Jesuit missionary, sinologist, and author, a central figure in the chinese rites controversy; b. Trent, 1614; d. Hangchow, China, June 6, 1661. Martini entered the Society of Jesus, Oct. 7, 1632, and after studies at the Roman College, he embarked for the Orient (March 23, 1640). From 1643 he exercised the apostolate in Chekiang Province during the upheaval caused by the Ming
overthrow. Commissioned as procurator to Rome, he first stopped at Amsterdam and Antwerp to publish his two best-known works, Novus atlas sinensis (based largely on Chinese geographies) and De bello tartarico in Sinis historia, on the then current Manchu invasion. At Rome (fall 1654), besides pressing for the overland route to China and education of Chinese youth, he successfully defended the Jesuit position on the Rites, under fire since Propaganda's adverse responsa of 1645. Without waiting for Alexander VII's favorable decision of March 23, 1656, Martini sailed from Genoa in January with ten mission recruits, but their ship was captured by corsairs in a bloody battle in which the procurator played a heroic part. Back finally in his Hangchow center (June 11, 1659), he began construction of China's most imposing church, but within two years he succumbed to a lingering illness. His piety, learning and aristocratic stature (he was known by the sobriquet "Admiral") won him the esteem of the mandarin class and the common people alike. When 17 years after burial the watersoaked coffin was disinterred, the body and its robes were found perfectly preserved.
Bibliography: l. pfister, Notices biographiques et bibliographiques sur les Jésuites de l'ancienne mission de Chine 1552-1773 1:256–262, with an analysis of Martini's Chinese and foreign compositions that completes c. sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus 5: 646–650.
[f. a. rouleau]