Francis Borgia

Painting by Alonso Cano, 1624
Duke of Gandía
Born28 October 1510
Duchy of Gandia, Kingdom of Valencia, Spain
Died30 September 1572 (aged 61)
Rome, Papal States
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified23 November 1624, Madrid, Kingdom of Spain by Pope Urban VIII
Canonized20 June 1670, Rome by Pope Clement X
Major shrineRelics translated to the Jesuit church in Madrid, 1901
Feast30 September
10 October (1688–1969)
3 October (Jesuits)[1]
AttributesSkull crowned with an emperor's diadem
PatronageAgainst earthquakes; Portugal; Gandía; Rota, Marianas

Francis Borgia SJ (Valencian: Francesc de Borja; Spanish: Francisco de Borja; 28 October 1510 – 30 September 1572) was a Spanish Jesuit priest. The great-grandson of both Pope Alexander VI and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, he was Duke of Gandía and a grandee of Spain. After the death of his wife, Borgia renounced his titles and became a priest in the Society of Jesus, later serving as its third superior general. He was canonized on 20 June 1670 by Pope Clement X.

Early life

He was born in the Duchy of Gandía in the Kingdom of Valencia (part of Crown of Aragon), on 28 October 1510. His father was Juan Borgia, 3rd Duke of Gandía, the son of Giovanni Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). His mother was Juana, daughter of Alonso de Aragón, Archbishop of Zaragoza, who, in turn, was the illegitimate son of King Ferdinand II of Aragon.[2] His brother, Tomás de Borja y Castro, also entered the Church, becoming Bishop of Málaga, and later Archbishop of Zaragoza.

As a child he was very pious and wished to become a monk, but his family sent him instead to serve in the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (who was also King Charles I of Spain), where he was welcomed warmly.[2] He excelled there, accompanying the Emperor on several campaigns.

Adult life and career

In Madrid in the month of September 1529, he married a Portuguese noblewoman, Leonor de Castro Mello y Meneses. They had eight children: Carlos in 1530, Isabel in 1532, Juan in 1533, Álvaro circa 1535, Juana also circa 1535, Fernando in 1537, Dorotea in 1538, and Alfonso in 1539.[citation needed]

Upon Borgia's marriage, Charles V appointed him Marquess of Lombay, master of the hounds, and equerry to the empress.[2] In 1539, he convoyed the corpse of Isabella of Portugal, Philip II of Spain's mother, to her burial place in Granada. In that same year, he became Viceroy of Catalonia, replacing Fadrique de Portugal y Noroña.

During this period of his life, Borgia composed liturgical music, which the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia praises for its contrapuntal style.[2]

In 1543, Borgia's father died, and Borgia accordingly became the 4th Duke of Gandía.[3] His diplomatic abilities came into question after his failed attempt at arranging a marriage between Prince Philip of Spain and the Princess of Portugal, thus ending a hope of bringing these two countries together, and resulting in his retirement as duke, handing his title to his son, Carlos.[4] Borgia, now 33, retired to his native place and devoted himself to religious activities.

Jesuit priest

Francis Borgia at Isabella of Portugal's coffin by Pietro della Vecchia

After the 1546 death of his wife Eleanor, Francis Borgia decided to enter the newly formed Society of Jesus. He put his affairs in order, renouncing his titles in favour of his eldest son Carlos de Borja-Aragon y de Castro-Melo, and entered the order by 1550. On 25 May 1551, Borgia was ordained a Jesuit priest.[5]

Borgia helped in the establishment of what is now the Gregorian University in Rome.[6] Upon Borgia's return from a journey to Peru, Pope Julius III made known his intention to make him a cardinal.[4] To prevent this, Borgia decided, in agreement with Ignatius of Loyola, to leave the city secretly and go to the Basque Country.[7]

In 1554, Borgia became the Jesuit commissary-general in Spain,[5] where he founded a dozen colleges.[6] After the death in January 1565 of Diego Laynez, Borgia was elected the third Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

Borgia went on to found the Collegium Romanum and closely supervised all the affairs of the rapidly growing order until his death in 1572.[6]

Death and legacy

Saint Francis Borgia Helping a Dying Impenitent, painted by Francisco Goya

Francis Borgia died on 30 September 1572, in Rome. His body was repatriated to Spain in 1617; Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, 1st Duke of Lerma financed the construction of a Jesuit professed house in Madrid north of Plaza Mayor where the body might be kept, and it was relocated there in 1627.[8][9]

On 30 July 1901, the silver urn containing Borgia's relics was transferred to a church on Flor Baja street, which was dedicated to Sacred Heart and San Francis Borgia. This church was part of a new Jesuit residence established thanks to a donation from Manuel Álvarez de Toledo [es], and in 1911 the residence became a professed house.[10] After that church was destroyed by arson in 1931, some of Borgia's ashes were recovered and eventually reinterred in the new Jesuit complex on calle de Serrano.[11]

Francis Borgia was beatified in Madrid on 23 November 1624, by Pope Urban VIII. He was canonized nearly 35 years later on 20 June 1670,[5] by Pope Clement X. His liturgical feast was inserted into the General Roman Calendar in 1688 for celebration on 10 October.[12]

Parishes are dedicated to Francis Borgia in locations including:

The Jesuit-founded city of São Borja, in southern Brazil, is named after Francis Borgia.[citation needed] St. Francis Borgia Regional High School is located in Washington, Missouri.[18] Marc-Antoine Charpentier composed Motet pour St François de Borgia (H.354, for 1 voice, 2 treble instruments, and continuo) in his honor in the late 1680s.[citation needed]


By his wife, Leonor de Castro Mello y Meneses, he had eight children, five sons and three daughters:[19]


See also


  1. ^ " Saint Francis Borgia". Retrieved October 2, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Francis Borgia". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  3. ^ "Saint Francis Borgia | Jesuit superior general". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  4. ^ a b "Patron Saint | St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  5. ^ a b c "Parish Patron Saint". St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church. Archived from the original on 29 June 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  6. ^ a b c "Saint Francis Borgia". Franciscan Media. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  7. ^ "Francis Borgia, SJ". Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  8. ^ Pierre Suau (1909), "St. Francis Borgia", Catholic Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Martín Corral Estrada (14 May 2019). "La primera Casa Profesa de Madrid". Jesuitas Madrid.
  10. ^ Martín Corral Estrada (17 June 2019). "La segunda Casa Profesa de Madrid". Jesuitas Madrid.
  11. ^ José Francisco Serrano Oceja (30 December 2017). "San Francisco de Borja: una parroquia con vocación universal". ABC Madrid.
  12. ^ "St. Francis Borgia - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Catholic Online. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  13. ^ "Saint Francis Borgia Catholic Church". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  14. ^ "St. Francis Borgia". St. Francis Borgia. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  15. ^ "Saint Francis Borgia". Saint Francis Borgia. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  16. ^ "St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church | Blair, NE". Archived from the original on 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  17. ^ "St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  18. ^ "St. Francis Borgia Regional High School | Catholic College Preparatory High School in Washington, MO". Retrieved 2017-07-15.
  19. ^ "Diario Borja-Borgia - Gen. 06". Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  20. ^ "Baltasar de Borja y Velasco". Real Academia de la Historia. Retrieved 2019-03-30.