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History and Facilities


In 1882 a small group of Benedictine monks arrived in Oregon to found an abbey similar to the one they had left behind in Switzerland. They chose a large hill at the edge of the Willamette Valley as its site, a hill the local Native Americans called Tapalamaho. In earlier times the Native Americans had come often to pray within its thick fir forest. The monks settled on that hill, built their monastery, and continued their own ancient traditions of work and prayer.

One of the works was a school. The monks opened Mount Angel College in 1887. In 1889, Archbishop William Gross of Oregon City asked the monks to establish a seminary in conjunction with the college. Gradually the school became more specialized, its focus the education of young men for the Roman Catholic priesthood.

As the Church's needs, expectations, and ideas about ministry have changed, so has the seminary. Although the primary focus is still the education of priestly ministers for dioceses and religious communities, once again the school is open to non-seminarians who are looking for an excellent education in preparation for some aspect of ministry within the Church.

Tapalamaho looks very different today. Its fir forest has been transformed into open spaces surrounded by buildings and gardens. Monks and students hasten to class, visitors arrive to view the church and museum. And yet, the natural beauty and the feeling of God's presence that attracted its first inhabitants still inspire all who live and visit here.

The abbey retreat house, Benet Hall, is an important witness to the Benedictine tradition of Christian service through hospitality. Organized and private retreats take place at Benet Hall year-round, and in the spirit of ecumenism, people of all faiths are welcomed. Family and friends of seminarians may stay at the retreat house when they visit. The seminary also uses the facility for faculty inservice days and various meetings, and it is the site of seminars and symposia.

St. Joseph Crypt Chapel, under the Abbey Church, is the primary site of seminary liturgies. It is used Monday through Friday for morning Eucharist and Evening Prayer, as well as for Evenings of Quiet, Benediction, and special conferences. St. Anselm Chapel and St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel in the residence halls are used primarily by students wanting to pray privately or in small groups.

Mount Angel Abbey Library, designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, speaks of the Benedictines' long commitment to learning. The library is also essential to the intellectual and spiritual life of the seminary. Home to over 260,000 volumes and 600 periodicals, the library stands at the center of the learning task, its collection an invitation to the student to study in breadth and in depth.

Aquinas Hall and Anselm Hall are situated on either side of the library. They provide seminarian housing on the upper floors and classrooms and offices on the ground level floors.

The Damian Center contains excellent facilities for athletics, including a basketball court, a racquetball court, a jacuzzi and sauna, locker facilities, and weight rooms.