The Pontifical Scots College, Rome was founded on 5th December 1600 by Pope Clement VIII. It provided an education for young Scots Catholic men who, due to the laws against Catholics, could not receive a Catholic education at home. During the centuries that followed, the college sent a steady supply of priests to Scotland, being closed only when the French invaded Rome in 1798 and again during the Second World War. For two hundred years Jesuits and Italian secular clergy directed the College, but since 1800 the Rectors have all been Scots secular priests.
At first the college was sited in a little house in what is known today as Via del Tritone, opposite the church of S. Maria in Costantinopoli. In 1604 it was transferred to Via Felice, now called Via delle Quattro Fontane, and there it remained till 1962. The Church of St. Andrew of the Scots was built beside the college and, although no longer in the possession of the college, Mass is still regularly celebrated there. The present college building on the Via Cassia was opened in 1964 by Pope Paul VI and has since been visited by Pope John Paul II. As Rome has expanded and its suburban traffic has increased, this location has been proving more and more inconvenient over the years, with longer and longer travel times for seminarians heading to classes at the various universities in the centre. That, coupled with the costs of maintenance and repair to the current building, has prompted much discussion about the need to relocate the College once more. In May of 2023, it was announced that the College would be leaving its current home on the Via Cassia to return to the city centre. While a new permanent home is being located, the College will be the guests of the Pontifical Beda College, close to the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls.
As well as a house for students for the priesthood, the Scots College has been a temporary home for many other Scots, such as the Bishops during the Second Vatican Council and other meetings, the several groups of priests who have taken part in theology refresher courses and, more recently, groups of pilgrims who come during the summer vacation. It has been at the centre of celebrations for the creation of three Scots Cardinals, Cardinal Gray, Cardinal Winning and Cardinal O’Brien, and it was visited by many pilgrims who came from Scotland for the Canonisation of St John Ogilvie. It also frequently hosts groups of pilgrims from Scotland staying in the city for major events or Holy Years, such as the Jubilee of 2000, the Year of Faith in 2012-2013 and the Jubilee Year of Mercy 2015-2016.
This year there are around a dozen students currently studying in the College in Rome, of the roughly twenty studying for the dioceses of Scotland in total.