June 2021: Online Seminar on “How to be a Jesuit Saint in 1622”

The Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at the University of York has organized a seminar with presentations on the theme “How to be a Jesuit Saint in 1622 ca: The Canonisation of Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier in Context.” The online event takes place on June 26, 2021. Advanced registration is required.


The event uses the 400th anniversary of the canonization of the first Jesuit saints — Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier — to critically examine the process of making saints.  The seminar is organized by Simon Ditchfield, the CREMS director, and includes presentations by Rachel Miller, Steffen Zierholz, and Alejandro Caneque.


A full program appears below, and more information is available at the CREMS website: https://www.york.ac.uk/crems/events/events-archive/2020-21/howtobeajesuitsaintin1622/




“How to be a Jesuit Saint in 1622 ca: The Canonisation of Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier in Context”

Wednesday 16 June 2021, 4.30pm to 6:00pm

Speaker(s): Rachel Miller (California State University, Sacramento), Steffen Zierholz (Bochum University), and Alejandro Caneque (University of Maryland)


The 400th anniversary of the canonisation of Loyola and Xavier in 1622 offers an excellent opportunity to reassess not only the politics of saint-making but also how saints were presented and represented visually as well as textually by those campaigning in support of the raising to the altar of their candidates. This panel brings together an international team of scholars with one paper each dedicated to Loyola and Xavier will be complemented by a paper on the Jesuit discourse of martyrdom, with specific reference to the Marianas Islands located in the Western Pacific Ocean, just 1,500 miles east of the Spanish colony of the Philippines.

Introduced by Simon Ditchfield, Professor of Early Modern History and director of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies


Rachel Miller (California State University, Sacramento)

“From ‘Apostle of Japan’ to ‘Apostle of All the Christian World:’ The Iconography of St. Francis Xavier and the Global Catholic Church.”

In the years leading up to Francis Xavier’s canonization, hagiographers emphasized the unprecedented nature of his mission to Asia by giving him various appellations that specifically identified the places where he had spread the Gospel during his ministry, such as “the first Apostle to Japan.” However, the 1623 canonization bull introduced new titles for Xavier, including the “Apostle of the Indies,” implying both East and West, as well as the “Apostle to the New People” and “the Apostle of All the Christian World.” This more universalizing view of Xavier would have a strong influence on the development of his iconography in the visual arts. This paper will examine several different strains of this iconography, including images of Xavier triumphant over the four elements, Xavier preaching to allegories of the four continents, and the miracle of the languages, in which Xavier addresses a polyglot crowd and each person hears him speak in their own language. These images worked to create an image of Xavier as a universal saint working to unite the four continents of the world in Christianity and bring about the ultimate global triumph of the Catholic Church.


Steffen Zierholz (Bochum university)

Two Portraits of Ignatius of Loyola Painted on Copper

My paper will examine two small portraits of Ignatius of Loyola painted on copper around 1600. They are both unattributed, but we know that at least one of them was part of the third vera effigies campaign initiated by the Belgian father Olivier Mannaerts, a former companion of Ignatius (Fig. 1). I will point out the enlivening and transformational qualities of the two portraits by focusing on their materiality at the intersection between painting, metallurgy and alchemy. In this respect, fire, warmth, and heat play a major role, respectively, which I shall connect to the fiery nature of Ignatius of Loyola, as evidenced by the well-known Ignatius/igneus pun. Whereas Andrea Pozzo’s ceiling fresco in Sant’Ignazio in Rome is almost famous representations of Ignatius within a fiery iconography, the pun was also taken up in anti-Jesuit propaganda, e.g. in the frontispiece of the Pyrotechnica Loyolana, Ignatian Fireworks. Or, the Fiery Jesuits Temper and Behaviour, anonymously published in 1667. My paper will shed light on the early history of Ignatius’s fiery nature, at a time when the Jesuits began to firmly promote his canonization. I will first argue that the brilliance of colour, a distinctive feature of painting on copper, evokes a vivid, lifelike portrait, and likewise visualizes Filippo Neri’s account of Ignatius’s supernatural splendour. Secondly, I will focus on the transformative and generative power of fire. Flemish allegories of fire painted on copper by Jan Brueghel, among others, show the productive operations of fire necessary to refine base materials and to create glass- and metalwork. In the context of spiritual alchemy, Ignatius similarly functions as a generative (divine) fire that enflames the viewer’s heart and spiritually transmutes and perfects the beholder.


Alejandro Caneque (University of Maryland)

In the shadow of Francis Xavier: martyrdom and Colonialism in the Jesuit Asian Missions

Starting in the last decades of the sixteenth century, the idea of martyrdom contributed to energizing the Society of Jesus’s determined efforts to convert the peoples of Asia to Christianity. This does not mean that the Society’s authorities fomented the martyrdom of its members. On the contrary, they exhibited a prudent attitude at all times, since conversion of heretics and pagans was always more important than martyrdom. But if a missionary was killed, then the Jesuit authors, with their superiors’ acquiescence, would get down to work to construct a most brilliant and compelling martyr figure. This article will examine the process through which the killings and excecutions of Rodolfo Acquaviva (1550-1583) in India; Marcello Mastrilli (1603-1637) in Japan and Diego Luis de San Vitores (1627-1672) in the Marianas islands were transformed into powerful instances of martyrdom. In the efforts to enhance the status of the martyrs and present them as saintly figures, their hagiographers would present a special connection between the martyrs and St Francis Xavier. The article will also pay particular attention to the ways in which these deaths intersected with the history of Iberian imperialism and colonialism in Asia.

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