Benedictine History

Abbot Boniface Wimmer

Our school has a rich history that dates back to 1874 when two Benedictine Monks came to Savannah from Europe by way of St. Vincent Monastery in Latrobe, Pa. These two monks came at Savannah Bishop William Gross’ request. Bishop Gross sought to educate and convert the recently emancipated blacks in accordance with the directives of the Council at Baltimore and the Catholic Bishops. True to the Bishop’s commitment, the founding of St. Benedict’s parish occurred soon after the monks’ arrival and a school followed in 1875.

Read about the Benedictines on Skidaway, an excerpt from the book A Short History of Skidaway Island by V.E. Kelly.

Shortly thereafter, the Benedictines bought a plot of land on Isle of Hope and Dr. DuPont donated an additional plot. The Benedictines founded the first monastery in the South on these two plots. Although several recruits joined, within a year the new monastery members died of yellow fever.

After this loss, Abbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., the founder of the Benedictines in the United States, honored Bishop Gross’ request to help carry out the original Apostolate. The Abbot sent Rev. Oswald Moosmueller, O.S.B., as superior and the Benedictines bought 713 acres on Skidaway Island. At this site (now the 14th hole of The Landings golf course) the Benedictines built a monastery and school. Unfortunately, after about nine years the project was abandoned as a failure because the Benedictines could not attract nor support enough blacks in their enterprise. Upon returning to Savannah, the monks served Sacred Heart Church under the aegis of Belmont Abbey.

Begun as a boy’s preparatory school in 1902, Benedictine College – as it was originally called – was organized on a military basis in the Southern military tradition of VMI and The Citadel. The school opened with 21 Cadets and was an immediate success. Read about the beginning of Benedictine College.

The “BC” Cadets were highly visible in the community and often acted as a color guard or escort for civic occasions as well as marching annually in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, an enduring tradition begun in 1903. Before long the Savannah community as a whole embraced the school, regarding it as its’ own version of The Citadel. In 1936, Benedictine became the first “day” military school in the nation to become an honor unit of distinction, prompting the monks to change the name of the school to Benedictine Military School. By the 1950s, it became a tradition among Savannah’s Catholic families for sons to attend the alma mater of their fathers and grandfathers. The existing Modernist campus, completed in 1964, was designed to reflect the military heritage of the then-60-year-old school as well as uphold the monastic traditions of the nearly 1500-year-old Order of St. Benedict.

In 1963, Benedictine Military School moved to the current location on Seawright Drive on the Southside of Savannah. Today, the St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa. guides the Benedictines. Benedictine Monks work at the school and live on campus, holding positions such as Headmaster, Campus Ministry Director, and faculty teaching positions. The Benedictine Monks are active in many other areas of the school and the community.