Francis de Geronimo

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Saint Francis de Girolamo
Born (1642-12-17)17 December 1642
Grottaglie, Apulia, Italy
Died 11 May 1716(1716-05-11) (aged 73)
Naples, Italy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 2 May 1806 by Pius VII
Canonized 1839 by Gregory XVI
Feast May 11
Patronage Naples (co-patron)

Saint Francis de Geronimo, also called Frances di Girolamo or - Hieronymo, or Francis Jerome (17 December 1642 – 11 May 1716) was a Jesuit priest and missionary who was canonized by Gregory XVI in 1839. He wrote the hymn "Diu vi Salvi Regina", which later was adopted as the national anthem of a briefly independent Corsica in 1735.


Francis was born in Grottaglie, Apulia, Italy, the eldest of rhw eleven children of John Leonard and Gentilesca Gravina di Girolamo.[1] By the age of twelve he held the position of sacristan and carechist at a house of the Theatines near his home.

At the age of sixteen he entered the college of Taranto, which was under the care of the Society of Jesus. He studied humanities and philosophy there, and was so successful that his bishop sent him to Naples to attend lectures in theology and canon law at the college of Gesu Vecchio.[2]

He was ordained in Naples, 18 March 1666. After spending four years in charge of the pupils of the college of nobles in Naples, where the students surnamed him il santo prefetto (the holy prefect), he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus on 1 July 1670. At the end of his first year's probation he was sent with an experienced missioner to get his first lessons in the art of preaching in the neighborhood of Otranto. After four years spent labouring in towns and villages at missionary work his superiors, after allowing him to complete his theological studies, sent him to reside at Gesù Nuovo, the residence of the professed fathers at Naples. Francis would have preferred to serve in the missions of the Far East, but his superiors, told him to abandon the idea, and to concentrate his energy on the city and Kingdom of Naples. Naples thus became for forty years, from 1676 until his death, the centre of his labours.[2]

He first devoted himself to stirring up the religious enthusiasm of a congregation of workmen, called the "Oratio della Missione", established at the professed house in Naples. The main object of this association was to provide the missionary fathers with helpers. In the Oratory he succeeded in establishing a mont de piété; the capital was increased by the gifts of the associates. He was an energetic preacher, visiting all the environs of Naples;[2] his voice was loud and sonorous, and could be heard distinctly at a great distance.[1]

Whatever time was unoccupied by his town missions he devoted to giving country or village missions. He tried to establish everywhere an association of St. Francis Xavier, his patron and model; or else a congregation of the Blessed Virgin. For twenty-two years he preached her praises every Tuesday in the Neapolitan Church known as St. Mary of Constantinople.

Francis was often seen walking through the streets of Naples with a look of ecstasy on his face and tears streaming from his eyes. He had a reputation as a mystic and miracle-worker. Those who testified during the process of his canonization attributed to him numerous wonders and cures of all kinds.

He died on 11 May 1716 in Naples, aged 71.


His obsequies were the occasion of a large and fervid procession overseen by the Swiss Guard. Calls for his beatification began immediately..

On 2 May 1758, Pope Benedict XIV declared that Francis de Geronimo had practiced the theological and cardinal virtues in a heroic degree. He would have been beatified soon afterwards only for the storm that assailed the Society of Jesus about this time and ended in its suppression. Pius VII could not proceed with the beatification until 2 May 1806. Gregory XVI canonized the saint on 26 May 1839.

Relics of the saint reside in the Jesuit church at Grottaglie.[3] His feast day is May 11.[3]

There is the chapel of St Francis De Geronimo in the Jesuit church of Gesù Nuovo in Naples. The statue of the saint (1934) was sculpted by Francesco Jerace.[4]


St. Francis de Geronimo wrote little. Some of his letters have been collected by his biographers and inserted into their works.

The account he wrote to his superiors of the fifteen most laborious years of his ministry dates from October 1693. Francis called it Brevi notizie della cose di gloria di Dio accadute negli exercizi delle sacri missioni di Napoli da quindici anni in quâ, quanto si potuto richiamare in memoria. Giuseppe Boero published it in S. Francesco di Girolamo, e le sue missioni dentro e fuori di Napoli, p. 67-181 (Florence, 1882).

The archives of the Society of Jesus contain a voluminous collection of his sermons.



  • For his writings, cf. Carlos Sommervogel, "Bibl. de la Compagnie de Jésus", new ed., III, column 1358