Blackfriars

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Founded 1221 as a Priory – dissolved in Reformation 1538 – re-established in 1921. Blackfriars Hall in 1994. Mature Men and Women – Undergraduates 8 Postgraduates 21. Blackfriars is a permanent private hall of the University of Oxford, which is owned and administered by an outside Catholic institution and not, (as a fully-fledged college is), by its fellows. The hall has deep and well documented Dominican roots in the city that stretch way back to 1221 when it was established as a monastic house at the instruction of Saint Dominican within a week of his death. The influential Dominican was a Spanish scholar who studied both the arts and theology. His reputation was enhanced when, during the brutal Spanish Famine of 1191, he gave away all his money, along with his prized manuscripts, in order that he might, in some small way, alleviate the suffering of those around him. He later reasoned that Oxford, the intellectual capital, would be the ideal English location to send his followers so that they could recruit influential people who would, in turn, educate his flock to a high standard. Successful strategy The plan seemed to work immediately with Robert Bacon, a regent master of the university, joining the order soon after foundation. Another prominent medieval Oxford Dominican scholar was Robert Kilwardby who later became an Archbishop of Canterbury. The name Blackfriars was adopted in the middle ages describing the black cloak the monks wore over their white habits. Originally just 13 friars set up the priory, which became so desirable that by 1245 the establishment, had to move to a bigger site, which held 90 friars. The destruction that followed the Reformation has left only two archways from this complex standing. Outstanding t... ... middle of paper ... ... neat and homely Gothic quad. The newly established hall had a founding vision that now included investigating issues of injustice and deprivation as well as a religious commitment. This rational has inspired the recent establishment two important initiatives. In 2008 the hall became home to the Las Casas institute on ethics, governance and social justice, which combines scholarship with community engagement programmes. Also up and running is the influential Von Hugel Institute – a joint initiative with two other like-minded institutions, St Edmund’s College Cambridge and the Epiphany Trust. The Institute sets out to identify and develop young leaders who will promote the Catholic teachings. Secret gem It appears that many members of Blackfriars, both past and present, have a deep affection for the institution, which has been described as ‘the secret gem of Oxford’.

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