Next month I’m off to Rome and the last time I was there I happened to walk past the old Scots College on the via delle Quattro Fontane. The Pontifical Scots College is probably the oldest Scottish institution abroad and certainly one of the most important, both historically and today. As Scotland’s primary seminary it has — almost literally — helped form the soul of the country, particularly during times of widespread persecution back in the mother country.
The church of Sant’Andrea degli Scozzesi (St Andrew of the Scots) was built in 1592 during the reign of Clement VIII, and early in the seventeenth century the church and neighbouring hospice were given over to the Scots College which had been founded a few years before. The seminary building itself was (I believe) built much later, in the nineteenth century after the college briefly ceased instruction due to the tumult of the French Revolution.
Sadly the building was not very well maintained and by 1960 it was falling apart. It was decided to sell the old college buildings in the Via delle Quattro Fontane and move to a larger site out the middle of nowhere in the Via Cassia. The move was made in 1964, and the Scots College has remained there ever since, while the old college housed a bank for many years and more recently a lawfirm.
Two years ago I met up with my old university mate Jamie — then a deacon but now a fully ordained priest of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. Oor wee Jamie (he’s nae so wee anymoor!) managed to put his Italian to good use and we finagled a peak indoors thanks to the kindness of the staff of the current owners, including a look at the now deconsecrated chapel. The building is now in exceptionally good condition and is on the market for the somewhat shocking pricetag of €60,000,000.
Returning the Scots College to its historic location would be logistically sensible. The old buildings are much closer to the Gregorian University where the Scots College’s seminarians study, and they would be allowed to participate more fully in the life of Rome, helping to develop the Scottish church’s links with Catholics on the continent and further afield. But the asking price is clearly beyond the realms of possibility — though Italians are always up for some negotiating.
A more realistic possibility might be a building swap with some centrally located institute looking for a bit more space. At any rate, a return to the centre of Rome would be a wise move for the Scots College.