Author: Iuliia Nikitenko
Part ofCoimbra as an International Institution (coord. by Mário Santiago de Carvalho)
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Published: January, 30th, 2023
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7585917

The latest version of this entry may be cited as follows: Nikitenko, Iuliia, “The Coimbra Jesuit Course in 18th–19th Century Russia”, Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi = “10.5281/zenodo.7585917”, URL = “”, latest revision: January, 30th, 2023.

Jesuit Education under Russian authority

For the purpose of brevity we will not mention the earlier contacts of Jesuits with the Russian state, which occasionally took place. Instead we will begin from the year 1772, which may be called a turning point in the Russian chapter of the history of the Society of Jesus, as in that year vast territories traditionally catholic where the Society had been already present and active became part of the Russian empire. In 1772—1797, the following regions fell successively under Russian authority: all the Polish territory east of the line formed roughly by the Dvina and Dnieper rivers (1772); the major remnant of Lithuanian Belorussia and the western Ukraine, including Podolia and part of Volhynia (1793); Courland, all Lithuanian territory east of the Neman (Nieman) River, and the rest of the Volhynian Ukraine (1797). Later, Alexander I acquired the Białystok Department as a result of the Treaties of Tilsit in 1807, and the east-central territory of the Duchy of Warsaw, reestablished as the Congress Kingdom of Poland in 1815 as a result of the Congress of Vienna.

According to Inglot (1997), in 1772 on the acquired territories there were 4 Jesuit colleges (in Polotsk, Orosha, Vitebsk, and Dinaburg) with higher schools; 2 residencies with secondary schools (in Mohilev and Mstislavl); and 9 missionary houses (in Lozovitsa, Kaunata, Dagda, Indritsa, Laukeza, Preili, Pushcha, Uzhvald, Varakliany). The most important of them was Polotsk college evolving in 1812 into an Academy.

However, the area of Jesuit influence was not limited by the newly acquired catholic lands. Already in the beginning of the 19th century Jesuits started the expansion to the South and  East of Russia. Jesuit missions started to appear on the banks of the Volga river (1803), were opened on Odessa (1804), Astrakhan (1805) and Mozdok (1806), and few years later, were established first missions in Siberian cities of Irkutsk (1811) and Tomsk (1815).

Not of the least significance was the establishment of the Jesuit college in the St. Catherine’s church in the main street of the capital. From 1800 to 1815 the Church hosted Collegium Petropolitanum Paulinum, a college with a 6-year study program where foreign languages, including Latin, science, philosophy, and theology were taught. Two years later, in 1803 the Collegium Nobilium was inaugurated, a boarding school attended by 60-70 sons of the foremost noble families. It is highly probable that in all those numerous Jesuit educational institutions functioning on Russian territory since 1772 Coimbra Jesuit Course was used in the process of teaching philosophy. (Inglot 2015)

Coimbra Jesuit Course outside Jesuit institutions. Personal libraries’ study

It should be noted, however, that the multiplying in number Jesuit colleges  were actually not the only Shishkov sources of propagation of Jesuit education and particularly of the Coimbra Jesuit Course. As it was stated by A.M. Shishkov (2020), the Cursus was widely used in the teaching process of two non-Jesuit educational institutions that brought up many Russian intellectuals of the time, namely, the Kievo-Mohilanskaya Academy in Kiev (1615) and the Slavic Greek Latin Academy (1687).

These institutions and their curricula were organized in the manner of Jesuit colleges and largely used both the Coimbra Jesuit Course (1592‒1606) and the Ratio atque institutio studiorum Societatis Iesu (1599) (see Shishkov 2020). It is known that Greek brothers Ioannikios Leichoudes (1633–1717) and Sophronios Leichoudes (1653–1730) who established the Slavic Greek Latin Academy in Moscow, between 1685 and 1694, were also using parts of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course in their works (Chrissidis 2016). Among students of  Kievo-Mohilanskaya Academy it is worth mentioning a poet, priest and statesman of Peter’s Russia, Feofan Prokopovich (1681-1736), and the Ukrainian philosopher Grigory Skovoroda (1722-1794). There and later, in the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, studied the pioneer of Russian science and literature, Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765). Among other students of the Slavic Greek Latin Academy were also the poet Antioch Kantemir (1708-1744) and the first Bishop of Eastern Siberia, Innocent of Irkutsk (1680-1731). It is probably among the students and teachers of these two institutions that we may find more noticeable traces of the impact of the Coimbra Jesuit Course on 18th century Russian intellectuals, who were more receptive to the Scholastic tradition than their 19th century counterparts.

Notably, in the inventory of the books left after the death of Innocent of Irkutsk, we find a copy of Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis in libros de Generatione et Corruptione. Among more than 400 books of the Bishop, the Coimbra commentary is mentioned under No. 96 (Description 1916, col. 201). The inventory was published as a part of the “Act on the Demise of Right Reverend Innocent, Bishop of Irkutsk, and the belongings he left behind”, No. 99/93, April 28/12, 1760 (Дело о кончине Преосвященного Иннокентия, епископа Иркутского и об оставшихся после него пожитках) (Description 1916, col. 193-218.). We also dispose of the inventory of books possessed by Feofan Prokopovich and published by Dmitro Chizhevski (Chizhevsky 2003,  469-478.). Among Feofan’s books, there was no edition of the Coimbra Jesuit Course, although we may find there editions of Aristotle’s proper texts, as well as commentaries written mostly by English, German and Dutch authors. The reconstruction of Lomonosov’s book collection by German Korovin also reveals no trace of the Coimbra Jesuit Course (Korovin 1961).  Being aware that the data is too scarce to draw any conclusions, we have to pay attention to the fact that Innocent, who was thirty years older than Prokopovich and Lomonosov, owned a volume of the Coimbra Jesuit Course. Could this be a sign of a change in the younger generation’s scientific interests?  However we should admit that the absence of any edition of the Coimbra Jesuit Course among the books owned by Stefan Yavorsky (1658-1722), another former student of Kievo-Mohilanskaya Academy contradicts this hypothesis (Maslov 1914). Unfortunately, as we said, the data is far too limited to reach a conclusive answer, and since we are contracted by the purpose of our study, for the time being this question should remain unanswered.

Provenance of the volumes in public libraries

Let us now follow another thread of our inquiry and see what the copies of the Coimbra Jesuit Course currently held in Russian and Ukrainian public and university libraries will tell us about their former owners. A certain corpus of works is held at the Russian State Library (RSL), in Moscow, and the National Library of Russia (NLR), in Saint-Petersburg. Apart from that, a copy of De Generatione et Corruptione (Moguntiae: in Officina Typographica Ioannis Albini, 1606) is held by the Irkutsk University Library (Cote: 1/C74). This book may come either from the library of the Jesuit mission in Irkutsk or from the library of the Jesuit mission in Beijing that was conferred by the last head of the mission to his Russian colleague and supposedly transported to Irkutsk (Karmanovskaia1990; Liu 2019). Unfortunately, the catalog entry is rather short and does not contain any information about the previous owners or the provenance of the book.

Apart from that, five volumes of the Coimbra Jesuit Course are currently held by the University library of the Odessa national university (Catalog 2005, 70-71). These are commentaries on Aristotle’s Ethics, Physics, Meteorologica, De Caelo and Parva Naturalia. All the books were printed in Cologne by Lazare Zetzner in 1596. In this case, the catalog entries are more comprehensive, enabling us to obtain some information about their provenance. Notably, we can notice that the commentary on Physics has the inscriptions “Ex Libris Stephani Bukownichi [or probably Bukownicki – my suggestion, Y.N.Anno 1658 ; Iларiон Епископ П. [Ilarion Episkop P.]”, as well as the stamp of Novorossiisk University Library (later turned into the University of Odessa). It is difficult to identify with precision who was Bishop Ilarion (Hilarion), as there were several Bishops with that name. However, we suppose it to be Hilarion (Grigorovich), Bishop Krutitsky (Saransky and Podonsky) (1696-1760). Himself a former student of Kievo-Mohilanskaya Academy, in 1721 he was appointed to teach there. In the same year he moved to Kharkov College where he was teaching rhetoric and philosophy and administrating the college (Polovtsov 1897, 80—81).

It could be assumed that the copies of the Coimbra Jesuit Course arrived at the University of Odessa from a Jesuit mission, although against such a conjecture runs the absence of any possessor’s marks of Jesuit school or mission library. If we identified Bishop Hilarion correctly, it follows that he possessed the book after Stephan Bukownichi. If so, it was not through Jesuit missionaries but instead through a former student of the Kievo-Mohilanskaya Academy that this copy of the Coimbra Jesuit Course made its way.

We suppose that most of the RSL and NLR books came to Russia through Poland. At least, provenance marks on NLR editions are highly favorable to this conjecture. All institutions that were former possessors of the Coimbra Jesuit Course NLR editions are Polish. It is worth mentioning that, as Serhii Wakúlenko has shown, in Poland not only the Coimbra Jesuit Course itself was present, but also has a significant influence as a source for such authors as  Andrzej Novak (1570-1629) and Martin Śmiglecki (1562-1618) who after getting acquainted with Portuguese Jesuit texts in the Collegio Romano, incorporated Coimbra texts in their Lithuanian lessons to boost a religious identity, a “filum doctrinae”. (Wakúlenko 2006; 2014). Six NLR editions (, Commentary on Physics;, De Gen. et Corruptione;, De anima;, Physica, De Caelo, Meteorologicorum) were originally owned by the Jesuit College in Kalisz (Poland)  established in 1574. After the Second Partition of Poland (1793),  the city came under the authority of Prussia, and came under Russian control as a result of the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Eight editions are connected to Warsaw. Four of them bear manuscript ex libris of the Jesuit College in Warsaw ( De Caelo, Meteorologicorum et Parva Naturalia;, De Gen. et Corruptione, De Anima, De Caelo); another one ( Physica) was given to the college by Bishop Załuski; two editions come from the Library of Warsaw Cathedral ( Physica, De Caelo), one more (, De Caelo) comes from Warsaw Lyceum, whither it probably came from the Jesuit College in Lublin, as the manuscript ex libris testifies, although there is also an inscription from a church in Koniecpol. One edition of the Physica ( comes from the Cistercian Monastery in Ląd.

Among the private persons whose marks we find on our copies, the most notable is Bishop Josef Andrzei Załuski ( De Gen. et Corrupt.;, De Anima). Załuski’s library, impounded by the Russian government after the Second Partition of Poland, became a foundation for the later collection of the National Library of Russia. Załuski’s copy of the commentaries on De Anima (, a Lyon edition of the Coimbra commentary on Aristotle’s On the Soul, also carries an armorial ex libris of the noble Parisian family Pasquier de Valgrand (Armorial 1757, 42). Another notable name that can be found on the NLR copies of the Coimbra Jesuit Course ( De Anima; – De Gen. et Corrupt.) is Łukasz de Bnin Opaliński. Although the name is remarkably reputed, it is not easy to identify the precise owner, for there were two notable contemporaries bearing that very same name. One of them is the marshal and nobleman Łukasz de Bnin Opaliński  (1581–1654), Castellan of Poznań. However, a more compelling alternative is the poet and politician Łukasz de Bnin Opaliński (1612–1666), a bibliophile who owned one of the largest private book collections of his days in Europe and also authored the textbook of morals De oficiis,  used in Jesuit educational establishments (Mikoś 1996, 110).

Among other former owners of the NLR copies of the Coimbra Jesuit Course is Stanislaus Szuberth ( De Gen. et Corrupt., Meteororum), who can probably be identified with Stanisław Andrzej Shuberth, a Norbertine who joined the order in 1683 and since 1703 served as a priest in Polotsk (Catalog 2007, 446).  Another name appearing on the marks of the old possessors is Nicolai Zytkievicz. He probably can be identified with the magistrate Mikołaj Zytkiewicz, a former student of the Jesuit College in Kalisz who received his bachelor’s degree from the Krakov academy in 1700 (Orzechowski 2006, 114). That is all information on the provenance of the copies of the Coimbra Jesuit Course found in Russian and Ukrainian libraries.


Without any doubt, this matter requires further data collection and study, deserving deeper and more thorough research. Nevertheless, even at this stage of our inquiry, we can reach some conclusions. First of all, looking for copies of the Coimbra Jesuit Course on the territory of the former Russian empire, one should dig in the catalogs of the state or university scientific libraries in the cities where Jesuit colleges or missions were formerly established. Secondly, many copies which ended up in the Imperial Public Library (the former name of the National Library of Russia) were previously in the possession of Jesuit colleges in Poland, which were providing teachers and programs for the opening of colleges on Russian territory. Thirdly, the copies of the Coimbra Jesuit Course were owned not only by institutions but also by individuals educated in Jesuit colleges. Finally, it was not only in the Jesuit educational establishments that Russian intellectuals could get acquainted with the Coimbra Jesuit Course, as shows the case of Innocent of Irkutsk. Taking into account that Kievo-Mohilanskaya Akademy and  Slavic Greek Latin Academy closely mirrored the example of the Jesuit colleges and used the Coimbra Jesuit Course in their teaching, it turned out that some of their students were bringing the Cursus to their personal libraries even after graduation.



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