Saint Aloysius Gonzaga: The Iconography

In Rome St. Aloysius Gonzaga, confessor and cleric of the Society of Jesus. He is renowned for his innocence and his contempt for princely honors. Pope Benedict XIII canonized him and made him a Protector of young people and especially of students. Later Pope Pius XI solemnly declared him the patron saint of all Christian youth. – Roman Martyrology for June 21

Portraits of Aloysius Gonzaga most often show him wearing a black cassock and white surplice and contemplating a crucifix, as at right. Other portraits often include lilies to reference his chastity. The second picture at right shows a metal crown on the floor and a floral crown in the hands of the descending angel. The former refers to his renunciation of the marquisate of Gonzaga in order to join the Jesuits, the latter to his martyr-like death: During the plague of 1590 in Rome the Jesuits set up a hospital for victims. Aloysius volunteered to serve in the hospital, and there he contracted the plague himself. He died soon after, at the age of 23.

This saint should not be confused with another Jesuit novice who died young, St. Stanislaus Kostka. He is also pictured in a black cassock but with a black cape, not a white surplice. He sometimes holds the Christ Child in his arms, but rarely the crucifix.

Prepared in 2016 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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A typical statue of the St. Aloysius Gonzaga (See the description page)


Guercino, The Vocation of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, circa 1650 (See the description page)


St. Aloysius is some­times con­fused with St. Stan­is­laus Kost­ka (1550-68), shown here in a stained glass win­dow wear­ing a black cas­sock and cape and hold­ing the Christ Child. (Source: Wi­ki­me­dia Com­mons.)

DATES

  • Born March 9, 1568 to 1591
  • Died June 21, 1591

HAGIOGRAPHY