1. New saints and new Orders
The revitalization of the Roman Catholic Church becomes apparent through two important facts: there were new saints and new religious Orders. We may think here of Petrus Canisius (1521-1597), born in Nijmegen (NL), who did his utmost to stem the spread of the Reformation in Germany, of Philippus Neri (1515-1595), the founder of the Oratory, who had a great influence on the half-pagan people of the Roman Renaissance, of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), who forcefully reformed the Order of the Carmel, of Ignatius of Loyola (1493-1556), the founder of the Jesuit Order, of Franciscus Xaverius (1506-1552), who travelled over half the world in order to convert the heathen nations, and of Johannes de Deo (1495-1550), who founded a congregation especially for the care of the sick - all of them still household names for modern Catholics.
The most important new Orders are those of the Oratory, the Jesuits, the Capuchins, the Ursulines, and the Trappists. The Capuchins, founded in 1528, are in fact a split off from the Franciscans, with whom they have the poverty ideal in common. They applied and still apply themselves to give religious instructions to the popular masses; many of them were famous preachers. The Ursulines were founded by Angela de Merici (1474-1540), an Italian woman; they set themselves the task of giving girls a good education.[i] The Trappist Order, founded in 1644, was the result of the reform of the decayed Cistercian Order; it is a very strict contemplative Order.[ii]
There is no need to go deeper into this in this context, with one exception. The Jesuit Order has become and still is a sign of contradiction. It is the epitome of all that non-Catholics abhor in the Roman Catholic Church. For this it deserves a place in a history of dualism.
2. The founder of the Jesuit Order
a. Ignatius as a young courtier
The founder of the Jesuit Order was not a Spaniard but a Basque; his birthname was therefore not `Ignatius', but Iñigo (or Eñico) Lopez de Loyola.[iii] It was only later that he began to call himself `Ignatius'.[iv] The Loyolas were an ancient family belonging to the Basque nobility. Their ancestral castle stood to the south-west of the small town of Azpeitia, in the province of Guispuzcoa.[v] Here Ignatius was born; the birthdate of the most illustrious member of this family is unknown, but the year was 1491. He was the thirteenth child of his parents and the youngest.
The Loyolas, who were wealthy, had always been faithful servants of the Kings of Castile. It was expected that this son would follow the same public, mainly military career. It was the custom of European families of the nobility to board out their sons to another noble family, preferably one higher in rank, if possible even a royal household, so that the young boy might learn the art of living nobly. This also happened to the then sixteen-years-old Iñigo. Caraman describes him in the following terms. "Although short in stature, he was sturdily built; his face was rounded and small with a pointed chin, a fine aquiline nose, a lofty forehead with an arched hairline, high prominent cheekbones and deep-set cheerful eyes. His auburn hair set off his tanned and healthy appearance.[vi]
Iñigo's guest family was that of Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, Treasurer of Castile; he was the father of twelve children. The family castle stood in Arévalo, in Castile, halfway between Valladolid and Avila. Here the boy, who could hardly more than read and write, must receive a modest measure of erudition (his patron had a library) and learn to dance and ride and pay compliments to the girls. He was at the right place to come to know the ways of the world. The Treasurer had to be near the king, who often was Velasquez's guest.
There was nothing to suggest that Iñigo would once become a saint. He was baptized, fulfilled his religious duties, and that was about it. There was not a spark of authentic religiosity detectable in him. At a later stage in his life he said of himself that "up to the age of twenty-six years he was a man devoted to the vanities of the world, mainly amusing himself with military exercizes and vain desires of acquiring honour."[vii] A friend reported that "although he was attached to the faith, his life was in no way conform to it nor did he keep himself free from sin. Rather, he was particularly reckless in gambling, in his dealings with women, in quarrelling, and with the sword."[viii] His life did not differ from that of all those elegant and well-clad young courtiers. His reading was of exactly the same sort, for he devoured one novel of chivalrous romance after another.
b. Ignatius as an officer
King Ferdinand of Castile died on January 16, 1516; since his daughter Juana - Johanna - was insane, his grandson Charles V succeeded him. The young king, who was in Flanders then, announced that he no longer needed Velázquez as his Treasurer for Castile, so Iñigo suddenly found himself without a patron (Velázquez died in 1517). He was, however, lucky to find a new patron, one even higher placed than Velázquez, in the person of Don Antonio Manique de Lara, Duke of Nájera, who was viceroy of Navarra. Iñigo, now twenty-six years old, became a member of the duke's bodyguard.
Iñigo de Loyola never became a professional soldier, as is often thought, but when duty called him, he took part in military exploits. Nájera, the duke's residence, was close to the frontier of Navarra, a province annexed by Ferdinand of Castile as late as 1512. Before that it had been in the possession of the semi-independent Kings of Navarra. There could be no doubt that France, that considered Navarra as French territory, would attempt to recover it. For this reason King Ferdinand was busy fortifying the strategically important city of Pamplona. When Iñigo, who was always quick to draw his sword, when he felt that his honour was at stake, visited this city, he was molested by a youth gang. When these youngsters pressed him to a wall, out came his sword, and he would have killed one or more of them, if some citizens had not restrained him.[ix]
The expected French invasion began on May 12, 1521. André de Foix, Lieutenant of Guyenne, commanded an army of twelve thousand infantry and eight hundred lancers; it disposed of twenty-nine pieces of artillery. The Duke of Nájera had only three thousand infantry and seven hundred horse to oppose this force; his Basque force was useless. On May 16 De Foix was within a few hundred meters of Pamplona; his aim was to take it, restore Henry d'Albret as King of Navarra, and then carry the war into Castile, the king of which was Charles V. The war was therefore one in the long series of armed conflicts between France and Habsburg.
The citizens of Pamplona were not to be trusted. It was only nine years hence that they had become Castilian citizens, and they did not like it. On the 18th De Foix stood before the walls; the magistrates, not feeling inclined to fight for Castile, surrendered on the 19th. They acknowledged Henry II d'Albret as their king. The citizens sacked the ducal palace in the town. Iñigo, who was in the city, withdrew to the citadel with its nineteen guns; the garrison, consisting of Castilians, was prepared to defend the fortress. Realizing that he would perhaps not survive the fight, Iñigo made, as was then an accepted custom, his confession to a fellow officer.
Having brought up his artillery, De Foix began to bombard the citadel on May 21; it returned the fire. The artilley duel lasted for six hours; the walls came down, but Iñigo remained standing in the breach. There he was hit by a ball from a small gun; it broke his right leg and made a wound in his left one. This was also the end of the resistance.[x]
c. The patient
When the French had occupied the citadel, they dressed Iñigo's wounds and set his broken leg, provisionally and inexpertly. He was then carried on a stretcher to the house of a nobleman in the city and from there to the Loyola family castle. During this nine days's journey over mountain roads and paths he suffered horribly. Home again he was lodged in a room on the top floor; his hostess was his sister-in-law Magdalena de Araoz, wife of his brother Martin García. The wounded man was in a bad shape. The physicians and surgeons who were called to his sickbed, saw that the first aid had been clumsily performed. In case he would survive - of which they were not sure -he would lose his left leg. They agreed that the setting had to be done over again, which implied that the leg must be broken anew. This was done indeed. Later the saint used to refer to this operation as `the butcher's work'; he did not utter a complaint, only clenched his fists, not because he was a saint, which he was far from being yet, but because he was the perfect hidalgo.
Nonetheless, the hidalgo's situation deteriorated so much that on June 24 the doctors advised him to receive the sacrament of the dying. Four days later, on the 28th, they told him that, if there was no substantial improvement before midnight, he would die. It was the vigil of St.Peter, and Iñigo prayed fervently to him. At midnight he began to feel better; in the morning he was out of danger.
Yet his ordeal was not yet over. A growth became visible on his left knee. A stump of the bone stuck out there, as a result of the resetting. His left leg was now shorter than the right one. Today women want to have well-shaped legs, but in Iñigo's time it was a must for noblemen too; they wore tight-fitting leggings and boots to show off their legs. Wanting to be successful with the ladies, Iñigo wanted the growth to be cut away. The physicians warned him that it would be horribly painful, but he insisted that the operation should be performed. He underwent it with the same stoicism. Because there was still a risk that the left leg would remain shorter than the other, pulleys were used to stretch it; this was equivalent to being laid on the rack. The result was better than might be expected. The left leg remained just a little shorter; the difference was hardly noticeable. However, it always remained so susceptible to touching that he had to wear two stockings over each other for protection.[xi]
d. Reconvalescence and conversion
A long period of healing began during which the patient had to keep to his bed, in order not to burden the leg too soon. There was nothing else for him to do than to read. He asked for his favourite lecture, the romantic tales, but the castle library did not possess them. Instead, they brought him works of devotion, probably possessed by his sister-in-law. She gave him a Life of Christ, in four volumes; it was the rather free translation of the Latin original by Ludolf of Saxony, a Carthusian monk. It presented Christ, says Caraman, as `the summit of the ideals of a medieval knight',[xii] and this appealed to this specific knight. The second book was a famous one, `Lives of the saints', the translation (Iñigo knew no Latin) of the Legenda aurea, composed by Jacopo de Voragine in the late thirteenth century. It presented the saints as knights in the service of Christ, as caballeros de Dios.
At first he found it boring, but finally at least some of these lives began to have an impact on him, especially those of St.Francis and St.Dominic. He had more than sufficient time to reflect upon on what he had read. His attitude to life began to change. His ideals of chivalrous successes began to fade; he no longer found them so all-important nor did he desire to make amorous conquests. As he stated in 1533, from that time on he was never again troubled by temptations of the flesh.[xiii] His brother Martin García was astonished at the change that was going on in Iñigo, who spoke to him and other members of the household of the things of God.
e. The penitent
When after all these long months he could walk around again, he found that he must first of all do penance for his past life; the best thing would be to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Towards the end of 1522 Iñigo left the Loyola castle, riding on a mule and accompanied by one of his brothers. His goal was the residence of the Duke of Nájera at Navarreto. Once there, he made a very important decision. When the duke offered him an excellent position, probably a governorship, he refused, burning his ships after him. He left the castle riding on his mule, in the direction of Saragossa.
At a certain moment a `Moor', that is, a Spanish Muslim, came riding alongside him, also riding on a mule. They began discussing Mary's virginity. The man was ready to admit that she had conceived without the intervention of a man, but not that she had remained a virgin after childbirth. Then the Moor rode rapidly on, leaving Iñigo pondering whether he had done the right thing, that is, defend the Virgin's honour as a true hidalgo. Perhaps he should have stabbed the Muslim. He resolved to leave the decision to his mule: if at the next junction the mule would take the side road (the Muslim had said that he would go that way), Iñigo would go behind him. But the mule, like Bileam's ass[xiv], was wiser than his master and kept to the main road.[xv]
On the 21st of March 1523 he reached, with a still painfully hurting leg, the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. It lay on the road to Barcelona, where he hoped to find a ship destined for the Holy Land. On the way thither he bought bast shoes and sackcloth in order to make a pilgrim's garb. In the monastery he was entrusted to the care of an experienced confessor, the Frenchman Jean Chanon. This priest was the first person to whom he revealed his plan of travelling to Palestine. The monk gave him much useful advice for leading a spiritual life in which respect the wouldbe pilgrim was totally inexperienced. He also gave him a manual of spiritual life.
Iñigo made a general confession, covering his whole past life, to Father Jean. After this he gave the fine clothes he was still wearing to a beggar, hung up his sword and dagger at the shrine of Our Lady, presented his mule to the monastery, and donned his pilgrim's garb. He then held an all-night vigil before the shrine of the Madonna. When morning broke on March 25, 1522, the now twenty-three-yeard-old Iñigo de Loyola had become another man, whom we shall henceforth call `Ignatius'.
Descending from Montserrat, but not along the main road, Ignatius reached the small town of Manresa in the morning of the 25th. He stayed there for eleven months, doing penance, for he considered this as the hallmark of sanctity. It is often thought that he lived there in a cave, but this was not the case, although from time time he retired to a cave to meditate. He lived, instead, in a small hospice. It had beds, but he slept on the floor, begged his bread, fasted, did not eat meat or drink wine, and let grow his hair and nails. Every morning he heard Mass and prayed seven hours a day.
The first months he spent in a mood of perfect bliss. Then something happened that is well-known from other conversion stories; he experienced the noche oscura, the dark night of the Spanish mystics. Naturally, his excessive fasting, his too short nights, his endless praying took their toll. He felt dejected and depressed and was plagued by scruples. Once he went for a whole week without food, until his confessor ordered him to stop. Twice he suffered from severe bouts of fever, of which he was cured in the house of a friend.
And then the scruples ended and the depression was over. The penitent became filled with a deep serenity, which, as he later testified, never left him again. The shift in his perception of true spirituality is significant: no longer the lives of the saints were his loadstar, but the Holy Trinity itself. "It was a total mystical view of the world that he had been given, with the perception of how things proceeded from God and how they all returned to their Trinitarian origin; and he saw at the same time how all the mysteries of the Christian faith were interlocked."[xvi] There is a lasting fruit of these eleven months, the famous `Spiritual Exercises', composed much later in his life,[xvii] when he had become a pastmaster of spiritual life.
g. To the Holy Land
It was on or about the 18th of February 1523 that Ignatius left Manresa to walk to Barcelona. After about three weeks he embarked on a brigantine that would bring him to Italy. From a human point of view it was a foolhardy undertaking (he still intended to go to Jerusalem), for he had hardly any money and he did speak neither Latin or Italian. And his leg hurt. Five days later he was in Gaeta. From there he walked seventy-five miles to Rome, because there was an old rule that whoever wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, needed the Pope's consent. He arrived in Rome on Palm Sunday, March 29, 1523. The papal office made no problems to give him the desired document.[xviii]
Shortly after Easter Ignatius left Rome for Venice, where he hoped to find a ship that would bring him to Palestine. On the way thither he was shunned by everyone, for the plague was raging, and he looked so haggardly that he was suspected of being a patient. In Venice he was in such a bad shape that his host called a doctor. Asked whether the patient might travel to Palestine, the man said, yes, why not, if he wants to be buried there. Nevertless, he went on board the Negroma, that carried him via Larnaca in Cyprus to Jaffa. It was Ignatius' intention to stay in the Holy Land; he wanted to convert Muslims or else to die at their hands as a martyr.
Nothing came of these plans. The Franciscans were - and still are - the guardians of the Holy Places; anyone wanting to settle there needed the consent of their Provincial. Ignatius was refused this consent by the acting superior, who found the plan too hazardous. If Ignatius was made a captive, the Order had to pay the ransom. On October 3 he was on board again, arriving in Venice about the middle of January 1524, not possessing more than the clothes he wore.[xix]
h. Problems with the Inquisition
It was now evident to him that his future did not lie in the Holy Land. But what then? He returned to Barcelona, walking on foot through Lombardy to Genoa and travelling on by ship. When he arrived in Barcelona at the end of February 1524, he had been away for a year. A lady who had already befriended him before his departure gave him a room costfree, but he refused a bed and also to share the table of the family, preferring to beg his bread as before. However, he laid off his pilgrim's clothes and began to wear some sort of clerical dress. He realized that it was first of all necessary to learn Latin; a teacher was found who instructed him for nothing. Two years later his teacher told him that his Latin was now good enough for the university.[xx]
Ignatius left Barcelona in March 1526 and walked to Alcalà, four hundred miles on foot, with that leg. However, he could now walk at a normal pace without experiencing pain. In the university town he took lodgings in a hospice, but continued begging his bread in the streets. His plan was to study theology to which end he had himself enrolled in the university. Ignatius knew, to use a famous phrase, `how to make friends and influence people'. This had already been so in Barcelona, where he had circle of noble ladies and wealthy merchants; in Alcalà he gathered simple folk aroound him, many of them women.[xxi]
Soon Ignatius and his circle attracted the attention of the authorities. What was that strange fellow doing? He was suspected of being an alumbrado, an `illimunist'. There had indeed been a group of alumbrados in Alcalà, mostly disturbed people, who claimed to have a mystical union with God and who rejected orthodox teaching. Their ideology resembled that of the Gnosis. This group had been suppressed and their leaders imprisoned, but now the authorities feared that Ignatius was busy reviving it.
He got his first warning in Novmber 1526, but the investigation of his activities began in earnest on March 16, 1527. Ignatius and his followers were heard about what he called his `spiritual exercises'. On April 17 or 18, 1527, he was arrested, without being told why. His imprisonment in a prison of the Inquisition was not very strict; he had books and was allowed to receive visitors. On June 1 he was released. The inquisitor told him that he henceforward should wear ordinary students' dress. When he objected that he had no money, it was given him. He was also ordered to stop his religious instruction; he might only resume it when he had four years of theology. Ignatius had to admit that he studied very little until then.[xxii]
It pained him that he was not allowed `to help souls', as he called it. He therefore walked to Valladolid, where the archbishop of Toledo, Alonso de Fonseca, stayed at that time. He easily obtained an audience and was gracefully received. Ignatius told the prelate all that had happened in Alcalà. Fonseca was favourably impressed, advised him to pursue his studies at the University of Salamanca, and even gave him money. Ignatius walked the seventy miles to Salamanca, where he arrived in July 1527.
Soon he was teaching children the cathechism, which led to the authorities becoming interested in him once again. There was a constant fear that unauthorized and self-appointed teachers and preachers would be spreading Protestant and other unorthodox ideologies. He was only twelve days in town, when he was invited to visit the Dominican monastery. First he took part in the dinner of the friars, but after that he was subjected to an interrogation. What did he teach and was he authorized? His interrogators were not satisfied with his answers. Together with a companion, he was detained in the monastery for three days, after which a notary of Inquisition transferred them to a prison. It was a far less pleasant place than the cell in Alcalà: the two men were bound to a post with a chain; during the night rats came to visit them. Yet they were allowed to receive visitors who brought them what they needed to ease their situation, for instance, sleeping mats.
Some days later he was interrogated at length by four judges. They found no reason to censure him. After three weeks in prison sentence was given: he was allowed to give religious instruction, but should avoid the most difficult topics. For this he needed more years of study. Ignatius said that he could not accept this verdict, because he had done nothing wrong. Since `helping souls' was more important to him than studying theology, and since he was restricted in this activity, he decided to leave Salamanca and to go to Paris.[xxiii]
j. Studying in Paris
He first went to Barcelona, where he stayed for three months. Because Habsburg and France were at war, friends attempted to keep him back, fearing that the French would `spit him'. But Ignatius was stiffnecked and not a little opinionated so that he departed in December 1527, crossing the Pyrenees in winter. He was alone, but had a small donkey for company, which carried the little luggage he had. He covered the seven hundred miles between Barcelona and the French capital in less that two months, arriving in Paris on February 2, 1528. He was thirty-seven now, without any qualification whatsoever, and not really knowing what to do with his life. He did not know French, which prevented him from forming another circle and he did also not want to run into trouble again.
Anyhow, he realized that it was necessary for him to study seriously. The first he must do was bolstering up his Latin, which was still deficient. He took up lodgings in a boarding house and was inscribed in the Collège de Montaigu, the same institute, where Erasmus had studied and where Calvin would come to study later. As an external student he followed the Latin lessons for one-and-a-half year, sitting side by side with young boys. During Lent 1529, being extremely short of money, he went on a begging tour to Flanders. In Bruges he dined with the famous humanist Luis Vivez, who remarked later: "This man is a saint and will found an Order." After two months he returned to Paris with enough money - and friends in Barcelona also sent some - to rent private rooms. These begging tours were repeated in the summers of 1530 and 1531. During the latter tour he visited London.
On October 1, 1527, Ignatius was enrolled at the university; he had a room, which he had to share with others, in the still existing College of Saint Barbara. He embarked on a study of philosphy lasting three-and-a-half years. He became a bachelor in January 1532 and obtained a licentiate of philosophy in March 1533 with good marks. The master's degree followed on March 14, 1534.
BENDISCOLI, Mario, La riforma cattolica. Series: Universale Studium 54. Roma (1958).
BRODRICK, James, The Origin of the Jesuits. Imago Book. Garden City (NY), 1960 (London, 19401).
CARAMAN, Philip, Ignatius of Loyola. London, 1990.
DALMASES, Cándido, Ignatius von Loyola. Versuch einer Gesamtbiographie des Gründers der Jesuiten. München/Zürich/Wien, 1989.
DUHR, Bernhard, Jesuiten-Fabeln. Ein Beitrag zur Cultur-Geschichte. Freiburg im B., 1899.
HARTMANN, Peter C., Die Jesuiten. München, 2001.
LEROY, Michel, Le mythe jésuite. De Béranger á Michelet. Collection: Écriture. Paris (1992).
LIPPERT, Peter, Zur Psychologie des Jesuitenordens. Series: Studien. Kempten, 1923.
ROBERTS, Archbishop, Black Popes. Authority: its use and abuse. London (1964).
[i].. My wife attended a secondary school of the Ursulines at Roermond (NL).
[ii].. There were more new Orders than mentioned here. See Bendiscoli, Riforma cattolica, Cap. III La riforma personale, sue realizzazioni organizzative: le nuove congregazioni di chierici regolari.
[iii].. A useful book is Brodrick, Origin of the Jesuits, with a short life of Ignatius.
[iv].. Caraman, Ignatius 1; Dalmases, Ignatius 5 remarks that, in spite of Ignatius' great importance, there is still no all-comprising biography.
[v].. See the map in Caraman, Ignatius, opposite p. 1.
[vi].. Caraman, Ignatius 10.
[vii].. Quoted by Dalmasens, Ignatius 21.
[viii].. Quoted by Dalmasens, Ignatius 13.
[ix].. Caraman, Ignatius 19.
[x].. There is a monument on the spot in what is now the Calle de San Iñigo. There is some uncertainty about the exact date of this incident, May 20, 21, 23 and 24, 1521, are all mentioned.
[xi].. Based on Caraman, Ignatius 23-26, and Dalmasens, Ignatius 27-29.
[xii].. Caraman, Ignatius 27.
[xiii].. Caraman, Ignatius 30.
[xv].. Caraman, Ignatius 34; Dalmasens, Ignatius 35/36.
[xvi].. Caraman, Ignatius 37-41, quotation on p. 40; Dalmasens, Ignatius 41-48.
[xvii].. The final revision dates from 1541.
Caraman, Ignatius 43-45; Dalmasens, Ignatius 52-55.
[xix].. Caraman, Ignatius 48-52; Dalmasens, Ignatius 56-63.
[xx].. Caraman, Ignatius 52-58; Dalmasens, Ignatius 63-69.
[xxi].. Caraman, Ignatius 61.
[xxii].. Caraman, Ignatius 61-67; Dalmasens, Ignatius 69-76.
[xxiii].. Caraman, Ignatius 68-71; Dalmasens, Ignatius 76-80.