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John Main Papers

Identifier: GTM-090115

Scope and Contents Note

The John Main papers consist of the personal papers of John Main, O.S.B. (1926-1982), a Benedictine monk who was a world-wide proponent of Christian meditation. His collection includes extensive correspondence to him, a small quantity of correspondence from him, his subject files, printed materials, a few audio cassettes by him, a number of photographs, meditation organizations' newsletters, and books by and about Fr. Main. A large portion of the material dates from his time at the Benedictine Priory of Montreal from 1977 to 1982 though there are some documents deriving from his service as Headmaster of St. Anselm's School in Washington, D.C. from 1969 to 1974. Other items in this collection document other parts of Main's life and works, too.


  • 1887 - 2011
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 2009


Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical Note

John Main, O.S.B. (1926-1982) was a Benedictine monk noted for his writing about and practice of Christian meditation. Born on January 21, 1926 in London, England, John Main studied at St. Mary's Parochial School in Hendon in 1931; a school in Ballinskelligs, County Kerry, Ireland in 1932; and in London again from 1933 to 1937. In 1937, he won a scholarship to Westminster Cathedral Choir School. From 1939 to 1942, he attended St. Ignatius School in Welwyn Garden City.

During World War II, John Main joined the Royal Corps of Signals and saw action in France and Belgium. After the war, he became a novice with the Canons Regular in Cornwall in 1946. Three years later, he studied with the Canons Regular in Rome. From 1950 to 1954, he continued his academic career by attending law school at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

Between 1955 and 1956, John Main served in the British Colonial Service in Malaya. Returning to Trinity College in 1956, he taught law there. It was in 1959 that Main entered Ealing Abbey in London. In 1962, he took his Solemn Profession as a monk. A year later, in 1963, he was ordained a priest at Ealing.

Fr. Main worked as Second Master at St. Benedict's School in Ealing from 1963 to 1969. Next, from 1969 to 1974, he held the position of Headmaster of St. Anselm's School in Washington, D.C. In 1975, he founded a meditation center in London.

In 1977, Fr. Main founded the Benedictine Priory of Montreal, where he served until his death in 1982. By that time, Fr. Main had become a leading voice for Christian meditation throughout the world.

[Source: "John Main: Essential Writings" (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002).]

The John Main Center for Meditation and Interreligious Dialogue is located on the main campus of Georgetown University.


22.5 Linear Feet (18 boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Polly Schofield, circa 2001-2011; and of Pat Prescott, circa 2001.

John Main Papers
Scott S. Taylor
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023: Edited for DACS-compliance by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057