Major Seminary of Bogotá

The Theological Seminary of Bogotá, commonly known as the Major Seminary of Bogotá (Spanish: Seminario Conciliar de Bogotá; Seminario Mayor de Bogotá) is a Roman Catholic major seminary located in Bogotá, Colombia, and serving both the Archdiocese of Bogotá and the Diocese of Facatativá. With history dating back to 1581, it is the oldest seminary in the Americas, and today is the largest and most prominent seminaries in Colombia, with dozens of alumni having been appointed bishops, archbishops, and cardinals. In addition to religious leaders, two Colombian presidents have been associated with the seminary. José Manuel Marroquín, the 27th President of Colombia, studied there in the 1840s, and Miguel Abadía Méndez, who was president in the 1920s, taught Latin at the seminary in the early 20th century.

Major Seminary of Bogotá
Seminario Mayor de Bogotá
Escudo Seminario Mayor de Bogotá.svg
Latin: Seminarium Bogotense
Former names
Seminary of St. Louis (1581–86)
Seminary of St. Bartholomew the Apostle (1605–1771; 1794–97)
Ordinands' College of St. Joseph (1823–40)
Initium Sapientiae Timor Domini
Motto in English
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God
Established1581; 440 years ago (1581)
AffiliationRoman Catholic
RectorRev. Leonardo Cárdenas Téllez
Academic staff
Dioceses servedArchdiocese of Bogotá
Diocese of Facatativá


Early seminariesEdit

In 1581, the Seminary of Bogotá, then called the Seminary of St. Louis (Spanish: Seminario de San Luis) opened in Bogotá, the first Catholic seminary in the Americas.[1] It closed in 1586, but Bartolomé Lobo Guerrero, Archbishop of Santafé en Nueva Granada (the original name for the Archdiocese of Bogotá), reopened it in 1605 under a new name, the Seminary of St. Bartholomew the Apostle (Spanish: Seminario de San Bartolomé Apóstol).[1] Guerrero placed the seminary in the care of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and introduced the instruction of indigenous languages to prepare the future priests for pastoral care of natives.[1] But in 1767, King Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from the Spanish Empire in an effort to gain control of the wealth held by their missions.[1][2] After that, diocesan priests staffed the seminary.[1] The seminary was weakened by the loss of the Jesuits and in 1771 was absorbed into another former Jesuit seminary.[1]

In 1794 Archbishop Baltazar Jaime Martinez de Compañón reestablished the seminary, staffed by diocesan priests.[1] In 1797, the archbishop died and the seminary closed as a result.[1] In the years that followed, the struggle for Colombian independence would render it impossible to reopen the seminary at that time.[1]

Ordinand's College and mergerEdit

In the years after Colombian independence, the need for a seminary in Bogotá became feasible. Fernando Caycedo y Flórez, the archbishop at the time, proposed to the new national government the reestablishment of the "Ordinands' College."[1] The Congress of Colombia approved the establishment in 1823, assigning it a location, budget, and internal regulations.[1] The seminary's curriculum was subject to government approval, which caused conflicts with the government.[1] This time, it was renamed the Ordinands' College of St. Joseph (Spanish: Colegio de Ordenandos de San José).[1] The seminary operated independently until 1838, when the government merged it with the National College of St. Bartholomew (Spanish: Colegio Nacional de San Bartolomé).[1]

Independent seminaryEdit

Archbishop Manuel José Mosquera y Arboleda, who had been appointed only three years before the merger, began campaigning for the Bogotá seminary to be reestablished as an independent institution.[1] He efforts succeeded on 21 April 1840, when Congress passed a decree separating the Theological Seminary of Bogotá from the National College of St. Bartholomew. The new seminary, unlike its predecessor, had its own private property, donated by Archbishop Mosquera, and was governed by the archdiocese, not the government.[1] However, the government did reserve the right to require approval for the appointment of the seminary rector.[1] The new statutes for the reestablishment of the seminary, containing 13 chapters and 227 articles, date from 24 August 1840, and the seminary resumed work on 4 October of that year.[1] In 1845, Archbishop Mosquera decided to divide the separate the minor seminary program from the major seminary, entrusting the former to the Jesuits and leaving the latter in the hands of diocesan clergy.[1] However, in 1850 Colombian President José Hilario López expelled the Jesuits as part of his anti-clerical campaign,[2] making it necessary to reunify the two seminaries.[1]

Closures and reestablishmentsEdit

The seminary closed briefly in 1851 when the government ordered the seminary building to be converted into barracks.[1] Then, in 1852 the government ordered the seminary to once again merge with the National College of St. Bartholomew.[1] In 1855, Archbishop Antonio Herrán y Zaldúa decided to reopen the seminary as an institution independent of the college.[1] The seminary officially reopened on 13 January 1856.[1] Archbishop Herrán also decided to divide the minor and major departments of the seminary, putting the Jesuits back in charge of the former, as they had returned to Colombia in 1858.[1] However, the major seminary closed in 1861 when Herrán was exiled.[1] Herrán returned to Colombia in 1865 and reopened the seminary in 1865 with 50 seminarians.[1]

In 1868, Vicente Arbeláez Gómez was appointed Archbishop of Bogotá, and he signed off on new statutes for the seminary on 14 December 1868.[1] He named Rev. Dr. Indalecio Barreto Martínez, who would later become an auxiliary bishop, as rector.[1] In 1871, Rev. Bernardo Herrera Restrepo, a 27-year-old priest trained at St. Sulpice Seminary in Paris and who would later become a bishop, became rector.[1] Under his leadership the seminary saw a revival of their customs, improvements to the physical campus, and a reformed curriculum.[1] In 1876 the government confiscated the building to use as a political prison, and the seminary closed.[1] It reopened in 1878, still with Herrera as rector, but at different locations: first in the house where Colombian military and political leader Francisco de Paula Santander had died, and next in the former convent of "La Enseñanza (English: The Teaching).[1] Finally, the seminary gave its building to the College of St. Bartholomew, and was given a former Augustinian Recollect monastery building by the government in exchange.[1] In 1885 the seminary's work was again interrupted as the government seized the building for military purposes and used it as a base for staff of the National Army reserves.[1] Earlier in the year, the seminary rector, Monsignor Herrera, was appointed Archbishop of Medellín.[1] He was replaced by Rev. Dr. Joaquín Gómez Otero.[1]

Growth and new buildingsEdit

The main building of the seminary, completed in 1946 and commissioned by Archbishop Ismael Perdomo Borrero.

In 1891, Archbishop Herrera was appointed Archbishop of Bogotá, putting him back into contact with the seminary.[1] He gave the seminary new statutes, and wished to construct it a new building.[1] Construction began on the building, located on 11th Street in Bogotá, and the seminary moved its facilities there, but the building was never fully completed.[1] In 1917, upon the publication of the new Code of Canon Law, the seminary's statutes were updated to keep in accordance.[1]

In 1928, Archbishop Ismael Perdomo Borrero divided the seminary into two, a major and minor seminary.[1] In the mid-1940s Perdomo also commissioned the construction of a new seminary building, located in the old "El Chico" haienda, which was completed in 1946 and is still home to the seminary to this day.[1]

Vatican II and changing timesEdit

In 1960 Archbishop Luis Concha Córdoba entrusted the administration of the seminary to the Society of Saint-Sulpice, a religious order headquartered in France.[1] The Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, came to an end in December 1965 and produced noticeable changes in the way Catholic priests were being formed.[1] In the years that followed, there was a significant decline in the number of vocations to the Catholic priesthood, and a large number of priests left the priesthood.[1] At that time the Seminary of Bogotá became notable nationally because few dioceses in the time after Vatican II had enough vocations to support their own seminary.[1] The seminary benefited from professors from foreign countries, as a result of its sponsorship by the Sulpicians, as well as seminarians from many different areas of Colombia, often places that could not support a seminary of their own.[1] From about 1965 until 1985, the seminary served students from the departments of Santander, Boyacá, Cauca, Amazonas, Putumayo, Cundinamarca, Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Meta, and other regions.[1] There were also seminarians from Venezuela, Peru and Central America.[1]

With the completion of Vatican II and the arrival of the Sulpicians, both the atmosphere and educational style of the seminary changed.[1] A larger emphasis was placed on getting to know the people that a future priest will serve, and concern about social causes became more prominent.[1] The environment became more similar to that of a university, although the rector still holds direct leadership and responsibility of all training.[1]

Since 1980Edit

In 1980, the Society of Saint-Sulpice left the seminary, turning its administration back over to diocesan clergy.[1] Today, the Major Seminary of Bogotá is administered by priests of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, with visiting educators, both clergy and laity, who have greater expertise in various subjects that are part of the seminary curriculum.[1] Most of the priests on faculty have advanced degrees in specialized subjects from European universities, especially the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, which is run by the Jesuits.[1]

In 2016, the Major Seminary of Bogotá celebrated the 70th anniversary of the completion of the seminary building.[3] The festivities began on 19 March 2016, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, with a "Feast of Families," in which families of seminarians were invited for a meal, and later a Mass.[3]


In 1943, Archbishop Ismael Perdomo Borrero commenced the construction of the new building of the Major Seminary of Bogotá, designed by architect José Maria Montoya Valenzuela.[3] The building, a four-story red brick Romanesque edifice, was completed in 1946 in the Chico neighborhood of Bogotá, in the eastern hills of the city.[3] The land on which the seminary was built was donated by Enrique Pérez Hoyos and Mercedes Sierra de Pérez.


Notable alumniEdit

The Seminary of Bogotá has produced dozens of alumni who have gone on to become bishops, archbishops, and cardinals. They are listed below:[1]

Notable facultyEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg "Historia - Seminario Mayor de Bogotá" [History]. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  2. ^ a b "Jesuit Expulsion | Rebellion and Nation Building in 19th-Century Colombia". Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  3. ^ a b c d "El Seminario Conciliar de Bogotá en sus 70 años, abre las puertas a la ciudad" [The Theological Seminary of Bogotá in its 70th year, opens its doors to the city]. (in Spanish). Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  4. ^ a b "Biography of Mgr Rodrigo Arango Velásquez, P.S.S." Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  5. ^ "Formadores". Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  6. ^ "Catholic bishop dies in Colombia :: EWTN News". Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  7. ^ "New auxiliary bishop appointed for Archdiocese of Washington. Published 3/21/2015". Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  8. ^ Gobernantes Colombianos, Ignacio Arismendi Posada, Interprint Editors Ltd., Italgraf, Segunda Edición, Page 145, Bogotá, Colombia, 1983
  9. ^ "Marc Ouellet".
  10. ^ Cohen, Lucy (1997). "El Bachillerato y las Mujeres en Colombia: Acción y Reacción" (PDF). Revista Colombiana de Educación (in Spanish): 16. ISSN 0120-3916. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-09-21. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
  11. ^ "Pope Names Father Mario Dorsonville-Rodríguez Auxiliary Bishop of Washington". Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  12. ^ Burgess, Stanley M.; Maas, Eduard M. van der (2010-08-03). The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements: Revised and Expanded Edition. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310873358.

External linksEdit