The Pontifical Gregorian University is a Roman Catholic theological seminary in Rome. In September 2001, the Gregorian University celebrated its 450th anniversary and currently hosts students from a variety of cultures and vocations in the Catholic Church. It has one of the largest theology departments in the world, with over 1600 student-priests, seminarians, religious, and laymen and women from over 130 countries. Most of the Gregorian's professors are Jesuit priests, but other orders are represented in the faculty, as is the laity. Students from the North American College earn degrees that cover the same coursework as students in the United States, and also pursue further specialization and advanced degrees as they prepare to return to serve the Catholic Church in America.
Ignatius of Loyola originally founded the university as the Roman College for the goal of training priests for the missionary Society of Jesus in 1551. Just three decades after the original foundation of the College, Pope Gregory XIII transferred the institution from a location adjacent the Victor Emmanuel II monument to a site that includes the church of Saint Ignatius. Gregory XIII's palazzo still remains today, functioning now as a high school, and it is after him that the College takes the name. Three hundred years later, in 1873, Pope Pius IX again relocated the College and conferred upon it and its subsequent Rectors their present-day titles.
From 1924 to 1929 construction on the present-day site was performed. The Gregorian has retained its imposing presence in the Piazza della Pilotta, sharing that square with the associated Pontifical Biblical and Pontifical Oriental Institutes as well as the Casa Santa Maria, which is the graduate house of the North American College.
Among the Gregorian's illustrious students are 14 popes, including Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul I, as well as 20 saints and 39 beatified, including Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, and Saint Maximilian Kolbe .