Jacob the Dacian

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Jacob painted in 1906 by an unknown Mexican artist

Brother Jacob the Dacian (Spanish: Jacobo Daciano; Latin: Iacobus de Dacia; c. 1484 in Copenhagen, Denmark – 1566 in Michoacán, New Spain) was a Danish-born Franciscan monk and probable Prince of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. He achieved fluency in eight languages and fame among the indigenous people of Michoacán as a righteous and helpful man toward his flock. His relics, now lost, were kept for a long time by the Indians of Tarécuato who still celebrate his birthday every year.


The translation of his name into Medieval Latin as Iacobus de Dacia stems from the fact that, during the Middle Ages, the toponym Dania, meaning Denmark, was occasionally confused with Dacia.

Brother Jacob also went by the name Iacobus Gottorpius, referring to the royal estate of Gottorp (now located in Germany).

Royal descent[edit]

Danish historian Jørgen Nybo Rasmussen (Rasmussen 1974, 1986) argues that Jacob was the son, apparently extramarital, of King John of the Kalmar Union and a younger brother of King Christian II, both Danes. This has not been asserted or even mentioned by all historians but it is also the basis for the novel Brother Jacob by Danish author Henrik Stangerup. Key arguments in a case for Jacob's royal lineage are the facts that he described himself as coming from Gottorp, the estate of Kings Christian I and John of Denmark; that he had an excellent education normally reserved for the higher nobility; and that he seemed to enjoy protection from higher political forces. It was also common for younger sons of royalty to enter into the clergy, since they normally would not inherit the thrones. However, Jacob's position as an inter-continental missionary was very unusual for a royal prince.

A number of modern authors[1][2][3] have counted Jacob – or James – as a Danish-Norwegian-Swedish prince and one of the legitimate children of King John and Queen Christina, but Rasmussen's thesis was also met with scepticism.[4]

Life in Denmark until the Reformation[edit]

Entering the Franciscan Order as a young man, Jacob received a good education studying Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as his mother tongues German and Danish. In the years prior to the reformation he lived in a convent in Malmö (now in Sweden), where he argued against the Lutheran leaders. In 1530 the Fransciscans were driven from the convent, as they were in the following from the other Danish towns. He described this in the Chronicle of the expulsion of the Greyfriars, written to serve as evidence in a potential trial to attempt to reclaim the convents later. Such a trial never came. During the religious wars known as the Count's Feud, fought between the supporters of his deposed brother, the Catholic King Christian II, and the forces of King Christian III of Denmark, many Franciscans left Denmark and went to Catholic provinces in northern Germany.

Jacob stayed in Denmark until the fall of Malmö in 1536 when the region's Lutheran Reformation was completed and the proscription of Mendicant orders forced him into exile. First he went to Mecklenburg under the protection of Duke Albrecht who had fought on the Catholic side in the civil war. Here he was made the last Provincial (head) of the Franciscan province of Dacia, whence his name. He subsequently went to Spain where he studied the Arabic language and was authorized by King Charles V of Spain to go to New Spain as a missionary.

Missionary to Mexico[edit]

In 1542, Brother Jacob arrived in Veracruz, and was to remain in New Spain for the rest of his life, learning several indigenous languages and founding several convents. He spent three years at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco studying Nahuatl before being sent to Michoacán to work among the Purépecha, where the bulk of his missionary work was done. He learned the Purépecha language and worked ardently to improve Indian rights, causing problems with the colonial authorities and with local church leadership, alike. He wrote a treatise, Declamacion del pueblo barbaro de los Indios, que habiendo recibido el bautismo, desean recibir los demas sacramentos, in which he argued that Indians should be allowed to be ordained into the priesthood. In this question he was overruled by church authorities and had to do penitence for these actions – he had claimed that denying Indians the right to ordination was in fact tantamount to heresy, a standpoint which has been vindicated in the modern Roman Catholic Church.

He died in the convent of Tarécuato, in the bishopric of Zamora where he had served as a guardian. Beginning in 1996, attempts have been made toward his canonization.



  1. ^ "Personajes daneses en la historia de México" (in Spanish). Dinamarca en Mexico. 
  2. ^ Lagerqvist, Lars O; Åberg, Nils (2002). Kings and Rulers of Sweden: A Pocket Encyclopaedia. Vincent Publications. p. 30. ISBN 91-87064-35-9. 
  3. ^ Lindqvist, Herman (2006). Historien om alla Sveriges drottningar: från myt och helgon till drottning i tiden (in Swedish). Norstedt. pp. 141–142. ISBN 91-1-301524-9. 
  4. ^ Scocozza, Benito (1987). "Book review". Historisk Tidsskrift. 2. 15 (2). 


  • Stangerup, Henrik, 1997 (1991), Brother Jacob, Marion Boyars Publishers
  • Rasmussen, Jørgen Nybo, 1974, Bruder Jakob Der Dane OFM , Franz Steiner Verlag
  • Rasmussen, Jørgen Nybo, 1986, Broder Jakob den Danske, kong Christian II's yngre broder, Odense University Studies in History and Social Sciences. Vol. 98. Odense Universitetsforlag
  • S. Tibesar, Antonine, 1975, Review of: Bruder Jakob Der Dane OFM by Jorgen Nybo Rasmussen in The Americas, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 164–166
  • "Den salige Jakob av Danmark (~1484-~1566)" (in Norwegian). Den katolske kirke. 
  • This article was originally based on the corresponding article at Danish Wikipedia.