Francis Borgia, 4th Duke of Gandía

Saint Francis Borgia
Born (1510-10-28)28 October 1510
Duchy of Gandía, Kingdom of Valencia, Spain
Died 30 September 1572(1572-09-30) (aged 61)
Rome, Papal States
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 23 November 1624, Madrid, Kingdom of Spain by Pope Urban VIII
Canonized 20 June 1670, Rome by Pope Clement X
Major shrine His relics were translated to the Jesuit church in Madrid, Spain in 1901
Feast 30 September
10 October (General Roman Calendar 1688-1969)
Attributes Skull crowned with an emperor's diadem
Patronage against earthquakes; Portugal; Gandía; Rota, Marianas
Coat of arms of the dukes of Gandía of the House of Borja or Borgia

Saint Francis Borgia, S.J., 4th Duke of Gandía (Valencian: Francesc de Borja, Spanish: Francisco de Borja) (28 October 1510 – 30 September 1572) was a Grandee of Spain, a Spanish Jesuit, and third Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was canonized on 20 June 1670 by Pope Clement X.

Early life

He was born in Duchy of Gandía, Valencia 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.[1] His brother, Tomás de Borja y Castro, also became a clergyman, becoming the Bishop of Málaga, and later the Archbishop of Zaragoza.

Although as a child he was very pious and wished to become a monk, his family sent him instead to the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (who was also King Charles I of Spain), where he was welcomed as a kinsman.[1] He distinguished himself there, accompanying the Emperor on several campaigns.

Adult life and career

In September 1529, he married a Portuguese noblewoman in Madrid, 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. Charles V appointed him Marquess of Lombay, master of the hounds, and equerry to the empress.[1]

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 (1539), he became Viceroy of Catalonia, replacing Fadrique de Portugal y Noroña, though he was only 29.

He delighted above all in ecclesiastical compositions, and these display a remarkable contrapuntal style and bear witness to the skill of the composer, justifying indeed the assertion that, in the sixteenth century and prior to Palestrina, Borgia was one of the chief restorers of sacred music.[1]

In 1543 upon the death of his father, the 3rd Duke, Francis became the 4th Duke of Gandía. Francis’ diplomatic abilities came into question when his attempt to arrange a marriage between Prince Philip and the Princess of Portugal failed, thus ending an attempt to bring these two countries together and resulting in his retirement.[2] By then 33 years old he had retired to his native place and devoted himself to religious activities.

Jesuit priest

In 1546 his wife Eleanor died, and Francis then decided to enter the newly formed Society of Jesus, after making adequate provisions for his children. He put his affairs in order circa 1551, renounced his titles in favour of his eldest son Carlos de Borja-Aragon y de Castro-Melo, and became a Jesuit priest. He helped in the establishment of what is now the Gregorian University in Rome.[3] Upon Francis’ return from a journey to Peru, Pope Julius III made known his intention to make him a cardinal.[2] To prevent this, Borgia decided, in agreement with St. Ignatius, to leave the city secretly and go to the Basque Country, where it was thought he would be safe from the papal desires.[4] He felt drawn to spend time in seclusion and prayer, but his administrative talents also made him a natural for other tasks. In time, however, his friends persuaded him to accept the leadership role that nature and circumstances had destined him for: in 1554, he became the Jesuit commissary-general in Spain,[5] where he founded a dozen colleges.[3] After only two years, St. Francis was also given responsibility for missions in the East and West Indies.[2] In 1565, he was elected the third "Father General" or Superior General of the Society of Jesus, after the death in January 1565 of Diego Laynez, (Almazán, Spain, 1512 - January 1565).

His successes during the period 1565-1572 have caused historians to describe Francis as the greatest General after Saint Ignatius. He founded the Collegium Romanum, which was to become the Gregorian University, advised kings and popes, and closely supervised all the affairs of the rapidly expanding order. Yet, despite the great power of his office, Francis led a humble life, and was widely regarded in his own lifetime as a saint.

Francis Borgia died in 1572.[3]

Saint Francis Borgia and the impenitent dying man. by Francisco Goya.


Francis Borgia died on 30 September 1572, in Rome. He was beatified in Madrid on 23 November 1624, by Pope Gregory XV. 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,[6] the date then free from other celebrations that was closest to that of his death.


Parishes are dedicated to St. Francis Borgia in Chicago, Illinois,[7] Sturgis, Kentucky,[8] Washington, Missouri,[9] Nebraska,[10] and Cedarburg, Wisconsin.[11] Also the village of Isio in the town of Cauayan, Negros Occidental, Philippines. The jesuit-founded city of São Borja, in southern Brazil, is named after him.

Saint Francis Borgia Regional High School is located in Washington, Missouri.[12]


As the great-great grandfather of Doña Luisa de Guzmán, queen consort of King John IV of Portugal, he is an ancestor of many of the royal houses of Europe.


See also

Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Francis Borgia.



Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
James Lainez
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Succeeded by
Everard Mercurian
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