September 21 – Victim of intrigue

September 18, 2017

Gabriel Malagrida

A Jesuit missionary to Brazil, born 18 September or 6 December, 1689, at Menaggio, in Italy; died 21 September, 1761, at Lisbon. He entered the Jesuit order at Genoa in 1711. He set out from Lisbon in 1721 and arrived on the Island of Maranhào towards the end of the same year. Thence he proceeded to Brazil, where for twenty-eight years he underwent numerous hardships in the Christianization of the natives. In 1749 he was sent to Lisbon, where he was received with great honours by the aged King John V. In 1751 he returned to Brazil, but was recalled to Lisbon in 1753 upon the request of the queen dowager, Marianna of Austria, mother of Joseph, who had succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father, John V.

Gabriel_MalagridaThe great influence which he exerted at the Court of Lisbon was a thorn in the side of Pombal, the prime minister. By intrigues and calumnies he induced the young king, Joseph I, to banish Malagrida to Setubal (November, 1756) and to remove all the Jesuits from the Court. An attempt upon the life of the royal chamberlain, Teixeira, during which the king was accidentally wounded, was amplified by Pombal into a conspiracy headed by Malagrida and other Jesuits. Without proof, Malagrida was declared guilty of high treason, but, being a priest, he could not be executed without the consent of the Inquisition. Meanwhile the officials of the Inquisition, who were friendly towards Malagrida, were replaced by tools of Pombal, who condemned him as a heretic and visionary, whereupon he was strangled at an auto-da-fé, and his body burnt. The accusation of heresy is based on two visionary treatises which he is said to have written while in prison. His authorship of these treatises has never been proved, and they contain such ridiculous statements that, if he wrote them, he must previously have lost his reason in the horrors of his two and a half years’ imprisonment. That he was not guilty of any conspiracy against the king is admitted even by the enemies of the Jesuits. A monument in his honour was erected in 1887 in the parochial church of Menaggio.

The execution of Fr. Gabriel Malagrida.

The execution of Fr. Gabriel Malagrida.

Mury, Histoire de Gabriel Malagrida (Paris, 1884; 2nd ed., Strasburg, 1899; Ger. trans., Salzburg, 1890); Un monumento al P. Malagrida in La Civilità Cattolica, IX, series XIII (Rome, 1888), 30-43, 414-30, 658-79; Sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, V (Brussels, 1894), 394-95; Butina, Vida de Malagrida (Barcelona, 1886).

MICHAEL OTT (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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