In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Saint Ignatius of Loyola

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Primary Sources
  • Scholarship on Ignatius’s Writings
  • Biographies
  • Loyola before the Foundation of the Society of Jesus
  • Loyola and the Foundation of the Society of Jesus
  • Loyola and Governance
  • Loyola and Ministries
  • Ignatian Spirituality

Renaissance and Reformation Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Robert A. Maryks
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 August 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0327


Ignatius of Loyola (b. c. 1491–d. 1556) was the cofounder of one of the most influential Catholic religious order. He was baptized Íñigo as Christopher Columbus was getting ready for his first transatlantic voyage and the so-called Catholic monarchs were preparing an edict expelling their Jewish subjects. These two events of 1492 would profoundly affect the development of the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, which was officially approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. Íñigo spent the first few years of his life in the castle of Loyola that belonged to his noble Basque family, but soon he was sent to the Arévalo household of Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, the chief treasurer of the Spanish crown, where he had served for several years as his page and acquired the chivalric skills expected of a Spanish nobleman. After his patron’s death in 1517, he enrolled in the military services of the duke of Nájera, Manrique de Lara, in the Kingdom of Navarre. In 1521 he participated in the battle of Pamplona that his new patron fought against the French. Wounded by a cannon ball, Loyola returned to his family’s castle, where during his convalescence in the company of a popular devotional book, Leyenda de los santos, he experienced a religious conversion. It resulted in a strong desire to set his heart on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On his way to embark in Barcelona, he stopped at two places: at the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat, and in nearby Manresa. In the former Íñigo made his general confession, in the latter he composed the basis of the Spiritual Exercises. After a few weeks of visiting Jesus’ historical places, Loyola came back in 1524 to Barcelona, where he received some schooling that would allow him to enroll two years later at the University of Alcalá de Henares, where he studied philosophy. There, he entered in contact with a number of people influenced by the alumbrado and Erasmian ideals, which drew attention of the church authorities and the Inquisition and resulted in his incarceration and trials. His troubles with the ecclesiastic authorities continued during his brief sojourn in Salamanca. In 1528 he decided to enroll in the faculty of arts and theology at the University of Paris. During his long seven years of studies there, Ignatius attracted to his Spiritual Exercises and apostolic ideals a group of students who became companions of his religious mission and (after their failed plan of establishing themselves in Jerusalem to proselytize among Muslims, and their discernment conducted in Rome in late 1530s that resulted in the Formula Instituti) the nucleus of the Society of Jesus. Soon after the papal approval of the order, Ignatius was elected superior general of the Society for life, and as such he governed from his Roman curia the fast-growing social body for sixteen years until his death in 1556. With the help of his secretary, Juan Alfonso de Polanco, he addressed his confreres around the world through numerous instructions and letters, and composed the Society’s rules—the Constitutions. The devotion to Ignatius the founder grew after his death, which is testified by numerous artistic representations of him commissioned to the most famous artists of the time, Peter Paul Rubens included. They were an important means of gaining support for Loyola’s beatification in 1609 and canonization in 1622. The influence of his spirituality crossed the borders of the Society of Jesus itself. Besides the obvious impact of it on other, especially female, religious congregations, some modern scholars have investigated the impact of the Spiritual Exercises and of the Constitutions on the transition from a medieval to a modern concept of humanity and the world in general, and on the formation of modern self and objectivity in particular.

Reference Works

Except for Echarte 1996, which is a concordance of Ignatian vocabulary, all other titles in this section are basic reference sources on Ignatius’s life, his writings, and his spirituality. The most authoritative, placing Loyola in proper historical context, is O’Malley 1996, which is somewhat in contrast with Pollen 1910, a volume that represents older trends in historiography. Koch 1934 is outdated but useful to understand the portrayal of Ignatius within German historiography. Grzebień 1996 is fragmented but helpful for the history of the cult of Ignatius in Poland. Dalmases and Escalera 2001 is comprehensive, but the focus is on Loyola as superior general. The following two articles are more useful for an understanding of Ignatian spirituality: Cacho 2007 is more generic, while Cusson, et al. 1932–1995 is more detailed. The Boston College Jesuit Bibliography is the most up-to-date bibliographical source for Jesuit historiography, including the Ignatian one.

  • The Boston College Jesuit Bibliography. Edited by Robert A. Maryks. In BrillOnline Bibliographies.

    Started in 2014, this is a fast-growing comprehensive bibliography available in Open Access from Brill’s platform. Contains thousands of records on books, book chapters, periodical articles, and book reviews on any aspect of Jesuit history, including Loyola.

  • Cacho, Ignacio. “Ignacio de Loyola.” In Diccionario de espiritualidad ignaciana. Vol. 2. Edited by José García de Castro Valdés and Pascual Cebollada, 975–985. Santander, Spain: Sal Terrae, 2007.

    Presents the life of Ignatius in Spanish through the lens of his spiritual development, pointing out the characteristics of his spirituality and the primary texts that are source of information about it. Contains basic bibliography.

  • Cusson, Gilles, Gervais Dumeige, and Ignacio Iparraguirre. “Ignace de Loyola (saint), fondateur de la Compagnie de Jésus, 1491–1556.” In Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique: Doctrine et histoire. Vol. 7. Edited by Charles Baumgartner, Marcel Viller, and André Rayez, col. 1266–1318. Paris: G. Beauchesne, 1932–1995.

    The article is divided in three major parts: I. Life and Works (Iparraguirre); II. Experience and Spiritual Doctrine (Dumeige); III. The Spiritual Exercises (Cusson). The part on Ignatius’s life has three sections: 1. Adolescent and Knight, 1491–1521; 2. Loyola-Rome, 1521–1537; and 3. Rome, 1537–1556. The second part is divided in four sections: 1. Unity and Holy Trinity; 2. Ever Greater Glory of God; 3. The Society’s Service to the Church; 4. Use of Whole Man for Apostolic Tasks. The third part is divided in three sections: 1. Material Presentation of the Text; 2. History of the Text; and 3. Interpretation of the Text. All parts contain a detailed bibliography.

  • Dalmases, Cándido de, and José Escalera. “Generales de la CJ. 1. Ignacio de Loyola.” In Diccionario histórico de la Compañía de Jesús: Biográfico-temático. Vol. 2. Edited by Charles E. O’Neill and Joaquín María Domínguez, 1595–1601. Rome: Institutum Historicum, 2001.

    The focus of this article in Spanish is on the role of Ignatius as the first superior general of the Society of Jesus, but it also contains sections on his life before and after the conversion, on the period of his studies, and on the time that led to the foundation of the Jesuits. Contains basic bibliography.

  • Echarte, Ignacio. Concordancia ignaciana. Bilbao, Spain: Ediciones Mensajero, 1996.

    A concordance of the terms in the main writings of Loyola in the original languages of use (Spanish, Latin, and Italian) and based on the critical editions of the Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (see Primary Sources in the OBO article “Jesuits”). There is an English introduction. Fundamental for any analysis of the thought and language of Ignatius.

  • Grzebień, Ludwik. “Ignacy Loyola.” In Encyklopedia wiedzy o jezuitach na ziemiach Polski i Litwy, 1564–1995. Edited by Ludwik Grzebień, 225–226. Kraków: Wydział Filozoficzny Towarzystwa Jezusowego, 1996.

    A very brief profile of Ignatius in Polish, divided into three parts: 1. Life; 2. Spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola; and 3. Cult of St. Ignatius in Poland. Contains a very concise bibliography.

  • Koch, Ludwig. “Ignatius von Loyola.” In Jesuiten-Lexicon: Die Gesellschaft Jesu einst und jetzt. Vol. 1. Edited by Ludwig Koch, col. 838–853. Paderborn: Bonifacius-Druckerei, 1934.

    A brief biography of Ignatius in German, analyzing also his character as portrayed in early 19th-century historiography and his representations in fine arts. Contains basic bibliography.

  • O’Malley, John W. “Ignatius Loyola.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Vol. 2. Edited by Hans J. Hillerbrand, 307–310. New York: Oxford, 1996.

    Contains a short biography of Ignatius; a presentation of the Spiritual Exercises and of the Constitutions, and of other writings; and a historical analysis of his role within the context of reform and Reformation. Includes a concise bibliography of primary and secondary literature.

  • Pollen, John Hungerford. “St. Ignatius Loyola.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton, 1910.

    Substantial article divided into seven parts: 1. Conversion (1491–1521); 2. Spiritual Formation (1522–1524); 3. Studies and Companions (1521–1539); 4. Foundation of the Society; 5. The Book of the Spiritual Exercises; 6. The Constitutions of the Society; 7. Later Life and Death. No bibliography.

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