Greatest organizer and superior of the Jesuit missions in the Middle and Far East since St. Francis Xavier; b. Chieti (Abruzzi), Italy, February 1539; d. Macau, Jan. 20, 1606. Members of his influential family had often served Chieti as chamberlains; his parents were friends of Gian Pietro Caraffa, Bishop of Chieti (1505–24), who became cardinal archbishop (1537–49) and Pope paul iv. After obtaining the degree of doctor of laws at Padua, probably in 1557, he expected promotion from Paul IV. He returned to Padua after Paul's death in 1559, and became involved in a law suit. After an imprisonment of 1½ years he was expelled from the territory of the Republic of Venice. Under Pius IV he was auditor of the Cardinal's nephew Mark Sittich of Hohenems (Altemps). In this period he underwent a profound spiritual experience (details as yet unknown), resulting in his entrance into the Society of Jesus at Rome in 1566. After studying philosophy and theology at the Collegium Romanum, he was ordained in St. John Lateran on March 25, 1570. The next year he was, for a short time, master of novices—one of the novices being Matteo ricci—and from Sept. 1, 1572, rector of the college in Macerata.
Visitator. In the summer of 1573 he was called to Rome and appointed visitator of the East Indian Jesuit missions. He made his solemn profession at Rome (Sept. 8, 1573) and on March 21, 1574, departed from Lisbon with 41 other Jesuits; he arrived in Goa on Sept. 6, 1574. He was visitator of Asia (until October 1583), provincial of India (until September-October 1587), again visitator of Asia (until Sept. 24, 1595), and visitator of the Far East until his death.
Valignano gave a strong impetus to Jesuit missions and to the Church in general in many Asian countries. He visited Hither India (1574–77); made his first visit to the Far East from 1577 to 1583 (Japan 1579–82); was in charge of the province of Goa (1583–87); made his second visit to the Far East from 1588 to 1595 (Japan 1590–92); and was visitator of the Far East from 1595 until his death (third and last stay in Japan 1598–1603). He promoted the spiritual life among Jesuits in Asia by means of the Jesuit constitutions, retreats, etc., taking great care of the intellectual training of young Jesuit missionaries, reorganizing studies in St. Paul's College at Goa, founding a college at Funai (Ōita), Japan, and building (1593–94) the imposing structure of the college at Macau. Similar care was bestowed on the novitiates. In 1584 a magnificent Professed House was erected at Goa. Valignano tried to restore to the missions their original meaning of "sending," and of performing pastoral work among Christians by radiating from large population centers. The missions were rigidly organized: there were annual visitations by superiors, frequent consultations with all missionary priests, careful reporting to the general of the Jesuits, to the pope, and to the king of Spain and Portugal. Valignano organized the first Japanese diplomatic mission to Europe (1582–90), a noteworthy contemporary event. He also knew how to find the material means for his large-scale activities, e.g., the papal "Japan-Revenue" first granted by Gregory XIII. An indirect participation of the Society of Jesus in the silk trade of Macau-Japan, taking the form of investments, was also approved by the Pope.
Missionary Adaptation. The basis of Valignano's missionary system was a far-reaching adaptation to national customs through the study of language and culture. Its high point was reached when the missionaries were fitted into the social structure of the country. To this end he composed a booklet of ceremonies for Japan (Bungo 1581). A native clergy was being trained, and the appointment of native bishops anticipated. His extant writings are collected by J. F. Schütte. English translations of these and other new sources are in preparation. Among the works already printed during the lifetime of Valignano are a catechism for Japan, and a report about the martyrdom of Rudolph Acquaviva and companions. His works and letters are a rich source of information for church history in Asian lands.
Bibliography: a. valignano, Sumario de las cosas de Japón (1583); Adiciones del Sumario de Japón (1592), ed. j. l. alvareztaladriz (Tokyo 1954–); Il cerimoniale per i missionari del Giappone, ed. j. f. schÜtte (Rome 1946). d. e. valignani, Vita del Padre Alessandro Valignani della Compagnia di Giesù (Rome 1698). i. nardi, Genealogia della famiglia Valignana (Rome 1680). g. ravizza, Notizie biografiche che riguardano gli uomini illustri della Città di Chieti … (Naples 1830); Appendice alle notizie biografiche … (Chieti 1834). j. f. schÜtte, Valignanos Missionsgrundsätze für Japan (v.1.1–1.2 Rome 1951–58).
[j. f. schÜtte]