Charles Spinola

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Blessed Charles Spinola (martyr)
Charles Spinola (1565-1622).jpg
Madrid, Spain
Died10 September 1622
Nagasaki, Japan
Venerated inRoman Catholicism

Blessed Charles Spinola (1564 – 10 September 1622), also known as Carlo Spinola, was a Jesuit missionary from Genoa, Italy, martyred in Japan as a missionary.


Charles (or Carlo) Spinola was born in January 1564 in Madrid, Spain,[1] the son of Ottavio Spinola, Count of Tassarolo. He was educated in Spain and in the Jesuit school in Nola, where he lived with his uncle, Philip Cardinal Spinola, Bishop of Nola. He entered the novitiate in December 1584, and studied in Naples, Milan, and Rome. He was ordained a priest in 1594, and assigned to serve parishes in Cremona.


In 1596, he received a letter appointing him to the missions in Japan. His journey was marked by shipwrecks and delays, which included captivity in England, and he reached his destination only in 1602, six years later. The first ship he took from Genoa struck a rock and was forced to return to Genoa for repairs. Setting out again, he arrived in Barcelona and made his way on foot to Lisbon.[2]

Spinola and his companions set from Lisbon on 10 April 1596. A violent wind damaged the ship's rudder and they were forced to make for Brazil, where they landed on the 15 July. After five months they left Brazil, but a severe storm drove them Puerto Rico, arriving on 24 March 1597. The missionaries found the general state of morality among the Spanish sugar plantations deplorable, and Spinola considered their arrival providential.[2] Based in San Juan, he and the small band of Jesuits preached and taught catechism, visiting outlying settlements. On one occasion, Spinola was nearly drowned when his horse lost its footing crossing a river. Setting sail from Puerto Rico on 21 August 1597, Spinola's ship was captured by English pirates off the Azores and the Jesuits arrived in Yarmouth on 5 November.[2]

He studied Japanese before going to Miyako (Kyoto) where he was minister at the Jesuit College, and a teacher of mathematics and astronomy.[1] For twelve years, he worked at ministering to the growing Christian community in Japan. In 1614, all foreign missionaries were banished so Spinola went into hiding, eluding capture for four years. After being arrested in 1618, he, together with Brother Ambrose Fernandes and their catechist, John Chogoku, were imprisoned for four years in a birdcage-like confinement under harsh conditions.[1] He was burnt at the stake at Nagasaki on 10 September 1622. Charles was declared Blessed in 1867, along with 30 other Jesuits, over half of whom were Japanese.[2]


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