"He is truly happy who loves what he ought to love"
Commentary on Psalm 26, 7
The story of Villanova College and University begins with the
founding of the first Augustinian Province in the United States in 1796. Nearly a half
century later, on 13 October 1841, Augustinians from this province agreed to purchase just
under 200 acres of land from the "Belle-Air" estate of the late John Rudolph. The Augustinians received title to Belle-Air on 5 January 1842, a date that later
generations would recognize, with some exaggeration, as the founding of Villanova College.
In fact classes did not open until 18 September 1843. Less than two years later on 20
February 1845, the college had to close its doors, reopening on 6 September 1846. This
hiatus was a direct consequence of the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia during the
summer of 1844, causing the Augustinian community to sustain severe losses. In 1857, the
college suspended operations again, this time because the Augustinians wanted to
concentrate their limited resources on missionary work in the region. The financial panic
of the late 1850's and the ensuing Civil War forced the college to remain closed until
September 1865, some five months after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Despite these early
struggles the college managed to enlarged the former Belle-Air mansion; to erect a small
chapel; to build the east wing of a new College building (Alumni Hall); and to obtain a
charter from the state of Pennsylvania. It was also during this early period (1848) that
Villanova opened a seminary program for the training of Augustinians.
Link to Exhibit Items
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