Hidden in the basement of Lewis Hall is the Monsignor James C. Turro Seminary Library, a part of campus not often seen by the University community.
The seminary was originally established in 1872 in what is now President’s Hall, and was called College Building at the time, according to Seminary Library Director the Rev. Lawrence B. Porter.
The Seminary School of Theology moved to Mahwah, N.J., from 1927 to 1933 and established its current home in Lewis Hall in 1984.
“Unlike the Walsh library, this is a very specialized library,” Porter said. “It includes Christian literature, mostly Christian theology, biblical commentaries and research.”
Cases in the entrance of the seminary library include textbooks from the first seminary class from 1861 and works of current faculty members.
According to Head Librarian Stella Wilkins, one of the most special artifacts at the seminary library is a set of four nails dated from first century A.D., recovered from England.
“You could get some idea from the crucifixion from these,” Porter said. “We have this secured to the wall because there was a time during holy week when parishes would ask to borrow it. It’s too precious.”
Wilkins pointed out a monochrome print oil painting done in 1898, which she said gets a great deal of attention from visitors.
“It’s so dramatic,” Wilkins said.
There is a rare book room located down the hall from the entrance to the main collection, which houses unique and old texts, including a Bible dated from 1609.
“We are happy to let people spend time with precious pieces in the rare book room,” Porter said.
The entrance ramp to the general collection is decorated with special framed pieces, including historic letters from theologian John Henry Newman and The White House to celebrate the theology school’s 150th anniversary.
There are two more historic Bibles in glass cases by the library’s lounge area that serve as important research materials for the three biblical scholars on faculty, according to Porter.
The biblical section includes pieces of art about Jewish figures as well.
“It was not just Christians who illustrated their Bibles,” Porter said.
According to Porter, the School of Theology has about 200 students, 120 of which are seminarians. The other 80 to 100 are Catholic theology students.
“Students that are here are primarily studying scripture or church history,” Porter said. “I have had Muslim, Jewish and Protestant students as well.”
According to Wilkins, many local Catholic and Protestant clergy come in to use the library.
“We don’t want to be just books,” Porter said. “We like to have a good video and audio collection as well as historic artifacts. I think it’s important. We like to have other media, but we have about 70,000 books in our collection.”
According to Wilkins, the staff is in the process of cataloging theses from the seminarians.
“This is one of the things that makes a seminary unique,” Wilkins said.
According to Porter, any Seton Hall community member with a valid ID card can come use the facilities or check out a book.
“Regularly we get students outside of the theology school because our books are represented in SetonCat. Everyone’s welcome,” Wilkins said.
Charlotte Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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