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A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students (sometimes called seminarians) in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry. The English word is taken from the Latin seminarium, translated as seed-bed, an image taken from the Council of Trent document Cum adolescentium aetas which called for the first modern seminaries. Accordingly, in the West the term usually refers to Roman Catholic educational institutes, but has widened to include other Christian denominations and American Jewish institutions.
The establishment of modern seminaries resulted from Roman Catholic reforms of the Counter-Reformation after the Council of Trent. The Tridentine seminaries placed great emphasis on personal discipline as well as the teaching of philosophy as a preparation for theology.
Some seminaries elect to acquire accreditation. In North America, four entities that accredit religious schools in particular are recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation: Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools, Association for Biblical Higher Education, Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, and Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
In general use, a seminary can be a secular institution, or part of an institution, designated for specialized training, e.g. a graduate course. It has occasionally been used for military academies, though this use is not well attested after the nineteenth century.
In some countries, the term seminary is also used for secular schools of higher education that train teachers; in the nineteenth century, many female seminaries were established in the United States.