1621  — 1662

Albert d'Orville

Jesuit missionary in China and Tibet.

A native of Brussels, Belgium, Dorville entered the Society of Jesus in 1646 at Landsberg, Germany, Eleven years later he left Lisbon, Portugal, bound for Macao, which he reached in July 1658. After two years of language training, he was sent to Kiangchow (present-day Xinjiang), in Shansi (Shanxi) Province. His missionary endeavors there were cut short, since he was ordered to go to Sian (Xi’an), Shensi (Shaanxi) Province to meet Johannes Gruber.

The Jesuit superior general in Rome had instructed Johann Adam Schall von Bell, then in Peking (Beijng), to assist Gruber to find a land route from China to Europe or to India. This would avoid the many dangers and long delays that occurred on trips taken by way of the Cape of Good Hope, the Indian Ocean, and the South China Sea. Accompanied by a Muslim interpreter, Dorville and Gruber left Sian and in three months they crossed the deserts through Tsinghai (Qinghai) Province and entered Tibet. They spent two months at the capital, Lhasa, and then proceeded to Nepal, Bengal, Benares, and finally Agra, in India. The trip, which lasted 214 days not counting stopovers, weakened Dorville, and he died in Agra on Holy Saturday.


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.


  • Henri Bosmans, “Documents sur Albert Dorville,” Analectes pour servir a l’histoire ecclesiastique de la Belgique 37 (1911): 329-384, 470-497; Henry Heras, “The Tomb of Father Albert d’Orville,” Archivum Historicum Societatis Jesu 2 (1933): 17-24; Cornelis Wessels, Early Jesuit Travelers in Central Asia, 1603-1721 (1924), pp. 164-204.

About the Author

John W. Witek

Associate Professor of East Asian History, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA