1559  — 1654

Nicolò Longobardo


Longest-serving Jesuit missionary in China during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties.

Longobardo arrived at Shaozhou from Macau in 1591 and served as Lazarus Cattaneo’s assistant, taking charge of the Shaozhou residence when Cattaneo went north the following year. Longobardo preached in the countryside, winning many converts among the villagers. In 1610, Matteo Ricci summoned him to Beijing, and, when Ricci died, Longobardo succeeded him.

Longobardo was among a minority of Jesuit missionaries who objected to Ricci’s adoption of Tian and Shangdi (terms found in the Confucian classics) as translations for the Latin Deus (God). After magistrate Shen Que filed a complaint in 1616, the missionaries were in danger, and Longobardo hid in the home of Yang Tingjun in Hangzhou. In 1622, the authorities of the Society of Jesus in Macau relieved him of his leadership post and replaced him with Giovanni Aroccia.

As a missionary of ordinary status, Longobardo moved in and out of Beijing to places about 10 days’ journey from Beijing, preaching the Roman Catholic faith. From 1636, he preached in various places in Chanting, including Jinn, Tain, Qingzhou, and Wanan. He was still giving sermons at the Southern Cathedral when he was nearing 90. He died at age 95, having worked about 58 years in China. Upon news of his death, Emperor Shunzhi sent government officials to attend his funeral and donated 300 taels of silver for his burial expenses.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


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