Priory of the Holy Spirit, Blackfriars Hall (Oxford Uni), and the Dominican Studium.
In 1221, the General Chapter of the Order sent fr Gilbert de Fresney OP and twelve other friars to England to found a new house. They arrived in Oxford on 15 August and “made their first settlement, not near the Primate [at Canterbury, where they landed ten days earlier] nor the King [when they passed through London] but at the University.
Since their foundation, Dominicans have been drawn to universities and contributed to their life of study and intellectual pursuit, engaging with the ideas that were discussed there. In Oxford University, two medieval Dominicans were elected to become Chancellor and the Dominican house of studies (studium generale) has produced well-known preachers, theologians, philosophers and Thomists from fr Richard Fishacre OP (d.1248) to fr Herbert McCabe OP (d.2001).
The Medieval Priories
The following short video offers 3-D reconstructions of both the Dominican and Franciscan friaries in medieval Oxford.
The return of the Friars
Although the Oxford priory was suppressed in 1538, the Dominicans returned to the city and university under the visionary leadership of fr Bede Jarrett OP in 1921. Thanks to the unbounded generosity of an American widow, Mrs Charlotte Jefferson Tytus, and other benefactors, the current priory, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, was built; it currently houses nearly thirty friars.
The Priory Today
Almost eight centuries after we first came to Oxford, the Order continues to play a significant role in the city and the University of Oxford, notably in running Blackfriars Hall, which was established as a Permanent Private Hall of the University in 1994. Following in the footsteps of our medieval brethren, Dominicans are still engaged in the study and teaching of philosophy and theology at the Studium, which is the house of studies of the English Dominican Province, while also living and praying together in the priory as a community of brothers. Dominicans teach in the University’s theology faculty and Dominican students run theology groups in the Catholic chaplaincies of both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University.
Friars in the Oxford priory are also engaged in a wide range of pastoral ministries from prison chaplaincy to helping with a youth retreat centre. In addition, the priory church has a vibrant congregation with whom we collaborate closely and whom we serve in our preaching, teaching and pastoral ministry.