The Abbey of St. Victor, Paris, otherwise the Royal Abbey and School of St. Victor, had its origins when William of Champeaux, the Archdeacon of Paris, retired to a small hermitage near Paris in 1108. He became a Canon Regular, and his new community followed the Augustinian Rule.
William was famed for his teaching, and was followed to his hermitage by many of his disciples, including Peter Abelard, and was convinced by them to take up his lecturing again. William was made Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne in 1113, and was succeeded in his hermitage at St. Victor's by Gildwin, who promoted the canonical order and its new abbey vigorously.
Through generous gifts from popes, kings, queens, and nobles, the Abbey of St. Victor was soon richly endowed. Many houses of canons regular came under its influence and were reformed through its leadership, including the Abbey of Ste Geneviève (Paris), Wigmore Abbey in Wales, St. Augustine's (Bristol), St. Catherine's (Waterford), St. Thomas's (Dublin), and San Pietro ad Aram (Naples). King Louis VIII mentioned no less than forty abbeys of the Order of St. Victor in his last will and testament, and he left 4,000 pounds to be equally divided among them, and all his jewels for the building of the abbey church in Paris. Before the abbey was 160 years old, several cardinals and at least eight significant abbots had been produced from among its members.
The traditions of William of Champeaux were handed on, and the abbey became a centre of piety and learning, attracting famous students, scholars and intellectuals including Hugh of St. Victor, Peter Lombard and Thomas Becket. The school, with the schools of Ste Geneviève and Notre-Dame de Paris, was the cradle of the University of Paris.