Founded 1897 by Benedictines (Catholic) 1918 became ‘Aula Privata Sancti Benedicti’ (St Benet’s Hall). Male only – Undergraduates 53 Postgraduates 5
St Benet’s Hall was founded as a Benedictine institution to provide a place of study in Oxford for the Catholic monks of Ampleforth Abbey in 1897. The hall now specialises in theology, philosophy and theology, classics, history and politics, and the study of ancient Oriental languages. All students are members of the university student union but, following the inevitable disagreements about contraception and related issues, the hall disaffiliated in 1997.
The college became a permanent private hall in 1918 and adopted its official name of ‘Aula Privata Sancti Benedicti’ (St Benet’s Hall) at the same time; pior to this it would have used the name of its master. St Benet’s can trace its DNA back to the medieval monastic institutions that first appeared in Oxford around 1283. They were designed to give members a firm grounding in theology, which is pretty much, the modern rational. The college arranges for the provision of topics not covered by the Oxford courses, but which are vital for ordination as a Catholic priest. Senior monks are encouraged to spend time at the college to share their experience, wisdom and teachings.
St Benet’s, surprisingly, never became a stated theological establishment, despite continuing to have a monastic master. The full Liturgy of House is recited daily according to Roman Breviary and Mass is also celebrated daily.
The hall sets out to preserve the traditions of what it considers to be the best values of the ancient Catholic halls of learning. This objective has drawn some criticism from sections of the university community who believe the v...
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...in the past provided students to sing in the university choirs and has a solid reputation for debating at the Oxford Union and usually does well on University Challenge – a BBC television quiz show open to universities in the UK.
Being relatively small and homely has not stopped St Benet’s Hall from being dynamic and academically vigorous. Students rapidly find that living with monks is not as odd as they may have first thought, finding them very accommodating, caring and ‘almost normal’! Benedictine traditions and values are well respected – hospitality is one that cannot help but impress the visitor, along with the terminology members choose to use. Hall becomes refectory and the sitting room is referred to as a calefactory. St Benet’s Hall may be out of step with the modern world but is all the more valuable because of the extra variety and depth it has to offer.