDevoir du Tour de France”, which he presided over until 1969. He is also theco-founder of the Foundation de Coubertin, which held an important place in hiswork of renovation and opening. It was under his influence that the greatproject of an Encyclopaedia of Trades was launched.

Last update : 11/09/2014