THE SEMINARY OF THE HOLY ANGELS
The Seminary of the Holy Angels was situated in Tambon Maha Phram, freely
translated the "
sub-district of the Great Brahmin" (1) in Bang Ban district, west of
Ayutthaya. The location is locally called "
Tuk Farang" or "Tuk Maha Phram" and is
situated east and next to
Wat Khlang. The only traces present of the seminary are
embedded bricks in the ground over an area of 5 Rai. It is presently a built-up location.
The catholic seminary was situated on the south bank of the
Maha Phram Canal linking at
present the
Chao Phraya River with the Noi River.

The two French Vicars  Apostolic, the bishops Monseigneur Pierre Lambert de la Motte
and François Pallu of the "
Missions Etrangères de Paris" (MEP) arrived in Siam
respectively in 1662 and 1664 with formal instructions from the "
Sacred Congregation
for the Propagation of the Faith
" to establish seminaries in mission lands for the
formation of local clergy. [1] They officially requested the establishment of a seminary to
King Narai on 25 May 1665, to be the institution for the formation of candidates to the
priesthood from all over Asia.

The Siamese King granted the French bishops a large spot near the Chao Phraya River
in the Cochin Chinese quarter. In 1665-1666 they built a seminary in Ayutthaya, called
the “
Seminary of Saint Joseph”, with the approval of the king and with the aim of
educating Asians so that they could be ordained and work locally in their respective
countries. King Narai requested ten Siamese students be incorporated in the seminary in
order to learn European knowledge. The other students of the seminary came from Goa,
Macao, Cochin-China and Tonkin.

Among the first two priests that graduated, was François Pérez, born of a Philippine
father and a Siamese mother. François Perez was ordained priest in 1668 by the MEP
priest Louis Laneau at the Seminary of St Joseph. He was appointed Vicar Apostolic of
Cochin and Bishop of Bugja on 5 February 1687. He was ordained bishop on 29 July
1691. Pérez died on 20 Sep 1728. [1] [2]

In 1670, there were 33 major and 50 minor seminarians from Siam, Cochin-China,
India, China and Japan present. The seminary became commonly known as "
College
General
". Its standards were just as good as those in Europe as proved by one of its
seminarians, Anthony Pinto, who after presenting a brilliant theological thesis in the
presence of Pope Innocent XI was granted permission for immediate ordination. [1] [5]

In 1675, Mgr. Louis Laneau, nominated Vicar Apostolic of Siam and consecrated
bishop on 25 March 1674, became superior of the seminary.

The "
College General" moved in 1679 or 1680 to a larger location in Maha Phram in
the present Amphur Bang Ban and was renamed the "
Seminary of the Holy Angels"
(Saints Anges). King Narai gave a piece of land to install the college, which was built
very rudimentary from bamboo and leaves. The College started off with 30 young pupils
and Father Pascot became in charge with Father Féret. After a while older seminarians
were also installed. After the first French Embassy of 1685 returned, Constantine
Phaulcon brought a visit to Maha Phram. For an unknown reason, he wanted to move
the college to Ayutthaya, which was only reluctantly accepted by the French priests.
Phaulcon quickly arranged that King Narai granted a piece of land. The building was
called "
Collège Constantin", to be favourable at its establisher. Although the transfer of
professors and students to Ayutthaya, Maha Phram was not abandoned and became a
retirement location for tired missionaries. The buildings and furniture were kept in good
order.[3]

The events of the Siamese revolution in 1688 saw the ousting of French forces from
Siam, and the imprisonment of Bishop Louis Laneau and half of the students of the
seminary. Some fell sick and died. On 25 April 1691 the priests were released and
returned to the seminary, which they found well cleaned up of furniture. At that grew the
idea to move the College to Pondicherry, but this was rejected afterwards due to the
wars between the French, Dutch and English. The College was reinstalled at Maha
Phram and resumed its activities. [3] The persecution gave a renewal of life to the
college. After 1713 its numbers grew again with an influx of seminarians from Tongkin
(2) and China. A new building, half European and half Indian was erected to house a 50
strong community.[1] The seminary had a good reputation, especially in France.

Father Monet Bonet from Bourg-en-Bresse in France, departing for Siam on 27
October 1753. Exhausted by the travel to south-east Asia, he could not recover from his
trip and died on 19 March 1756 at the age of 31 at the college of Maha Phram. He was
buried in the chapel "
St-Pierre" from the church of the seminary.[6]

In 1760 the Burmese stood again in front of the gates of Ayutthaya. The Maha Phram
College was evacuated as it lies in the Burmese advance axis to the city. The residents of
the foreign settlements helped in defending the city to such a point that in gratitude for
their actions, King Suriyamarin (r. 1758-1767) presented gifts of rice and cloth to the
Christians. The king's gifts extended even to the pupils of the Maha Phram College,
whose flight before the Burmese army he was not aware off.

The Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya in 1765-67 forced the relocation of the seminary to
Chanthaburi, later to Hon Dat in Cambodia (now in Vietnam), Virampatnam,
Pondicherry & Melaka (1765 - 1782). [4] The "
College General" was closed for a
period and restarted in  Pulau Tikus - Penang in 1808.  It was relocated from Pulau
Tikus to Mariophile in 1984 and still exists today. [1]

The College was also known by the name "
Collège des Nations" and is indicated on the
de Courtaulin's map "Siam ou Iudia" drafted in 1686. Following the map the seminary
contained two large brick structures - a church and a religious school - and a few minor
structures. It is situated along a large canal called
Khlong Maha Phram formerly linking
up the northwestern corner of Ayutthaya (
Hua Laem) with the old Chao Phraya
River
, at present the Noi River. The canal also known as Khlong Hua Taphan still
exists, but is largely silted. Obviously, as a French priest of the MEP, de Courtaulin
indicated the Maha Phram College, established in 1680, on his map.

The Seminary was also indicated on a
map of Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650 - 1718)
as part of a comprehensive atlas, the "
Atlante Veneto" which was published in 1696.
The map was clearly based on de Courtaulin's "
Siam ou Iudia". The seminary is here
indicated as "
Collegio delle Nationi".

Footnotes:

(1) The location is related to the angel Maha Brahma. Siamese religious and historical
work believe that the true Vedas (Trai Phet), now lost, were taught by the angel Maha
Brahma, who descended from heaven in the form of a Brahmin for that purpose. This is
but a variation of the Hindu tradition that they were revealed by the god Brahma. [7]
(2) Jacques de Bourges was expelled from Tonkin in 1713 and took refuge in Siam, with
twenty-two seminarians, and funds to support the impoverished and almost extinct
Ayudhya mission. In his short time there, he persuaded the apostolic vicar of Siam, Mgr
de Cice, to return the seminary from the capital to its original site in Maha Pram, slightly
to the  north of Ayudhya, the land being restored to the mission. [8]
Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - September 2009
Updated January 2014
References:

[1] www.rc.net - A brief history of College General by Edmund Woon Yaw Yen - data retrieved on 25 July 2009.
[2] www.catholic-hierarchy.org - data retrieved on 25 July 2009.
[3] www.mepasie.org - data retrieved on 07 September 2009.
[4] www.archway.org.my -  data retrieved on 25 July 2009.
[5] www.collegegeneral.org - data retrieved on 25 July 2009.
[6] www.catholique-belley-ars.cef.fr - data retrieved on 25 July 2009.
[7] Alabaster Henry - The Wheel of the Law (London, 1871).
[8]  Michael Smithies - Jacques de Bourges (c.1630-1714) and Siam - The Journal of the Siam Society Vol. 81, Pt. 2 (1993).
View from the road of the former seminary location
(View from the road of the former seminary location)
The seminary on de Courtaulin's map
The seminary on de Coronelli's map
(The seminary on de Courtaulin's map)
(Click the map to enlarge)
(The seminary on de Coronelli's map)
(Click the map to enlarge)