Jesuits

(Society of Jesus)
   The order was founded in 1534 by a Spanish soldier-turned-cleric, Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556), who vowed to devote his life to bringing those won over to the Protestant Reformation back into the Catholic fold. Accepted as an order by the papacy in 1540, it was, and is, under direct papal supervision. Throughout much of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Jesuits were eagerly patronized by members of the Habsburg dynasty, who saw the new brotherhood as a useful tool for the preservation and reinstitution of Catholicism in their lands.
   In 1551, Ferdinand I called the Jesuits to Vienna, where they established a college. They proceeded to establish schools and colleges in Innsbruck (1562), Graz (1572), Linz (ca. 1600), and eventually Klagenfurt. In the first two cases, their colleges developed into universities that still function today.
   Until the 18th century, Jesuits served as confessors to many members of the ruling house and as teachers as well as pastors and preachers. Their most important representative in Vienna in the 16th century was the Netherlander Peter Canisius (1521–1597), whose new Catholic catechism Ferdinand I specifically endorsed. Central to their influence were the high educational and moral standards they set for themselves, a sharp contrast to the corruption in Rome and in the traditional Catholic hierarchy that had inspired Martin Luther’s protests in 1517.
   It was the Jesuits who were largely responsible for modernizing education in the Austrian lands in ways prescribed by Renaissance humanism. Sound religious practice could come only through a sound understanding of language; the order’s pedagogy laid great stress on scholarship in classical tongues. Nevertheless, by the middle of the 18th century, the religious orientation of the Jesuits and their hold on the organs of government began to run afoul of proponents of the Enlightenment in Austria. Their authority over education and censorship was largely removed as part of the process of centralizing power in the hands of the state. In 1773, the Jesuit order was dissolved in the Habsburg lands and its property confiscated. It was reestablished in 1814.
   See also Religion.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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