The Friends of Sophia is a collaborative, international project of people united by a common search for Sophia, Wisdom. In our current time of upheaval, polarisation, breakdown and transformation, we are being drawn to Sophia as an ancient maternal figure who is the harmoniser, according to one reading of the Bible’s Book of Proverbs (8:30) –
Then I was beside Him, as a harmoniser, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.
Sophia is a rather forgotten figure in the Christian tradition, but nevertheless still present in the experience of mystics and popular piety, as well as in the work of some theologians. Sophia is identified, as Uncreated Wisdom, with the Holy Spirit, manifested as the Mother of the Lord in Jewish Temple mysticism. As Created Wisdom, she is the kindly creating spirit of the Wisdom Literature of the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament). In Created Wisdom she is often seen as embodied in the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so fulfilling the Temple tradition.
icon of holy wisdom

Icon of Holy Wisdom, St George Vologda (late 16th century)

The Notre Dame de la Belle Verrière Chartes Cathedral

The Notre Dame de la Belle Verrière (The Blue Virgin)
12th century stained glass window in Chartres Cathedral.

As a great figure of Wisdom, Sophia helps to unite, and bring together, heaven and earth and all people, both within themselves and with each other. Our founding vision was to help reconnect, and bring back together, different branches of what humankind traditionally considers to be knowledge – science, humanities, arts, spirituality and religion and psychology. With this aim, we hold annual conferences in which to explore topics and questions, together, from different perspectives – from divine maternity to music. For more on Wisdom and her origins, click here to read Fr. Dominic White's paper, 'An Overview of Sophiology'.

We seek to develop the Friends of Sophia as a community of hospitality: many researchers and artists have great projects which do not always find an easy welcome in the academy, galleries and elsewhere.

The conferences combine the intellectual curiosity and strength of an academic seminar with the atmosphere of a retreat. We are rooted in a Christian centre, from which we engage in conversation with other spiritualities and faith traditions. Our approach is strongly holistic, involving the body and the performing arts as well as the intellect. We have found that this approach cultivates harmonious friendships across a wide variety of traditions and viewpoints. While avoiding all easy syncretisms, we are finding places, and spaces, for listening and exploring harmony and wisdom together, and are being surprised by many hidden and subtle connections.
The 2017 conference was hosted by Fr. Dominic White and Julienne McLean (click to see biographies) at her Rose Window Hermitage, and brought new friends on board. In 2018, we were invited to hold our first fully public conference at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, when we became the Friends of Sophia, a collaboration of the English Province of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and St. Mary’s University. Our conferences have continued annually since then, and in 2020 the Margaret Beaufort Institute joined the collaboration, which hosted our 2020 conference of some 90 people from all over the world. Along with Julienne, Fr. Dominic is a moderator of the Friends of Sophia website.
So, on this website, you’ll find Conferences – past and future; Retreats; Research/Arts Projects; an opportunity for Conversation; Resources and Networking; and a link to contacting us and the opportunity to donate to our work. The Friends of Sophia are hosted by the English Province of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), in collaboration with the Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality and Reconciliation at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, working also with the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge, and the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Platonism.

On the Friends of Sophia website you will find -

Conferences – you can find the lectures and performances from our three previous annual conferences, as well as information on the 2021 conference.

Retreats - The flyer and booking for the 2021 retreat ‘The Hidden Vision of God: the Vision of Wisdom’ on Holy Island, Scotland, is available here.

Research/Arts and forthcoming events.

Conversation – As Wisdom is the one who joins together and delights to be with people, our NEW CONVERSATION PIECE is international: celebrating visual art and a poem by Ela Łazarewicz-Wyrzykowska, who is at home between Warsaw, Poland, and Cambridge, England.

Resources and Networking


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Cosmic Cross Ravenna

Cosmic Cross, Mausoleum of Gallia Placidia, Ravenna, Italy.
Photo: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

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