Ignatius of Loyola


Was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. Loyola’s devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the Pope.

Don Íñigo López was born at Loyola (today in the town of Azpeitia) around the year 1491 and was member of the large family (thirteen children) of Don Yanez and his wife, Marina Sáenz. His father had been a soldier in the service of Henry IV, of the Catholic Kings and of John II.

Alongside Fernando the Catholic, he led the siege against the town of Toro, Burgos, Loja, won on 29 May 1486 and Vélez-Málaga. For his loyalty to the crown, he received awards from the king, who named him his vassal and granted the ancient privileges to his family: the annuity of two thousand maravedis from the ironworks of Barrenola and Aranaz and the right of patronage over the parish of Azpeitia. His mother was the daughter of Dr. Don Martín García de Licona, a high-born figure, a courtier of the King of Castile, and adviser of the Catholic Kings, who possessed the domain and the primogeniture of the Balda house. As for the other children, we know that there were eight males and five females, of which Íñigo was the youngest.

He went to the Holy Land. After a short time, he was forced to return to Spain. In that period, he elaborated his method of prayer and contemplation, based on the “discernment.” These experiences have actually originated from a passage from the Second Letter to the Corinthians of Paul of Tarsus. He described a series of meditations which will then have to be follow by the future Jesuits. This work has influenced profoundly subsequent methods of evangelization of the Catholic Church. He also had the opportunity to visit the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat on 25 March 1522, where he hung his military vestments before an image of the Virgin Mary, in a real military vigil dedicated to Our Lady. He entered the monastery of Manresa, in Catalonia where he practiced the most rigorous asceticism. The Virgin became the object of his chivalrous devotion. His military imagery always played an important part in his life and in his religious contemplations.

In 1528 he entered the University of Paris, where he remained for seven years, extending his literary and theological education and trying to persuade other students to learn the “Spiritual Exercises”. By 1534, he had six “followers”: Pierre Faber (France), Francis Xavier, Diego Laínez, Alfonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla (Spanish) and Simão Rodrigues (Portugal).

On 15 August 1534, Íñigo and the other six students met in Montmartre, near Paris, binding each other with a vow of poverty and chastity and founding the Society of Jesus, in order to carry out missionary and hospitality work in Jerusalem or to go unconditionally wherever the Pope had ordered them to go. In 1537 they traveled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III praised them and allowed them to be ordained as priests. They were ordained at Venice by the bishop of Arbe (now Rab, Croatia) on 24 June. They devoted themselves to prayer and charitable work in Italy because the new conflict between the emperor of Venice, the Pope and the Ottoman Empire made impossible any journey to Jerusalem.

Ignatius was chosen as the first superior general of the Society of Jesus. He sent his companions as missionaries around the world to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. In 1548, the “Spiritual Exercises” were printed for the first time, for which he was brought before the Inquisition, but was released. Also in 1548, Íñigo founded in Messina the first Jesuit College in the world, the famous “Primum ac Prototypum Collegium ovvero Messanense Collegium Prototypum Societatis”, the first one and, then, the prototype of all the other Jesuit teaching colleges merged with success in teaching the distinctive brand of the order.

Ignatius wrote the “Jesuit Constitutions”, adopted in 1554, which created a monarchical organization and asked for self-denial and absolute obedience to the Pope and to the superiors (“like a corpse” as Ignatius wrote). The rule of Ignatius became the unofficial motto of the Jesuits: “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam”. The Jesuits have made a vital contribution to the success of the Counter-Reformation.

He died in Rome in 1556 and was canonized on 12 March 1622. On 23 July 1637, his body was placed in gilded bronze ossuary, in the Chapel of Saint Ignatius Church of Jesus in Rome. The statue of the saint, made from silver, is the work of Pierre Legros. The religious festival in honour of Ignatius of Loyola is celebrated on 31 July, the day of his death.

However, there are some theories and people who accuse Ignatius of Loyola as being an imposter, charlatan and evil person. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is the man who founded the Jesuits, known for his spiritual exercises, which Catholics would consider holy but when it gets right down to it are based in vain imaginations, false visions, sorcery and witchcraft. Also, it is being said that he was seen levitating. Other theories claim that he used to drink the blood of living sacrificed children.

Other personalities

Discover some other popular persons who live / lived in Spain.


Diego Velázquez

Was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, […]

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the […]


Rafael Nadal

He is widely regarded as the greatest clay court player in history, and due to his dominance and success on the surface, he has been titled “The King of Clay”. His evolution into an all court threat has established him as one of the greatest players in tennis history, with some considering Nadal to be […]

Julio Iglesias

Julio Iglesias

Is a Spanish singer and songwriter who has sold over 300 million records worldwide in 14 languages, has released over 80 albums, and has more than 2.600 gold and platinum records certified, making him one of the best selling artists of all time and the best selling Latin artist in history. Julio Iglesias was born […]

Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya

He is considered the most important Spanish artist of late 18th and early 19th centuries and throughout his long career was a commentator and chronicler of his era. Immensely successful in his lifetime, Goya is often referred to as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Francisco de Goya […]

Francisco Franco

Francisco Franco

Was a Spanish general and the Caudillo of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Coming from a military family background, he became the youngest general in Spain and one of the youngest generals in Europe in the 1920’s. As a conservative monarchist, he rejected the removal of the monarchy and its replacement with […]

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.