Rodolfo Acquaviva

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Rodolfo Acquaviva (*Atri, Abruzzi, October 2, 1550; †Cuncolim, Goa, July 25, 1583) Italian Jesuit missionary to India, at the court of Akbar the Great, 1580–1583; Martyred, 1583; Blessed, 1893.

Akbar the Great (r.1556-1605) at the Ibadat Khana. In dark blue, left is Fr. Acquaviva with his companion Fr. Henriques at his side. Illustration to the Akbarnama, ca. 1605

Son of Giangirolamo Acquaviva, 10th Duke of Atri, great-grandson of Andrea Matteo Acquaviva, condottiere and man of letters, Rodolfo (also Ridolfo, Rudolfo) belonged to a powerful and illustrious family of Germanic origin settled in the Kingdom of Naples since the twelfth century.[1] Inspired by the example of his uncle Claudio Acquaviva who joined the Society of Jesus in 1567 and ruled it as 5th General of the Jesuits between 1581 and 1615, he became a novice at Sant'Andrea al Quirinale in Rome together with Stanislas Kostka. After completing his studies Acquaviva was chosen by his superiors for the prestigious and challenging Indian missions, begun by Francis Xavier in the Portuguese territory of Goa and he travelled to Lisbon, starting point for the voyage east. There he was ordained a priest and sailed for India in 1578. At first he taught at Saint Paul's College, Goa but was then assigned as the leader of a mission to the court of Akbar (1542–1605) upon the request of Grand Mughal. In his new palace in Fatehpur Sikri Akbar built the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) where he invited leaders of the Muslim, Hindu and other religions to debate points of religious truth, including Acquaviva and his companion Jesuit Francisco Henriques who spoke Persian. Akbar was interested in founding a new pantheistic religion with elements from different traditions and his new faith was called Din-i-Ilahi ("Faith of the Divine") Although he came equipped with the Bible translated into many different languages, (though not yet Persian) and was the object of Akbar's sympathetic personal attention, the Jesuit felt his efforts were fruitless, one obstacle being the ruler's repugnance to monogamy, and he decided to withdraw, though other Jesuits maintained the mission at the courts of the Mughal Emperors and in Agra for the next two centuries.

A 17th-century painting in a church in Colva depicting the massacre of the five Jesuits in Cuncolim, Goa on July 25, 1583. Acquaviva in the center uncovering his neck.

Upon his return to Goa as part of his missionary commitments he led a mission to the Hindu Kshatriyas of Salcette, south of Goa. This was seen as a provocation to the local community some of whose temples had already been destroyed by Jesuits and Portuguese troops. It incited the Cuncolim Revolt of July, 1583. Acquaviva was murdered opening his collar to the scimitar of his assassin and calling to God. He and his four Jesuit companions were beatified by pope Leo XIII in 1893.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Acquaviva. - Famiglia napoletana, che ricorda come suo capostipite Rinaldo d'A., il quale ebbe feudi da Enrico VI di Svevia nella regione teramana (1195)." Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani

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