Saint José de Anchieta

detail of an 18th-century oil painting of Saint José de Anchieta, artist unknown; currently in the Museu Paulista, University of São Paulo, Brazil; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAlso known as

  • Apostle of Brazil
  • Giuseppe de Anchieta
  • Jose Anchieta
  • Joseph Anchieta



Son of a wealthy and prominent family, and possibly related to Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Educated in Portugal. Joined the Jesuits in 1551 at age 17. Missionary to Brazil, arriving on 13 July 1553. He is the National Apostle of Brazil, and was co-founder of the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

In youth he dislocated his spine. When he joined the Jesuits, he was sent to Brazil for its mild climate in the hope that his back would improve. It never did, and he was in constant pain for the 44 years he worked in the Americas.

He and the Jesuit Emanuel Nóbrega arrived at Piratininga on the feast of Saint Paul and so named the mission Sao Paulo. In 1553 he first met the Tupi Indians who lived on the outskirts of the settlement. As he was adept at languages, Joseph sooned learned theirs. For two decades Joseph worked on a grammar and dictionary used by Portuguese settlers and missionaries.

Joseph was later held hostage for five months by the Tamoyo tribe during which time he occupied himself by composing a Latin poem in honour of the Blessed Virgin. Since he had no writing supplies, he wrote in wet sand and memorized the verses. When he again reached Sao Vicente he committed all 4,172 lines to paper.

Joseph converted the Maramomis tribe, and composed plays for his students to perform, writing them in Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Tupi. Because his dramas were the first written in Brazil, Joseph is known as the Father of Brazilian national literature.

Jesuit provincial in 1577. In letters to his fellow missionaries, he warned that burning desire was not enough: “You must come with a bag-full of virtues.”







MLA Citation

  • “Saint José de Anchieta“. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 November 2021. Web. 23 January 2022. <>