The Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide was established in 1627 for the purpose of training missionaries to spread Catholicism across the world (the Latin term "de propaganda fide" means “for the propagation of the faith”).
The college was established in Rome by Pope Urban VIII. In a brief on January 27, 1624 he ordered the investment of money and the acquisition of the palazzo Ferratini in the Piazza di Spagna; by the Bull “Immortalis Dei Filius” on 1 August 1627, the college was established.
One of the greatest benefactors of the new college was Urban VIII’s brother, Cardinal Antonio Barberini. In September 1633 he bought all the houses and gardens between the College building and the Church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte. On May 5, 1634 he laid the foundation stone of the college church.
Italians were not admitted to the college, except from areas of missionary work - Valtellina and the diocese of Como. From the outset, students were drawn from the Balkans, Northern Europe and the Middle East. The college prepared them for taking holy orders, after which they were to return to their homelands as missionaries. Between 1633 and 1703 a total of 451 students attended the college. Of these, 48 were Armenian, 42 Dutch, 34 Dalmatian, 33 Greek, 25 Syrian, 25 Valtellinese, 22 German, 17 Indian, 10 Ethiopian, 8 Persian and one from New Spain. In the first half of the nineteenth century the College had as its spiritual director Saint Vincent Pallotti and among its students, at different times, were Saint Oliver Plunkett and John Henry Newman.
On 27 June 1641 a further Bull of Urban VIII abolished the college’s autonomous administration and brought it directly under the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
The effectiveness of the training was difficult to judge. In 1660 it became a requirement for all missionaries within Europe to send an annual letter back to the college - for those outside Europe, every other year sufficed. From these letters it can be ascertained that of the 51 seminarists between 1633 and 16&3, 27 had become missionaries, while the remaining 24 had died, abandoned their mission or simply disappeared.
In 1798, following the disruption surrounding the creation of the Roman Republic and the Napoleonic Wars, the college was closed and some of the students were received by the Lazarists at Montecitorio. This arrangement lasted until 1809, when even this last remnant of the college was suppressed. In 1814, however, some of the Propaganda students were again received by the Lazarists, and in 1817 the Urbaniana was reopened. From 1836 until 1848, it operated under the direction of the Jesuits.
In 1925 the Cardinal Prefect, W. M. Van Rossum (1854-1932) purchased the hospital of Santa Maria della Pietà on the Gianicolo Hill, and the seminarians transferred to this site, their current residence, on 2 November 1926. In the meantime, Van Rossum also began the construction of the Pontifical Urban University. After the teaching functions moved to the new university, the college building has continued to serve as the residence for the seminarians, which was inaugurated by Pope Pius XI on 24 April 1931.
The Collegio Urbano comes under the direct authority of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The most recent change to the statutes of the College were made in 2001 by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe. The new regulations were approved on 11 November 2006 by Cardinal Ivan Dias. On 10 May 2011 Pope Benedict XVI named Cardinal Fernando Filoni prefect of the Congregation to succeed Cardinal Dias. Since 1 August 2013 the college has been led by mons. Vincenzo Viva, of the diocese of Nardò-Gallipoli.
Currently the Collegio Urbano has 165 students from various parts of Asia and Africa; none of the seminarists are from Italy. To be admitted to the college, candidates must be recommended by a bishop and are required to have an understanding of Italian. The first stage of training for the priesthood lasts five or six years, during which the seminarists study philosophy and theology as well as languages. In some cases a period of licentiate lasting two or three years is required before ordination takes place.
- "History". collegiourbano.org. Pontificio Collegio Urbano. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- "Pontifical Urbanian College". Archiviostoricopropaganda.va. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- Pizzorusso, Giovanni (2004). "I satelliti di Propaganda Fide : il Collegio Urbano e la Tipografia poliglotta. Note di ricerca su due istituzioni culturali romane nel XVII". Mélanges de l'école française de Rome. 116 (2): 474. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- Benigni, U. "Roman Colleges". Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- "Dal sito ufficiale della diocesi di Nardò-Gallipoli, Nomina: Don Vincenzo Viva Rettore Collegio Urbano in Roma". Retrieved 15 August 2013.