Born in Palencia, Spain, Capillas joined the Dominican order in Valladolid in 1623 and then, as a deacon, left for the East in fulfillment of his missionary vocation. After his ordination in Manila in 1632, he was sent to the Cagayan Valley (northern Luzon) and worked there from 1632 to 1641. The poor and the sick were the main beneficiaries of his ministry. After his martyrdom, people bore witness to his ardent zeal during these years in the Philippines.
In 1641 he volunteered to go to China, where a mission in Fookien (Fujian) Province had been established by the Italian Dominican Angel Cocchi in 1631. From 1642 to 1646 Capillas worked tirelessly as an itinerant preacher, especially among farmers, fishermen, and the sick. In 1644 the Manchus invaded China, and by 1646 they were in Fookien. Capillas was imprisoned, and on January 15, 1648, he was condemned to death. He was beheaded the next day. Benedict XIV proclaimed him protomartyr of China in 1748, and Pius X beatified him in 1909.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- F. Calva, Vida del Venerable Padre Fr. Francisco, Pernandez de Capillas (1787); Juan Garcia, Relacion del martirio del V. P. Francisco de Capillas en el Reino de China, in Monumenta Sinica (1684); Positio super martyrio, causa martyrii signis seu miraculis or Summarium (1906). Original letters of Capillas are held in the Archivo de la Provincial del Santisimo Rosario in Avila, Spain, Seccion China, vol. 21.