Son of a wealthy and prominent family, and possibly related to Saint
Ignatius of Loyola. Educated in Portugal.
Jesuit in 1551 at the age 17.
Missionary to Brazil, arriving 13 July 1553.
National Apostle of Brazil.
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 honor 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.
Died on 9 June 1597 at Reritigba (Anchieta), Brazil