Anchieta, José de (1534–1597)

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Anchieta, José de (1534–1597)

José de Anchieta (b. 19 March 1534; d. 6 September 1597), Jesuit missionary. An early Jesuit missionary known as the "Apostle of Brazil," José de Anchieta was skillful in teaching and evangelizing the native Indians. Of Spanish origin, he was born in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and studied at the University of Coimbra, where he entered the Society of Jesus as a brother in 1551. In 1553 he arrived in Brazil, where he taught at the Jesuit College of São Paulo. He was an accomplished writer and linguist. A master of Latin grammar and prose, he was one of the first missionaries to learn the Tupi language of the Indians well enough to write a Tupi grammar to augment the Jesuit missionary endeavors in Brazil. He served as the secretary to Manuel da Nóbrega, the leader of the first group of Jesuit missionaries in Brazil. He was responsible for the founding in Brazil of the Jesuit educational system based on the ratio studiorum, which emphasized classes in Latin, grammar, philosophy, mathematics, cosmography, and astronomy. In 1577 he made solemn profession as a priest in the Jesuit order.

While Manuel da Nóbrega was working in northern Brazil, Anchieta concentrated his efforts on founding aldeias, or fortified missions, in the southern captaincies of São Vicente, Rio de Janeiro, and Espírito Santo. He founded a third regular college in 1554 in São Paulo, where he was a zealous teacher. He also composed a great number of hymns, sacred songs, plays, and a poem in praise to Our Lady. In 1563 he worked with Manuel da Nóbrega in a pacification mission among the Tamoios, who were allied with the French and attacking settlements in Santos and São Vicente. After serving as a teacher and missionary, he was appointed Jesuit provincial of southern Brazil from 1578 to 1587.

A saintly and dynamic missionary, Anchieta spent forty-four years laboring in South America, despite a painful back injury which often incapacitated him. His letters and sermons give glowing accounts of the natural beauty of Brazil and are an excellent chronicle of early Brazilian history. Various miracles were attributed to him and he is called the "miracle worker" of Brazil.

See alsoMissions: Jesuit Missions (Reducciones) .


Serafim S. Leite, História da Companhia de Jesus no Brasil, vol. 2 (1938).

Charles R. Boxer, Salvador de Sa and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola (1602–1686) (1952).

Serafim S. Leite, Novas paginas da história do Brasil (1965).

Helio Vianna, História do Brasil colonial (1975).

John Hemming, Red Gold: The Conquest of the Brazilian Indians (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Massimi, Marina, Miguel Mahfoud, Paulo José Carvalho da Silva, and Silvia H. S. Avancini. Navegadores, colonos, missionarios na Terra de Santa Cruz. São Paulo: Edições Loyola, 1997.

                                      Patricia Mulvey