theological seminary


A seminary, school of theology, theological seminary, or divinity school is an educational institution for educating students (sometimes called ''seminarians'') in
scripture Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of ...
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity.
, generally to prepare them for
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) to perform various religious . The process and ceremonies of ordination va ...

to serve as clergy, in academics, or in
Christian ministry In Christianity Christianity is an , based on the and of . It is the , with about 2.5 billion followers. Its adherents, known as , make up a majority of the population in , and believe that is the , whose coming as the was in the (c ...
. The English word is taken from the Latin ''seminarium'', translated as ''seed-bed'', an image taken from the
Council of Trent The Council of Trent ( la, Concilium Tridentinum), held between 1545 and 1563 in (or Trento, in northern ), was the 19th of the . Prompted by the , it has been described as the embodiment of the ."Trent, Council of" in Cross, F. L. (ed.) ''Th ...

Council of Trent
document ''Cum adolescentium aetas'' which called for the first modern seminaries. In the United States, the term is currently used for graduate-level theological institutions, but historically it was used for high schools.


The establishment of modern seminaries resulted from Roman Catholic reforms of the
Counter-Reformation The Counter-Reformation (), also called the Catholic Reformation () or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic Church, Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation, also known as the Protestant Revol ...
after the
Council of Trent The Council of Trent ( la, Concilium Tridentinum), held between 1545 and 1563 in (or Trento, in northern ), was the 19th of the . Prompted by the , it has been described as the embodiment of the ."Trent, Council of" in Cross, F. L. (ed.) ''Th ...

Council of Trent
. The Tridentine seminaries placed great emphasis on personal discipline as well as the teaching of philosophy as a preparation for theology. In the United States, Protestant institutions widely adopted the term 'seminary' for independent graduate schools (separate from a university) to train its ministers. The oldest seminary in the United States was
Andover Theological Seminary Andover Theological Seminary (1807-1965) was a Congregationalist seminary founded in 1807 and originally located in Andover, Massachusetts Andover is a New England town, town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. It was settled in 164 ...
founded in 1807 and affiliated with the
Congregationalist Church Congregational churches (also Congregationalist churches; Congregationalism) are Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Crit ...


Seminaries in the Catholic Church are divided into minor seminaries for teenagers and major seminaries for adults, including both college seminaries (though in the U.S. these are often called minor seminaries) for undergraduate students and post-graduate seminaries for those who already have a
bachelor's degree A bachelor's degree (from Middle Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area ...
. There are also seminaries for older adults who are well out of school, such as the Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts, and for other more specialized purposes. All seminaries are run either by
religious order A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. ...
s or by
diocese In Ecclesiastical polity, church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. History In the later organization of the Roman Empire, the increasingly subdivided Roman province, prov ...
s or other similar structures. Often a seminary will train both that particular order's or diocese's priests and the priests of other orders or dioceses that select that particular seminary for its priests. For instance, Saint John's Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts trains priests for many of the other dioceses in New England which are suffragan dioceses of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Either way, a man who seeks to enter a seminary to become a priest must be sponsored by either a diocese or by a religious order. Often a diocese might be attached to or affiliated with a larger Catholic college or university so that the larger college and its faculty provides more general education in history or theology while the seminary focuses on topics specific to the needs of future priests, such as training in canon law, the sacraments, and preaching, or specific to the particular order or diocese. For instance the Theological College (The Catholic University of America), Theological College in Washington, D.C. is part of The Catholic University of America. Further, in Rome there are several seminaries which educate seminarians or already ordained priests and bishops and which are maintained by orders or dioceses from outside of Italy. For instance, the Pontifical North American College, which trains priests from the United States and elsewhere, is supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


The International Council for Evangelical Theological Education was founded in 1980 by the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance. In 2015, it would have 1,000 member schools in 113 countries.

Other uses of the term

In some countries, the term ''seminary'' is also used for secular schools of higher education that train teachers; in the nineteenth century, many female seminary, female seminaries were established in the United States. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Also known as the LDS Church or the Mormons) hosts seminary classes for high school students ages 14 to 18, as part of the Church Educational System. Unlike use in other religious contexts, the word "seminary", in an LDS Church context, does not refer to a higher education program designed to train students that they may obtain a church-based career. LDS seminary students do not get high school credit for their seminary studies.

See also

* Consecrated life * Bible college * List of Eastern Catholic seminaries * List of evangelical seminaries and theological colleges * List of Roman Catholic seminaries * Minor seminary * Female seminary * Jewish use: Yeshiva, and especially Midrasha, the women's equivalent, widely referred to as "seminaries" * Madrasa in Islam


External links

* * {{Authority control Seminaries and theological colleges, Christian universities and colleges School types Types of university or college Catholic education