In 1918 Dom Leonard Sargent was searching for a property on which to build a Benedictine monastery. Upon discovering a beautiful 70-acre plot on the shores of Narragansett Bay, he followed an old superstition and dropped a medal of St. Benedict in the field. Thus began the vision that came to fruition as Portsmouth Abbey and School, continuing the 1,500-year tradition of Benedictine spiritual devotion and dedication to learning and enlightenment.

Originally called Portsmouth Priory, the School officially opened with 18 students in September of 1926 and was one of three institutions founded by Father Hugh Diman, along with the Diman School (now St. George's) and Diman Vocational School of Fall River.

Of the 27 buildings that comprise our 500-acre campus, 14 have been designed by the renowned modernist architect Pietro Belluschi who was part of the "Bauhaus" movement and head of urban planning and architecture at MIT.  Portsmouth Abbey's Church of St. Gregory the Great is considered the most important piece of conservative modernist architecture in Rhode Island.

Portsmouth Abbey School takes pride in its notable alumni including statesmen such as the former U.S. Senator from Illinois Peter Fitzgerald '78 and former U.S. Assistant Attorney General William Ruckelshaus '52; educators Fr. Jonathan De Felice, O.S.B. '65, Naseemah Mohamed '08; professors Michael J. Mauboussin '82 and Michael C. J. Putnam '50; authors John Gregory Dunne '50, Christopher Buckley '70 and E J. Dionne '69; artists such as writer/actor Charlie Day '94, LED sculptor Leo Villareal ’86, painter and community leader Matt D'Arrigo ‘90, and renowned abstract expressionist Alfonso Ossorio '34; and business leaders Terry McGuirk '69, John Pepper '56, Bill Haney '80, Jim Farley '81 and Angus Davis '96. Learn more...

The School embraced coeducation for boarding and day students in 1991 and in 1998 recommitted itself to the Western intellectual tradition that is founded in teachings that date back to ancient Greece.

Today, Portsmouth Abbey School continues to flourish as the nation's leading coeducational Catholic Benedictine boarding school for 350 students in grades 9 through 12.  Unique in its English Benedictine tradition, the School offers a challenging academic curriculum rich in mathematics and science and built upon a signature humanities program.

Additional features are our 43 athletics teams (26 varsity), diverse community service programs, many off-campus enrichment opportunities, a state-of-the-art squash and fitness center, a brand new multi-sport synthetic turf field and world-class golf, sailing and equestrian facilities.  Given the school's small size, students have the opportunity to become leaders and active members of the community.



The school has a number of traditions, such as:

  • Headmaster's Run - an all-School, approximately two-mile run/walk each fall
  • Raven's Cup - an inter-house competition that runs throughout the year and keeps School spirit and House rivalry high; events include: broom ball, ultimate Frisbee, and the Headmaster's Run
  • Holy Lawn - In the center of the school campus is a large quadrangle used exclusively for commencement exercises on which students and faculty are not allowed to walk. This "Holy Lawn" is an unwritten school rule that has no confirmed story of origin, however faculty and prefects have enforced discipline that no one is to be walking across the lawn without permission. Its name likely derives from the lawn's location in front of the Abbey Church of St. Gregory the Great.
  • Sit-down meals twice a week
  • Students stand when a teacher enters the classroom
  • Forms (III, IV, V, and VI) - what we call our 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades

"In the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks saved vast stores of knowledge from destruction in their active preservation of manuscripts.  Now, early in the 21st century, rather than risking any scarcity of documents, we are, instead, bombarded by words and images, and run the risk of having this multitude of words fail to retain any real meaning.  In the face of this indifference and even hostility to language and the notion of truth, Portsmouth Abbey is reaffirming its commitment to fluency in reading, writing and speaking."

     – Headmaster Daniel McDonough

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