SJU History

Saint John’s University

Its History and Heritage

In 1856, four Benedictine monks were dispatched from Saint Vincent Abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to establish a presence in the Minnesota Territory. They settled along the banks of the Mississippi River near present-day St. Cloud, and later founded a monastery in nearby lndianbush.

Now known as Collegeville, the place is home to Saint John’s Abbey and University, the School of Theology and Seminary and the Preparatory School. Saint John’s alumni embrace the Benedictine influence and the close community of faculty, students and staff.

A number of other enterprises have been developed to include the Liturgical Press, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, the first public radio station in the Minnesota Public Radio network, the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish Christian Learning, the Episcopal House of Prayer, the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute, an arboretum, The Saint John’s Pottery program and Arca Artium, a rare book and art collection.

The buildings at Saint John’s date from the 1860s and sit amidst 2,400 acres of pine and hardwood forests, an oak savanna, a restored prairie, wetlands and lakes. At the center of campus is the Abbey Church, one of 10 Saint John’s buildings designed by renowned architect Marcel Breuer. The University itself, founded in 1857, is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the Midwest.

From its inception, Saint John’s University has valued the liberal arts as a preparation for careers of leadership in church and society. Saint John’s is a partner with the College of Saint Benedict, providing the men from SJU and the women from CSB the opportunity to benefit from the distinctions of two nationally recognized Catholic undergraduate colleges. Together, Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict challenge their 3,300 students to live balanced lives of learning, work, leadership and service.

The mission of Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict is to provide the very best residential liberal arts education in the Catholic university tradition. The colleges foster integrated learning, exceptional leadership for change and wisdom for a lifetime.