Blackfriars, Oxford

Blackfriars, Oxford. The name Blackfriars is commonly used to denote a house of the Dominican Friars in England. Blackfriars in Oxford houses three distinct institutions: the Priory of the Holy Spirit, the religious house of the friars, whose current prior is John O'Connor OP; Blackfriars Studium, the centre of Theological studies of the English Province of the Dominican Friars (although it numbers members of other orders and lay people among its students and lecturers); and Blackfriars Hall, one of the constituent educational institutions of the University of Oxford. Blackfriars Hall is not a college but a Permanent Private Hall, meaning that it is owned and governed by an outside institution (in this case, the English Province of the Order of Preachers) and not by its fellows as a college is. Located in St Giles', Blackfriars Hall is a centre for the study of Theology and Philosophy informed by the intellectual tradition of St Thomas Aquinas. It admits men and women of any faith for Oxford undergraduate degrees in Theology schools, and for PPE, and for a wide range of postgraduate degrees.


Despite the fact that many of the dates and figures of Oxford's medieval and early life are imprecise, Blackfriars' history is unusually well documented, largely as a result of the hall being part of an international fraternity of scholarship, which was able to monitor and document its fortunes, even during times of the hall's collapse.

The Dominicans arrived in Oxford on 15 August 1221, at the instruction of Saint Dominic himself, little more than a week after the friar's death. As such, the hall is heir to the oldest tradition of teaching in Oxford, a tradition that precedes both the aularian houses that would characterise the next century and the collegiate houses that would characterise the rest of the University's history.

Like all the monastic houses in Oxford, Blackfriars came into rapid and repeated conflict with the University authorities. With the Reformation, all monastic houses, including Blackfriars, were suppressed. The Dominicans did not return to Oxford for some 400 years, until 1921 when Blackfriars was refounded as a religious house, within 600 metres of the original site. The Dominican Studium at Blackfriars had a close relationship with the University, culminating in the establishment of Blackfriars as a permanent private hall in 1994.

Blackfriars Hall is the home of a number of other institutes, including the Las Casas Institute on ethics, governance and social justice. Launched in November 2008, the Institute combines scholarship with major speakers and an extensive community engagement programme, and so contributes to the Hall's founding vision to be a centre of the social as well as the sacred sciences. Its founding Director (from October 2008 to January 2011) was Francis Davis who enlisted the support of the BBC Director General, Nobel Laureate Professor Mohan Munasinge, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank and Professor Conor Gearty (among others) to contribute to the Institute's work. In March 2010 the Las Casas Institute hosted a conference - part of the UK's first ever social weeks - attended by 250 participants from over 20 countries. Keynote speakers included Professor Mary Jo Bane (Harvard), Professor Chris McCruddeon (Oxford), Professor Johan Verstraaten (Leuven) and Professor Margaret Archer (Lausanne). The Institute was specifically praised both by the University and its College Visitor in reviews undertaken during this period.

The International Young Leaders Network exists to identify and nurture young and emerging leaders aged 18 to 33 from the Christian community globally.

The Aquinas Institute was established in 2004 under the directorship of Fergus Kerr OP. It aims to foster study of St Thomas at Oxford through seminars, occasional conferences, summer schools, and programmes that will bring international research scholars to the university each year. It seeks to foster the study of St Thomas from three perspectives: theological, philosophical, and from the viewpoint of medieval studies. Members of the Institute include Revd Dr Vivian Boland OP (Director), Revd Dr Fergus Kerr OP (Founding Director), Prof. Steve Baldner (Visiting Fellow, Trinity term 2006), Dr William Carroll (Aquinas Fellow Hilary Terms), Revd Dr Simon Gaine OP, Revd Peter Hunter OP, Revd Dr Aidan Nichols OP and Revd Dominic Ryan OP. The Institute puts on a weekly seminar in Hilary term each year in which leading international scholars address a theme connected with the teaching of St Thomas. In Michaelmas term, the Director runs a weekly advanced reading class on Aquinas for University and Studium students. In Trinity term, the Director runs a seminar on Medieval authors before and after Aquinas. Patrons of the Institute include Professors John Haldane, Alasdair MacIntyre Ralph McInerny (d.2010) and Eleonore Stump.

Notable former students
  • Dr James Alison, British Theologian
  • Delia Gallagher, CNN Faith and Values Correspondent
  • Brian Davies, Philosopher
  • Herbert McCabe, Theologian and Philosopher
  • Anthony Fisher, Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, Australia
  • Timothy Radcliffe, Past Master of the Order of Preachers
Current Academics/Fellows
  • Rt Hon John Battle MP
  • Timothy Radcliffe, OP
  • Conrad, Fr Richard, OP
  • Finn, Fr Richard, OP
  • Goodill, Fr David, OP
  • O’Connor, Fr John, OP
  • Boland, Fr Vivian, OP
  • Demkovich, Fr Michael, OP
  • Earl, Fr Benjamin, OP
  • Farrell, Fr John, OP
  • Gaine, Fr Simon, OP
  • Ganeri, Fr Martin, OP
  • Gardner, Fr Timothy, OP
  • Hunter, Fr Peter, OP
  • Kenrick, Fr John Patrick, OP
  • Nichols, Fr Aidan, OP
  • Ombres, Fr Robert, OP
  • Ounsworth, Fr Richard, OP
  • Radcliffe, Fr Timothy, OP
  • Ryan, Fr Dominic, OP
  • Sanders, Fr David, OP
  • Bhattacharji, Dr Santha
  • Dodd, Mrs Val
  • King, Dr Brian
  • Murphy, Sr Anne
  • Reynolds, Dr Frances
  • Robertson, Prof David
  • Fisher, Rt Rev Anthony, OP
  • Kerr, Fr Fergus, OP
  • MacMillan, Mr James
  • McMahon, Rt Rev Malcolm, OP
  • Soskice, Prof Janet
  • Taylor, Prof Charles
  • Tobin, Most Rev Joseph
  • Carroll, Dr William
  • Nicholls, Fr Guy
  • Mary Charles-Murray
  • Giordano, Prof James
  • Keown, Prof John
  • Rona, Prof Peter
  • Shortt, Mr Rupert
  • Atkins, Sr Margaret
  • Black, Dr Michael
  • Day, Dr Juliette
  • Göcke, Mr Benedikt
  • Jones, Dr David
  • Logan, Dr Ian
  • Oborne, Dr Michael
  • Priest, Mr Stephen
  • Saward, Fr John
  • Scruton, Prof Roger
  • Barrie, Mr Stephen
  • Geach, Sr Tamsin OP
  • Hughes, Fr Gerard, SJ
  • McGarry, Sr Winnie OP
  • Nicoll, Tish
  • O’Mahony, Anthony
  • Samuels, Alison
  • Scott, Rt Rev Geoffrey, OSB
  • Ward, Sr. Benedicta
  • Watt, Dr Helen