One of Ireland’s earliest established schools for Catholic boys is Belvedere College, occupying a suite of Georgian buildings in the north of Dublin City. Belvedere, or Belvo as it is casually known, has a long and illustrious history of educating titans of industry, leading politicians, and internationally renowned sportsmen.
Founded and managed today by the Society of Jesus, Belvedere is Ireland’s pre-eminent day school. The school caters to approximately 1,000 boys from across Dublin and neighbouring counties. Education is based on the Irish curriculum but Belvedere is one of the few schools that still offer instruction in the classics. The school is particularly well-known for its sporting prowess, being one of the Big Three rugby schools (alongside Blackrock College and Terenure College) and one of the Super Seven, and has long been the top-performing school in the country in athletics and cricket.
Belvedere College was established in 1832 making it one of Ireland’s oldest schools. Located in a former convent facility for poor orphaned children, the Jesuits welcomed an initial roll of 9 boys to what was then known as St Francis Xavier’s College (the Roman Catholic Seminary of St Francis Xavier to be precise).
Whilst the school was, ostensibly, a seminary providing an education for young men with the aim of preparing them for entry into the priesthood, the school quickly expanded. Many middle-class Dublin Catholic families were keen to access the quality of education that the Jesuits were famous for but without having to send their boys away to much more expensive schools like Clongowes. Despite the school’s early success, however, its financial position became untenable and the prospect of closure loomed. Nevertheless, the school persevered and acquired new premises better suited to its purpose and expansion plans.
The school acquired Belvedere House and relocated, adopting its new name, Belvedere College. The school expanded into neighbouring properties over the years and now occupies a large terraced area along Denmark Street. It was the appointment of Fr. Thomas Finlay, SJ as Rector in 1884 that saw the school undergo its greatest changes and establish itself as a top-tier school. Inspired to a degree by the education revival and the Public School ethos that had been embraced by similar schools in England, Finlay instituted a program of reform at Belvedere. Under his stewardship, the school expanded to educate boys beyond the age of 15 and organised school transport to open admissions up to the farther reaches of Dublin City, and acquired playing fields so that a rigorous sports and athletics program could be developed alongside the school’s academic offering.
Such changes augmented the school’s status as the premier day boys school in Ireland and ensured its reputation as a leading school for the sons of gentlemen, having catered to wealthy Irish Catholic families since its foundation. A reputation that was established on the world stage, alongside its brother school, Clongowes, when Old Belvederean James Joyce immortalised both in his acclaimed work: ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’.
Belvedere College has educated a long list of Ireland’s finest minds, including heads of state, cabinet secretaries, academics, educators writers, and lawyers. The school has been featured in prominent Irish literary works, including James Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, and has hosted visiting dignitaries including President Xi Jinping of China to mark its close relationships with schools in China and Hong Kong.
The school has regularly featured at the top of Irish school rankings with outstanding exam results and university placement records. In addition, Belvedere pupils have regularly achieved great success at the Young Scientist awards and other academic competitions. Pupils at the school enjoy a unique scholarship opportunity in Transition Year with the top performing scientist attending the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania under the direction of old boy Garrett Fitzgerald, a senior faculty member at the prestigious institution.
Belvedere works closely with a number of partner schools, through the Jesuit education networks in Ireland and overseas. Additionally, the school enjoys close ties and exchange relationships with several world-class schools including The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (RDFZ), St Ignatius College, Riverview, and Wah Yan College, Hong Kong.
As one of the very few fee-paying schools located in North Dublin, the school enjoys a fierce rivalry with Castleknock College (formerly a boarding school but now open to day boys only) with both schools vying for the same applicants.
The College’s fine arts and performing arts programmes have seen Belvo boys performing in national award-winning plays and choirs. Belvedere has a very strong academic pedigree, particularly in science and mathematical subjects. Many pupils have achieved national and even international recognition through successes at competitions such as the Young Scientist competition.
Pupils at Belvedere are also able to avail of a number of co-curricular pursuits, including: Choir; Drama; Debating; Gaisce Award; Model European Parliament; Orchestra; and a variety of clubs and societies.
Belvedere College maintains a number of traditions and practices common to Irish private schools (including daily morning mass and evening study (sometimes known as Prep) and the annual “Passing Out” graduation ceremony). Belvedere also has a number of traditions and practices unique to the College including an annual Sleep-out in aid of homelessness charities which sees Belvedere boys spending two nights sleeping on the street in a prominent city-centre location collecting money from passersby in the nights up to Christmas eve. It has become a familiar part of the Advent season for Dubliners. Similarly, an annual walk, known as the “Block-Pull”, from Dublin to Galway takes place each summer in which students raise money for a host of charities. Other traditions include the annual “Debs” (debutante) ball typical of Irish private schools (akin to Prom in the United States).
The school has maintained a strong religious ethos; mass is said daily in the school chapel and campus ministry plays a significant part in the lives of Belvedere boys. Indeed, a historic society existed on campus for those particularly pious pupils who were considered worthy of admission by way of an election. The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary only accepted pupils who were voted in by existing members and was administered by a Jesuit faculty member. Many past pupils have been called to a life of service in the clergy including, most famously, the Blessed Columba Marmion who was beatified by Pope John Paul II. In addition, many Belvedere boys participate in faith-based community programmes including the Society of Vincent de Paul. The Ignatian pedagogy that underpins a Jesuit education is evident at Belvedere and school life often features aspects of Ignatian philosophy and reflection. Indeed, the school body is invited to come together to recognise Ignatian Day as an important fixture on the school calendar. Belvedere boys are also required to undertake The Examen – a core rite of passage in the Jesuit tradition and are asked to always consider how they can do more for the glory of God, (Magis).
The school operates a Prefect and College Officer system recognising upper school students and encouraging them to play a leadership and mentor role within the school. The prefects are appointed by the Headmaster and are assigned to each junior class to assist in guiding pupils through school life. The College Officers comprise the senior prefects and are elected by the student body. The School Captain is the head of this body of officers. The Prefect of Studies is not a prefect in this sense but, rather, a Jesuit order officer common to Jesuit schools who is a senior faculty member. At Belvedere College it was, historically, the Prefect of Studies who was responsible for administering Corporal Punishment when warranted (albeit rare).
Belvedere College maintains a classics-based class and House system, common to Jesuit schools. Traditionally, pupils had to demonstrate a degree of capability in each area of grammar before being eligible to move up to the next. Whilst the school no longer instructs in a classical Latin Grammar fashion (having adopted the Irish secondary education curriculum) the nomenclature remains. Thus, the First Year at Belvedere College is known as “Elements” (often shortened to “Ele”) (previously “First Grammar” or “1G”); the Second Year as “Rudiments” (often shortened to “Rud”) (previously known as “Third Syntax” or “3S”); Third Year is known as “Grammar” or “G” (previously known as “Second Syntax” or “2S”); the Fourth Year (Transition Year program) is known as Syntax or “S” (previously known as “First Syntax” or “1S”); and Fifth and Sixth Year are known as Poetry and Rhetoric, respectively. This naming convention was adopted upon the closure of the school’s preparatory school. The school’s now-discontinued pre-university postgraduate year was known as Philosophy.
Within each of the year groups boys are also allocated to a House with inter-House competition being a regular feature of school life.
THE HOUSES OF BELVEDERE COLLEGE
Named for Fr. Charles Aylmer, a former Belvedere College Headmaster. Once this was a class name for the final year of the attached Junior school (since closed) but now it is a House of the College. Often abbreviated to “A”.
The House was named after the school’s first Rector (often considered to be the school’s Second Founder), Fr. George Finlay SJ. Often abbreviated to “F”.
A House named in honour of Fr. Tom Kenney SJ, an early Belvedere Rector. Abbreviated to “K”.
This House is named for St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Loyola was also an upperclassman House of the Belvedere Junior School prior to becoming a House of the College when the Junior School was closed. Abbreviated to “L”.
Named in recognition of Fr. Tom Scully SJ, a former Physics and testament to the school’s reputation for excellence in the sciences. Abbreviated to “S”.
This House is named for St. Francis Xavier, the beatified Jesuit missionary who is also the school’s patron. This was a Second Grammar (Sixth Class) class of the Junior School prior to its closing. Abbreviated to “X”.
A former House named for George Dempsey, James Joyce’s English teacher. Abbreviated to “D”.
The school has a very strong reputation for athletic prowess too, particularly excelling in Rugby Union and Cricket. Other sports offered at Belvedere and in which pupils may compete against other schools, including: Association Football (Soccer); Athletics (Track & Field); Badminton; Basketball; Cross Country; Sailing; Squash; Swimming & Lifesaving; and Tennis.
Sport is actively encouraged as a part of life at Belvedere and every effort is made to find the right sport for each pupil in order to ensure a balanced education. Many Old Belvedereans have achieved great honours at university, national and international levels in their respective sports.
As is typical of the British and Irish Public Schools tradition, Belvedere College has developed a specific slang and idiolect that is known to its community. It is a combination of school terms, words, slang, people, and place names that have come to be a core part of life at the school. Some of Belvedere’s terminology is common to private schools in Dublin whilst some is entirely local to the school.
THE UNIQUE SLANG, JARGON, AND TERMINOLOGY OF BELVEDERE COLLEGE
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Belvedere is easily identified on the field by their distinctive black and white hoops. However, off the field, Belvedere boys are required to wear a subtle uniform consisting of charcoal grey trousers, a white shirt, and a navy blue crew neck jumper with the appropriate school or award tie (Award Ties are awarded to students at the start of an academic year by the Headmaster to recognise outstanding achievement for: academic study (maroon tie); co-curricular pursuits (green tie); community service (blue); choir; debate; Chinese studies; and school council.). The black school blazer is required for formal occasions – typically only worn when boys are representing the school in senior sports and attending fixtures.
Campus and Facilities
Belvedere occupies a terrace of Georgian houses in north Dublin city centre, many of which have a grand history of their own. This area of Dublin was, historically, a preferred townhouse location for the aristocratic classes and many senior peers maintained a second home here. This included George Augustus Rochfort, 2nd Earl of Belvedere, who lived in a grand townhouse named Belvedere House. His son sold the property upon inheritance and it eventually was taken over by the Jesuits.
Having initially acquired Belvedere House whereto the school relocated, Lord Fingal’s townhouse was acquired in 1882 to be used as the Junior School. Shortly thereafter, a number of neighbouring and adjoining properties were purchased for use by the school, including the former townhouses of the Lords Tullamore, Norbury and Erne and the homes of Sir Robert King and Lady Hannah Stratford, sister to the Earl of Aldborough.
Today, the school’s campus maintains its traditional facade and character but houses modern, cutting-edge facilities that help make Belvedere College one of the best schools in the country. The school’s primary campus is home to the Dargan Moloney Science and Technology Block incorporating state-of-the-art science and information technology laboratories as well as a number of modern lecture theatres. The school also boasts of one of the best theatres in Ireland, the O’Reilly Theatre, which is regularly used by national broadcasters and leading troupes. An on-site cafeteria restaurant and refectory keep pupils and staff well-fed and the school community also has access to a well-equipped, music suite, learning resource centre, museum, chapel, and oratory.
In addition, the school has excellent sports facilities including a 25m 5 lane indoor swimming pool, gym, and rooftop 7-a-side astroturf pitch and running track. Its two satellite sports grounds (Cabra Road and Distillery Road) are home to tennis courts, rugby pitches, astroturf all-weather pitches, cricket grounds, batting cages, and soccer pitches. The Cabra Sportsgrounds is home also to the Old Belvedere Cricket Club.
The school’s primary campus is a short walk from Dublin city centre and is well-serviced by public transport from across Dublin and neighbouring counties. 9.5km from Dublin Airport and is well-serviced by public transport links. The Luas tram system stops near the school and Dublin’s main bus station (Busáras) and train terminal (Connolly Station) are within an easy walk of the school.
Its North Dublin location attracts applicants from as far as counties Meath and Louth. The school enjoys exclusive use of its own extensive sports grounds in Cabra in North Dublin.
Pupils must have satisfactorily passed Sixth Class and must be sympathetic to the Jesuit Catholic ethos and mission of the school. Whilst the school is a Voluntary school it is also fee-paying and parents will be expected to meet these requirements unless a special case has been presented and agreed with the school. The school embraces a Social Diversity programme and offers bursary support to qualified applicants.
The Junior School (which offered First – Sixth Class education) was closed in 1992 and Belvedere College today is an all-boys secondary only.
Belvedere College’s pastmen union (alumni association) is one of the most active in Ireland, organising a host of events for old boys and current pupils alike, including the annual business lunch, golf outing, and retreat. The Union also maintains a benevolent fund in aid of pastmen and their families. Many old boys continue to play rugby with the college-affiliated Old Belvedere RFC (based at The Lodge in Ballsbridge) or cricket with Old Belvedere Cricket Club (based at the Cabra Sportsgrounds).
Old boys of Belvedere College are known as Old Belvederians (sometimes also Old Belvedereans) and are afforded the right to use the post-nominal letters OB. The Belvedere Union (the College’s pastmen union / alumni association) is one of the most active in Ireland, organising a host of events for old boys and current pupils alike, including the annual business lunch, golf outing and retreat. The Union also maintains a benevolent fund in aid of pastmen and their families. Many old boys continue to play rugby with the college-affiliated Old Belvedere RFC (based at The Lodge in Ballsbridge) or cricket with Old Belvedere Cricket Club (based at the Cabra Sportsgrounds).
Accreditations and Affiliations
Belvedere College is a member of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA) and a former member of the International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC). The Junior School was a member of the Association of Independent Junior Schools (AIJS).
BELVEDERE COLLEGE SJ
12 – 18
1ST YEAR – 6TH YEAR
AVAILABLE ON APPLICATION
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
TRANSITION YEAR PROGRAMME
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
ROLL NO.: 60520P
LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION
FAITH / ETHOS
SOCIETY OF JESUS (JESUIT)
PEDAGOGY / PHILOSOPHY
CITY-CENTRE / URBAN
AYLMER | FINLAY | KENNEY | LOYOLA | SCULLY | XAVIER
ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL (SOCCER)
ATHLETICS (TRACK & FIELD)
SOCIETY OF JESUS
PATRON / VISITOR
FR. PADDY GREENE SJ
HEAD OF SCHOOL
MR. GERRY FOLEY (HEADMASTER)
AVERAGE CLASS SIZE
EUR €6,040 PER ANNUM
ADDITIONAL FEES AND CHARGES MAY BE APPLICABLE
SCHOLARSHIPS, BURSARIES & FINANCIAL AID
BURSARY SCHEMES AVAILABLE
BLACK BLAZER, NAVY / BLACK JUMPER, WHITE SHIRT, NAVY SCHOOL TIE AND CHARCOAL GREY TROUSERS.
BOAT CLUB COLOURS
ACCREDITATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS AND AFFILIATIONS
ATHLETIC CONFERENCES & SPORTS LEAGUES
SISTER SCHOOLS & PARTNER SCHOOLS
CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE
THE HIGH SCHOOL AFFILIATED TO RENMIN UNIVERSITY OF CHINA (RDFZ)
ST IGNATIUS COLLEGE, RIVERVIEW
WAH YAN COLLEGE
PER VIAS RECTAS (BY STRAIGHT PATHS)
“ONLY IN GOD”
CELEBRATED ALUMNI & FACULTY
BRIAN LENIHAN; CATHAL BRUGHA; CIAN HEALY; CIAN O’CONNOR; BLESSED COLUMBA MARMION OSB; CONOR LENIHAN; CARDINAL DESMON CONNELL; ÉAMON DE VALERA; EDWARD PAKENHAM, LORD SILCHESTER; GARRETT FITZGERALD; IAN DEMPSEY; IAN KETLEY; JACK CHAMBERS; JAMES JOYCE; JAMES MCNEILL; JOSEPH PLUNKETT; KEVIN BARRY; OLLIE CAMPBELL; RICHARD BRUTON; SIR TERRY WOGAN; THOMAS CREAN; THOMAS PAKENHAM, 8TH EARL OF LONGFORD; SIR TONY O’REILLY
6 GREAT DENMARK STREET