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Jesuit Archives contain some of the earliest letters written by St. Ignatius of Loyola

2010-08-09

About 600 students each year pass through this place to discuss the history of the Jesuits. But these letters and books also describe many historical moments of which the Jesuits were prime witnesses.

The oldest documents that remain are the letters St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote to other members of the Society.

P. Robert Danieluk
Jesuit Archives

"Most of the letters we are familiar with, those kept here, deal with the day to day work of the Society. They show how Saint Ignatius followed the work of various members in different parts of the world – so the letters help to bring together news on how one mission or another was going, and how the fathers were doing. "

The archives also contain official letters and correspondence with the missionaries who were in China, like Matteo Ricci and San Francisco Javier, who died at the threshold of this country.

However, some documents and letters were lost during the persecution of the Society of Jesus at the time of the unification of Italy. In 1873 the Jesuits were expelled from Rome and had to close all their houses. At this time the General Curia moved to a town near Florence staying until 1895.

P. Robert Danieluk
Jesuit Archives

"The archives still in Rome were sent secretly, slowly but surely, through several friends, as packages of documents.”

Some of the documents were confiscated by the Italian Government, which later released them in 1920, fully classified.

The documents are truly unique and illustrate how the Society came into being, how the Jesuits lived their vocation and carried out their work around the world, as recounted in the correspondence of the missionaries - letters and archives which take you on a trip through time and history.

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