Andrew Bobola

Andrew Bobola, S.J. (Polish: Andrzej Bobola, 1591 – 16 May 1657) was a Polish missionary and martyr of the Society of Jesus, known as the Apostle of Lithuania and the "hunter of souls".[1] He was tortured to death during the Khmelnytsky Uprising. He was canonized in 1938 by Pope Pius XI.


Andrew Bobola

Martyr of Poland
Sandomir Palatine, Lesser Poland, Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Died16 May 1657
Janów, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Venerated inRoman Catholicism (by Poland and the Society of Jesus)
Beatified30 October 1853, Rome, Papal States by Pope Pius IX
Canonized17 April 1938, Vatican City by Pope Pius XI
Major shrineShrine of Saint Andrew Bobola, Warsaw, Poland
Feast16 May
PatronagePoland; Archdiocese of Warsaw


Bobola was born in 1591 into a noble family in the Sandomir Palatinate in the Province of Lesser Poland of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, then a constituent part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1611 he entered the Society of Jesus in Vilnius, then in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the other part of the Commonwealth. He subsequently professed solemn vows and was ordained in 1622, after which he served for several years as an advisor, preacher, superior of a Jesuit residence, and other jobs in various places.[2]

From 1652 Bobola also worked as a country "missionary", in various locations of Lithuania: these included Polotsk, where he was probably stationed in 1655, and also Pinsk, (both now in Belarus). On 16 May 1657, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, he was captured in the village of Janów (now Ivanava, Belarus) by the Cossacks of Bohdan Chmielnicki and, after being subjected to a variety of tortures, killed.[2]

One description of Bobola's death written in 1865 states:[3]

In the same year, the Cossacks surprised a holy Polish Jesuit, in the town of Pinsk, and conferred on him the palm of martyrdom, on the 16th of May, 1657. Father Andrew Bobola ... had just offered up the holy sacrifice, when a horde of Cossacks attacked the town. On beholding the barbarians, Father Bobola fell upon his knees, raised his eyes and his hands toward heaven, and, having a presentiment that his hour had arrived, exclaimed, "Lord, thy will be done!" At that moment, the Cossacks rushed upon him, stripped him of his holy habit, tied him to a tree, placed a crown upon his head, ... after which they scourged him, tore out one of his eyes, burned his body with torches, and one of the ruffians traced, with his poignard, the form of a tonsure on the head of the venerable Father, and on his back the figure of a chasuble! To do this, the executioner had to strip off the skin of the holy martyr! But this was not yet all. The fingers of the apostle had received the priestly unction. The executioner tore from them the skin, and forced needles under his nails! And during this indescribable torture, the hero prayed for his tormentors; he preached, both by word and example, until the schismatics tore out his tongue and crushed his head. Father Andrew Bobola, whom the Church declared Blessed, the 30th of October, 1853, was sixty-five years of age.

A second account states that when Bobola refused to renounce his religion, he was stripped, tied to a hedge and whipped. In mockery, the Cossacks placed a crown of twigs on his head and then dragged him to his place of execution, a butcher's shop.[4]


Andrzej Bobola memorial church in Janów Poleski, 19th-century image

Bobola's body was originally buried in the Jesuit church in Pinsk. It was later moved to their church in Polotsk.[2] By the beginning of the 18th century, however, nobody knew where Bobola's body was buried. In 1701 Father Martin Godebski, S.J., the rector of the Pinsk College, reputedly had a vision of Bobola. This caused him to order a search for the body. It was reportedly found completely incorrupt, which is recognized by the Church and its supporters as evidence of holiness. In 1719 the casket was officially reopened and the body was inspected by qualified medical personnel (five physicians and pharmacists). It was reportedly still completely incorrupt: pliable and with soft flesh.

The altar with the relics of the arm of Andrew Bobola in the church of Il Gesù in Rome.

On June 23, 1922, the coffin with the relics of Andrew Bobola was opened in Polotsk and an examination was carried out. In December 1922, the coffin with the corpse of Andrew Bobola was delivered to Moscow and placed in the hall of the Popular Exhibition on Health Protection of the People's Commissariat for Health. In January 1923, he was examined by a special commission, and an act was drawn up. According to which the corpse of Andrew Bobola is a naturally mummified corpse, which is in the stage of slow decomposition. No traces of gross mechanical violence that could establish the cause of death of the deceased were not found on the surviving parts of the corpse. The results of the examinations were published in 1924 in the journal «Revolution and Church».[5] Later described by an American journalist as a "remarkably well-preserved mummy",[6] to the Museum of Hygiene of People's Commissioners of Health in Moscow. The whereabouts of the remains were not known to the Catholic authorities, and Pope Pius XI charged the Papal Famine Relief Mission in Russia, headed by American Jesuit Father Edmund A. Walsh, with the task of locating and "rescuing" them.[6] In October 1923—as a kind of "pay" for help during famine—the remains were released to Walsh and his assistant director, Father Louis J. Gallagher, S.J. Well-packed by the two Jesuits, they were delivered to the Holy See by Gallagher on All Saints' Day (1 November) 1923.[6][7] In May 1924, the relics were installed in Rome's Church of the Gesù, the main church of the Society of Jesus.[7]

Since 19 June 1938 the body has been venerated at a shrine in Warsaw,[8] with an arm remaining at the original shrine in Rome (see photo at left).

Declared blessed by Pope Pius IX on 30 October 1853, Bobola was canonized by Pope Pius XI on 17 April 1938.[8] His feast day was originally celebrated by the Jesuits on 23 May,[2] but it is now generally celebrated on 16 May.[9] In 2002, the Bishops' Conference of Poland declared Bobola a patron saint of Poland.[8]

See also


  1. Merrick, David Andrew (1891). Saints of the Society of Jesus: With a sketch of the Society. William H. Sadlier. p. 16.
  2.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Rudge, F. M. (1907). "St. Andrew Bobola". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. Daurignac, J. M. S. (1865). History of the Society of Jesus From Its Foundations to the Present Time (Volume II). John P. Walsh. pp. 12–13.
  4. "Who is St. Andrew Bobola? - St. Andrew Bobola Parish, Dudley, MA". Archived from the original on 4 January 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  5. Акты о вскрытии так называемых мощей католического святого Андрея Боболи. Протокол
  6. "Religion: Saints". Time. April 25, 1938. (The Time article says that Walsh personally transported the Holy Relics from Moscow to Rome; but this is apparently a mistake, both since Gallagher (1953) describes his own role as a diplomatic courier with the relics, and McNamara (2005), p. 45, mentions that Walsh stayed behind in Moscow after Gallagher's departure, and only left Moscow on 16 November 1923, and arrived in Rome on 3 December. The author of the book explicitly says in his blog that Gallagher was entrusted with that task.)
  7. Jan Popłatek (1936). Błagosławiony Andrzej Bobola [Blessed Andrew Bobola] (PDF) (in Polish). pp. 250–253. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 March 2010. This book uses as one of its sources L. J. Gallagher's article, "How we rescued the Relics of Blessed Andrew Bobola" (1924), which unfortunately was not available to this contributor.
  8. Dziemska, Anna (28 May 2017). "Andrzej Bobola, patron of unity and peace". Jesuits in Europe. Society of Jesus. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  9. "Jesuit Liturgcal Calendar". The Jesuit Institute. Retrieved 14 May 2018.