St. Louis Gonzaga, young man who died helping people infected during plague in Rome

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11/04/2021
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This is one of the works of French artist Pierre Legros. It's the impressive relief on St. Louis Gonzaga's tomb in the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome.

The artist depicts the young Jesuit among a court of angels, being crowned with flowers.

DANIEL CUESTA, SJ
Society of Jesus
“He dies without having been ordained a priest. He dies at the age of 23, in the year 1591. He's a sort of Carlo Acutis of his time because of the huge impact he made on the youth. His life was very short, but so full of meaning.

His example of serving others remains relevant. He lived during a brutal plague in Rome, which claimed the lives of various popes.

After renouncing his inheritance as future marquis of Castiglione, he immerses himself in service to others, even during the darkest period of the plague.

DANIEL CUESTA, SJ
Society of Jesus
“One day, he came across an infected man in the street, and he carried him on his shoulders all the way to the hospital. That was his final great act of love and faith. He contracts the disease and goes to the Roman College, to the room, which is still preserved, where he suffers and dies.”

That suffering is depicted in the relief on the saint's tomb, re-coated with lapis lazuli.

On the sides of the altar are two angels representing purity and penitence, virtues that characterized the saint's life, throughout which he had to stand firm before his family.

DANIEL CUESTA, SJ
Society of Jesus
“He was a noble. He was the heir. That's why he couldn't join a religious order, much less an emerging religious order like the Society of Jesus, which at that point wasn't associated with any ecclesiastical dignity. He had to maintain his family's legacy.”

In the end, he obtains his father's permission and hands the marquis crown to his brother, telling him, “Of the two of us, who is happier? Surely, I am.”

Daniel Díaz Vizzi

Translation: CT

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