Loading
English seminary in Rome celebrates its 650th birthday
Fr. Mark Harold, vice rector of the Venerable English College, gives CNA a tour of the seminary on Jan. 26, 2012
Fr. Mark Harold, vice rector of the Venerable English College, gives CNA a tour of the seminary on Jan. 26, 2012
By David Kerr
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- The Catholic seminary in Rome where young Englishmen are trained for the priesthood turned 650 years-old on Jan. 27.

It was on that day in 1362 that the forerunner of the Venerable English College, a house for English and Welsh pilgrims to Rome, was founded. In the 16th century it became a seminary.

“It is right in the heart of Rome. It is a wonderful location,” said vice rector Fr. Mark Harold, as he gave a tour of the college to CNA.

The English College “is a really historic place and we believe it is the oldest English institution in the world outside England,” he explained.

The pilgrim house, which is tucked away on Rome’s Via di Monserrato, was in operation for about 200 years and enjoyed royal patronage.

Beginning in 1412 its front wall was emblazoned with the English Royal Coat of Arms – a crest that is still there today. During the reign of Henry VII it was known as the “King’s Hospice,” while Henry VIII described it as “Our Hospice.”

But that all changed in the 16th century when the English monarchy turned against the Catholic faith, fueling a Protestant Reformation in England.

“Then, Pope Gregory XIII met with Cardinal William Allen who was resident here in the hospice,” explained Fr. Harold. Pope Gregory said, “‘why don’t you found your seminary for the English here in this place on the Via Mosserato?’” Portraits of the two founders still claim pride of place in the seminary’s dining room.

Since its foundation in 1579 the English College has produced numerous martyrs who were killed for their Catholic faith upon return to England. The roll of honor in the college’s grand entrance hall is a litany of 10 former students who have been declared canonized saints, 28 who have been declared beatified, and four others who are venerable.

The impressive list of martyrs led to the college being bestowed with the title “Venerable” in 1818.

“It is very much part of the tradition of this college, a tradition of mission for the Catholic Church, a mission showing witness, showing martyrdom for Christ by giving their life,” said Fr. Harold.

He related how the college’s first martyr, St. Ralph Sherwin, was executed at Tyburn in central London in 1581, only two years after the seminary was founded.

His fellow students quickly developed a tradition that whenever an alumnus was martyred they would assemble in front of the college chapel’s altar piece to sing a “Te Deum Laudemus” in thanksgiving. That tradition will be repeated after Mass on Jan. 27.

Over the past 650 years the college has hosted many distinguished guests – from the poet John Milton to Cardinal John Henry Newman to Blessed John Paul II in 1979.

“It is also reported that William Shakespeare, who was a recusant Catholic – so many people say – visited Italy and the college. He certainly wrote widely about Italy in his plays,” claimed Fr. Harold.

This weekend many alumni will return to the college to celebrate the 650th anniversary, including Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who was also rector for six years in the 1970s.

They return to an institution that seems to be in good health with numbers of seminarians on the up and up. When Fr. Harold joined the staff three-and-a-half years ago the college had 25 students. Today it has 45. The majority come from England and Wales, while four hail from Scandinavia.

A former student himself, Fr. Harold says it is “a real privilege” to be a seminarian in Rome because it gives young men six years at the heart of the Church to develop both intellectually and spiritually.

“That spiritual development is particularly important – your life with Christ in prayer, to make it become part of you. Seminary life is not just about acquiring knowledge and skills. It is about growing in Christ,” he said.

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
Oct
25

Liturgical Calendar

October 25, 2014

Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 13:1-9

Gospel
Date
10/25/14
10/24/14
10/23/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Eph 4: 7-16
Gospel:: Lk 13: 1-9

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
10/25/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 13:1-9

Homily
Date
10/25/14
10/24/14
10/23/14