Four Spanish Saints

Spain is a Catholic country, where 92% of the populace is baptized Catholic, and Catholic saints are even granted their own holidays. On a single day in 1622, Pope Gregory XV canonized four Spanish saints: Francis Xavier, Ignatius of Loyola, Isidore the Laborer, and Teresa of Ávila.

Javier Castle

Castle Birthplace of Francis Xavier, in Navarre, Basque Country

During our three-month trip to northern and central Spain, we resolved to visit the shrines to this holy foursome. Our first stop after crossing the Pyrenees Mountains was Castillo de Javier-Navarra and the birthplace of Francis Xavier. Born in a castle, Francis Xavier came from privilege, but mixed easily with persons of various social classes, races, and beliefs.

Javier Picture

St. Xavier the Traveling Missionary at Castillo de Javier-Navarra

During his career as a missionary, Francis Xavier traveled throughout Japan, China, India, and Southeast Asia. Along the way, he made more conversions than anyone since the Apostle Paul. He was also one of the founders of the Jesuit Order and a close companion of his fellow Basque, Ignatius of Loyola.

Ignatius Church

Shrine and Basilica of St. Ignatius, in Loiola, Basque Country

Like Francis Xavier, Ignatius of Loyola was born into a noble and wealthy family. While we were staying in the Basque Country, we caught a bus to the inland village of Loiola to visit the Sanctuary of St. Ignatius and his birthplace and childhood home.

Ignatius Birthplace

Birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loyola, in Loiola, Basque Country

Ignatius of Loyola was a self-possessed military officer who had a spiritual awakening after being injured in the leg by a cannonball. Inspired  by God, he went on to lead the formation of the Jesuits at Montmarte, and is now revered as the patron saint of the Basque Country.

Isidore Altar

Altar to Isidore the Laborer, Hermitage of San Isidro, Madrid, Spain

After moving on from the Basque Country to Madrid, our own mission led us next to a poor local field worker named Isidore the Laborer. Known in Spanish as San Isidro, he upholds the dignity of work and proves how an ordinary life can lead to holiness. 

Isidro Parade 1

San Isidro Festival, Madrid (photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

St. Isidore the Laborer is now the patron saint of Madrid. On his holiday of May 15th, the city throws a huge festival in his honor. Since we were in Madrid in Autumn, we had to settle for visits to the Church of San Isidro Real and a small hermitage where Isidore worked in the fields.

Theresa Church

Convent of St. Teresa (located on her birthplace in Ávila, Spain)

The final stop on our tour of the four Spanish saints was the spectacular walled city of Ávila, west of Madrid. It was here that Teresa of Ávila was born, entered a monastery, and founded the Order of the Barefoot Carmelites.

Teresa Writing

St. Teresa of Ávila, Patron Saint of Writers (painting by Josefa de Óbidos)

Teresa of Ávila was a charming witty woman, and wrote extensively of her travels and experiences on the road. Because of her writing skills, she is also known as a patron saint of writers. Now I know to whom I should pray next time I begin a new blog post.

Teresa Quatro Postes

Shrine of Los Cuatro Postes (The Four Posts), Ávila, Spain

Over the course of our three-month trip to northern and central Spain, we met a prolific roving evangelist, enlightened former military officer, humble field worker, and barefoot travel writer. This quartet of pious individuals is now held in the highest esteem by Catholics as the four Spanish saints.


Feature Image: Stained glass depicting an injured Ignatius of Loyola at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 (photo taken inside the Birthplace of Ignatius of Loyola Museum)


Blogger’s Note: This week, we wrapped up our three-month trip to northern and central Spain, and have returned home to Reno, Nevada to celebrate the holidays with our family and friends. After the new year, we plan to return to Spain for three more months, this time in the southern part of the country. Until then, I will be taking a break from publishing new blog posts. Esther and I greatly appreciate our wonderful WordPress friends, and wish all of you a very happy and healthy holiday season.

15 thoughts on “Four Spanish Saints

  1. A fascinating visit to all of these saints’ homes, Joe. I’m not Catholic, but I’m familiar with all of the different orders stemming from these saints; and I had no idea of the Spanish origins for each. I also like your future nod to Teresa — As someone who struggles regularly with writer’s block, I say we should take whatever help that’s offered!

    Welcome back home, and I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the warm wishes, Marty. Esther and I hope you and Gorgeous have a very happy holiday too. I was raised Catholic, but no longer practice any form of religion. Back in church, I do remember hearing the names of the saints, but never knew much about them until this trip to Spain. I may have to ask St. Teresa, next time I am in search of the perfect word. Maybe she could e-mail it to me. – Joe

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for rolling out the red carpet for us. It feels good to be home. We are hosting 14 this Thanksgiving. It will be a good chance to catch up. Happy holidays!


  2. I’ve never heard of St. Isidore as a saint of ordinary. Must look into this fellow. As for Sts. Ignatious and Teresa, I have read some of their writings, not light at all. Three months in Spain, wow, you must speak their language.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of the four Spanish saints, St. Isadore is the least famous, except if you are from Madrid. There is also a city in California on the Mexican border named San Ysidro in his honor. Another interesting thing I learned about him is that his wife is also a saint. I took some Spanish back in school, but can only remember enough to get around and hold a very simple conversation. It does come in handy in Spain.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard of Xavier, but now you’ve got me wondering; did he found the Franciscans? We did have a chance to visit Ávila, and I remember a statue of St. Teresa just outside the walls, but I don’t remember getting to the convent. Have a good Thanksgiving, and holiday season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good question, Dave. I think the Franciscans were founded by Francis of Assisi, earlier than the Jesuits. Francis Xavier was probably named after him. Ávila was spectacular, especially with the walls floodlit at night. I saw the statue of Teresa outside the walls, and am kicking myself for not taking a photo of it. It would have been a good one for the post. Thanks for the holiday greeting. I hope you have a very happy holiday too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Terrific post, Joe! I’m not Catholic, so I had heard of these saints but did not know their story. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to reading more about your travels in Spain in the new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Ann. Even though I was raised Catholic, I never paid attention in church. Now, after this travel experience, I have discovered that the lives and influences of the saints are pretty interesting. I can’t wait to get back to Spain. In the meantime, I hope you have a very happy holiday with your family, and especially that hunky grandson of yours.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Me too, Gilda. The Catholic saints are compelling historical figures that still have a lot of influence in Spanish daily life. St. Teresa is my personal favorite. How could anyone dislike a barefoot travel writer?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Christi. Esther and I hope you and your family enjoy your first holiday season in the North Star State. We are still cleaning up the kitchen after our Thanksgiving feast, and are now gearing up for Christmas. Maybe I should ask Santa for a St. Teresa screen saver?

      Liked by 1 person

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