Site of the Bernardine Wiget Boys School – Boston, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

Site of the Bernardine Wiget Boys School

The location of one of the first private Catholic schools in the country, providing a valuable sanctuary during the tumultuous period when Protestant and Catholic students were at odds. 


The clashes between Protestants and newly immigrated Irish Catholics in the North End were often harsh.

The Eliot School in the North End taught the area’s male students, many of whom were Irish Catholic. On March 14 1859, a teacher asked student Thomas Whall to repeat the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments. The boy refused, going on the advice of his Catholic Sunday school teacher Father Bernardine Wiget. The assistant principal beat the boy until he was cut and bleeding. His parents eventually sued the school.

That week, four hundred students left in protest or were dismissed. Father Wiget founded a Catholic boy’s school soon after, beginning the trend of private Catholic schools across the country. Wiget was hailed as a local hero for years to come.

As a testament to the prejudice of the times, the assistant principal was acquitted by a Protestant judge and the case was used to encourage Protestant officials to continue their intense anti-Catholic measures.

The school was torn down in the 1970s; a parking lot can now be found at the current site.

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August 23, 2011

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