The Casa Santa Maria, affectionately called the “House on Humility street,” is the mother-house of the North American College. The Casa is situated at the base of the historic Quirinale Hill and is only two blocks from the Trevi Fountain. It is here that American clergy who are earning graduate degrees pray, study and live during their time in Rome.
The Main Altar in the 400 year old Casa Santa Maria. The picture above the altar is a nineteenth century copy of the famous Madonna of Mercy, known affectionately to Casa residents over the years as Our Lady of Humility.
The Casa building was founded as a Dominican monastery for young ladies of nobility by Francesca Orsini in 1601. The cloister was dedicated and blessed in 1613 under the patronage of Our Lady. The official title for the church and monastery is La Chiesa della Santa Maria Asunta al monastero dell’Umiltà. The monastery continued for some 200 years until it was suppressed under Napoleon. After his defeat, the Church regained control of the property which was administered by the Congregation De Propaganda Fide.
In 1859, Pope Pius IX gave the property to the American bishops who established the North American College on December 7, 1859 for the purpose of training priests for the growing United States of America. Many men who became noted American churchmen were educated in Rome and lived at the house at the comer of Via dell’Umiltà and Via delle Vergine.
While the seminarians lived and studied in the house, they attended classes at two Roman universities–the Gregorian and the Urbaniana. Residence continued until the Second World War when the students and faculty were sent home for their own safety. In 1947, the seminary was reestablished under the administration of Bishop Martin J. O’Connor, rector.
Due to an increase in students, the American bishops used the property on the Gianicolo Hill, which they had purchased in 1926, and built the new Seminary of the North American College (affectionately known as “the Hill’) which was inaugurated on October 14, 1953 by Pope Pius XII. The former seminary on “Humility Street” then became the residence for American clergy studying in Rome.
Rev. John C. Kasza