Portuguese Jesuits in East Asia in the 16th-17th centuries




Code . POCTI/HAR/55684/2004

Start . 2005

Duration . 36 months

Principal Investigator . João Paulo Oliveira e Costa (CHAM)


Funding Entity

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Main Research Unit

CHAM — Centro de Humanidades


Coordenator Institution

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa


Revista Brotéria




The history of the Jesuits in the Far East is known in its general context and is a fundamental component of the history of Portugal in the region. Due to the development of the cultural accommodation approach, the Jesuit priests were seen as pioneers, representing an initial Western openness to the values of Eastern civilization. Historiography has studied this process, almost exclusively, from the Italian Jesuit priests’ point of view. Generally, names such as Gnecchi-Soldo, Valignano or Ricci overshadow the other missionaries who also defended this openness to their fellow man.


This project, developed between September 2005 and October 2008, in a partnership between CHAM and Brotéria, aims to present to the scientific community and the public concerned a wide range of correspondence between Portuguese Jesuit priests, in the last third of the 16th century and in the first half of the 17th century, thereby disclosing the Portuguese participation in the process of civilisation.  The project includes the transcript, the critical edition and publication of the correspondence between eight Jesuits who acted in the far East, between the last third of the 16th century and in the first half of the 17th century, and thus, render available a large number of documents about the Jesuits, contributing to a consolidation of the study of the history of Christianity in the far East and the role of Portugal in the history of China’s and Japan’s evangelisation.




The initial objective of the project «Portuguese Jesuits in the far East in the 16th-17th centuries» consisted on the palaeographical transcription and critical edition of the letters of eight Jesuits who, in the last third of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, were missionaries in the Far East. The survey and documental transcript work was carried out by project’s scholarship holder, Dr. Madalena Ribeiro. The members of the project’s team were responsible for the critical edition of the letters. This correspondence referred to the following Jesuits:

• Francisco Cabral (1533-1609) – Superior in Japan between 1570 and 1580, Provincial of India between 1592 and 1597 (33 letters);

• Diogo Mesquita (1551-1614) – Superior of Nagasaki College, who introduced western plants to Japan, a great advocate of the admission of native clergy (25 letters);

• Lourenço Mexia (1539-1599) – Valignano’s companion (32 letters);

• D. Luís Cerqueira (1552-1614) – Bishop of Japan between 1598 and 1614 (136 letters);

• Luís Fróis (1532-1597) – one of the pioneers of the cultural accommodation model, author of “A História do Japão”;

• Duarte de Sande (1547-1599) – Superior of China and one of this mission’s pioneers (22 letters);

• Manuel Dias Sénior (1559-1639) – pioneer of the China Mission, Dean of the College of Macao (47 letters);

• Manuel Dias Júnior (1574-1659).

For the implementation of this project, the jury that evaluated and ranked the original proposal, assigned 38% of the requested funds, which inevitably reflected in the project’s execution. Thus, the research team chose to proceed with the transcription of the letters of Bishop D. Luís Cerqueira, which corresponds to the largest bulk among the eight missionaries originally chosen.

115 letters were transcribed, in a total of 523 original pages, currently found in the Roman Archive of the Society of Jesus, the Vatican Secret Archives, public library of Évora, Real Academia de la História (Madrid), British Library, library of Ajuda and the Royal Library of Brussels. The texts were transcribed from microfilm or digital scans obtained from the respective archives, or already within the Filmoteca Ultramarina.


The documentation can be consulted in full here.







João Paulo Oliveira e Costa   .    Coordenator

Ana Fernandes Pinto (CHAM)
Henrique Leitão (CIUHCT / FC/UL)
Hermínio Nogueira Rico
Isabel Pina (CCCM)
Madalena Ribeiro (CHAM)






Foram transcritos os seguintes documentos no âmbito deste projecto:

Cartas escritas entre os anos:
1590 - 1599 (27 cartas)
1600 - 1609 (46 cartas)
1610 - 1619 [em construção]
1620 - 1629 [em construção]
1629 - 1630 [em construção]

Cartas trocadas entre:
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Padre Geral
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Assistente D. Luís Cerqueira e o Vice-Provincial da Companhia de Jesus
D. Luís Cerqueira e o provincial dos Franciscanos em Manila
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Governador das Filipinas
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Reitor de Manila
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Arcebispo de Manila
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Procurador de Madrid
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Papa
D. Luís Cerqueira e o Rei

Documentação avulsa:
1599, 21 de Fevereiro, Certificado de D. Luís Cerqueira
1603, 12 de Janeiro, Certificado de D. Luís Cerqueira
1603, 6 de Março, Declaração
1606, 6 de Março, Certidão de D. Luís Cerqueira acerca da apostasia de Omura Yoshiaki
1606, 19 de Julho, Lembrança que o Bispo de Jappão Dom Luiz Cerqueira deixou por sua morte
1609, 5 de Março, Relação de martírio. D. Luís Cerqueira


A documentação pode ser consultada na íntegra aqui.







A - Relatório Final Aprovado

"Os objectivos científicos previstos foram plenamente atingidos. Os resultados evidenciam grande qualidade científica, nomeadamente ao nível das publicações em revistas internacionais como refere. O projecto contribuiu para a formação de jovens investigadores e para a projecção internacional da equipa envolvida."