February 4 – Portuguese noble and favorite of the king, he strove to convert the nobility of India – and paid for it with his life

February 1, 2018

St. John de Brito

Painting of St. John de Britto by Manuel Maria Bordalo Pinheiro

Painting of St. John de Britto by Manuel Maria Bordalo Pinheiro

Martyr, born in Lisbon, 1 March, 1647, and was brought up at Court, martyred in India 11 February, 1693. Entering the Society of Jesus at fifteen, he obtained as his mission-field Madura in southern India. In September, 1673, he reached Goa. Before taking up his work he spent thirty days in the Exercises of St. Ignatius at Ambalacate near Cranganore. De Brito apparently entered the Kshatriyas, a noble caste. His dress was yellow cotton; he abstained from every kind of animal food and from wine. Setting out early in 1674, he traversed the Ghats on foot and reached Colei in the Cauvery Delta, where he perfected himself in the language. He journeyed northward at least as far as Madras and Vellore, but Cauvery Delta, Tanjore, Madura, and Marava, between Madura and the sea, were his chief field. In 1684 he was imprisoned in Marava, and, though freed by the king, he was expelled from the country. In 1688 he was sent to Europe as deputy to the triennial Congregation of Procurators. Resisting urgent attempts to keep him in Portugal, and refusing the Archbishopric of Cranganore, he returned in 1691 to the borders of Madura and Marava. Having converted Teriadeven, a Maravese prince, he required him to dismiss all his wives but one. Among them was a niece of the king, who took up her quarrel and began a general persecution. De Brito and others were taken and carried to the capital, Ramnad, the Brahmins clammering for his death. Thence he was led to Oreiour, some thirty miles northward along the coast, where his head was struck off, 11 February, 1693. He had wrought many conversions during his life, established many stations, and was famous for his miracles before and after his death. He was beatified by Pius IX, 21, August, 1853.


DE COIMBRA, Breve Relação do illustre martyrio de V. P. de Britto (1659); MALDONADO, Illustre Certamen R. P. Joannis de Britto e Societate Jesu (Antwerp, 1697); PEREYRE DE BRITTO, Historia do Nascimento, Vida e Martyrio do P. João de Britto da Companhia de Jesus (1702; published 1722; republished Lisbon, 1852); BETRAND, La Mission du Maduré d’après des documents inédits (Paris, 1847); Lettres édifiantes et curieuses; Life of Ven. John de Britto in Oratory Series (London, 1851); PRAT, Histoire du Bienheureux Jean de Britto (Paris, 1853); CARREZ, Atlas Geographicus Societatis Jesu (Paris, 1900).

H. WOODS (Catholic Encyclopedia)

[He was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII]

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