The largest Roman Catholic religious order can finally boast of a pope with the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. And if it’s true that the Argentine pontiff didn’t always get along with the Jesuit Curia, he recently improved his relationship with the Society of Jesus. The Jesuit headquarters were overwhelmed with calls and letters of greetings for their first pope in what was a crazy time for a traditionally very discrete and formal order.
Education and learning have always been the core of its mission and some of the best Catholic schools and universities in the world are run by Jesuits.
The Society of Jesus is an interesting mix of Italian and Spanish cultures and we would like to show you some of its landmarks in Rome, which are many more than expected.
It’s a city within the city of Rome and we hope you’ll enjoy this fascinating trip!
The order was founded in Rome by a Spaniard, Ignacio de Loyola, in 1534. His house is right next to the imposing Jesus church, in the heart of Rome. This is the first baroque church in town and started the artistic revolution that literally changed the face of Rome. If Rome is what it is now, well a lot is due to this church, the Jesuits’ foundation church.
Another fantastic baroque church built by the Society of Jesus is S. Ignazio, very close to Via del Corso; its painted ceiling is really astonishing.
But the Baroque style also strongly affected the Spanish artistic scene and we like to notice how the Spanish and the Italian elements, since from the very beginning of the Society, worked out together.
In the second half of the 16th century Counter-Reformation was the main driver of the Roman Catholic Church, but its most important arm was Spain, the leading world power of the time.
The main Jesuit education institution in Rome is also in the city centre. It’s the Pontifical Gregorian University, very close to the Trevi fountain. This is where the Jesuit world intelligentsia gathers for graduate courses and conferences on current issues.
Another key school is the Collegio Massimo, an Italian-language school (one of the 6 in Italy) where some of the members of the Italian establishment, such as Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, studied. It currently enrolls 900 students who pay an average school fee of 7,800 euros. Its origins trace back to the Roman College founded in 1551 by St Ignatius that is now a state high school.
Part of the huge educational network run by the Jesuits all over the world – 2,032 schools with 2.5 million students – is also the Loyola University of Chicago centre of Rome.
LOCAL AND ITALIAN SITES
There are also two national major Jesuit institutions we have to mention: the Italian Province, i.e. the Italian section, whose headquarters are next to the Jesus Church, and the huge, beautiful compound of Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian-language review of the Jesuits, Villa Malta, near the Spanish Steps.
For Roman sites, the only parish run by Jesuits in the Eternal City is San Saba, in the Aventine borough.
While a very important chapel that they manage is at the Sapienza University, Rome’s oldest state University, the biggest in Europe for number of students.
Last but not least the Jesuit order’s world headquarters, where the Superior General, the so called black pope lives. Such is the power and the influence of the Jesuits that their leader, currently a Spaniard, is called “pope”. The other reason is that they have a life mandate: it only ends when they die or resign. “Black” because their robe is very dark and this color distinguishes it from the real, white one.
The headquarters are in the Borgo Pio area, very close to St Peter’s, a borough that can be considered an extension of the Vatican and that we described in this post.