Author: Jacopo Francesco Falà
Part of: Conimbricenses Posteriores (coord. by Mário Santiago de Carvalho)
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Published: February, 12th, 2019
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2563708

The latest version of this entry may be cited as follows: Falà, Jacopo Francesco, “Luke Wadding”, Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi=”10.5281/zenodo.2563708″ URL = “”, latest revision: February, 12th, 2019


Luke Wadding was born on October 16, 1588 in Waterford (Ireland). He was the youngest son of a fourteen children wealthy Catholic family: his father Walter was a rich merchant, while his mother Anastasia Lombard was a relative of Peter Lombard, Archibishop of Armagh from 1601. As a result of the profound Catholic faith of the whole family, many of his brothers, cousins and nephews became Franciscans, Jesuits or Augustinians. When his parents died, both in 1602, because of a plague epidemy, Luke was put under the authority of his elder brother Matthew, who took with him to Portugal in the following year (1603).

They first arrived in Lisbon, where Luke continued his studies in the Irish College of the same city. In 1606, at the age of 17, Luke became a Franciscan friar in Matosinhos, near Porto, in the convent ruled by the Recollects dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. In the following year, he was sent to the Convent of Leiria for a two years course of Philosophy in the studium of the same Franciscan House, in order to complete his formation in the field of the artes liberales. Wadding nostalgically recalls this first portuguese period in his Annales Minorum (Castro 1958: 111-112). Afterwards, he entered the University in Coimbra, where he studied Sacred Theology between 1609 and 1613. Wadding attended the Franciscan Saint Bonaventure College, placed (still nowadays) in Rua da Sofia, next to the Dominican and Carmelite ones. Coimbra can be considered as one of the most important european universities of that time. Among the professors he could eventually have heard, we find prominent figures, like the jesuit Francisco Suárez and the augustinian Egídio da Apresentação. Wadding himself, gratefully remembering the university years, confesses how lucky he was to study «under such learned professors, awarded with many titles, among the most recommended in all Europe» (Wad., An. Min., VII, n. 27). In 1613 he successfully completed his academic studies and was ordained priest in Viseu, before going back to the Convent of Leiria, where he began to train in the art of preaching (both in Portuguese and Spanish). In the same year he participated to the Provincial Chapter in Lisbon, where he met the Vicar General of the Order, the Spanish Antonio de Trejo, who chaired the assembly. Impressed by the theological erudition and dialectic skills of the young Irish friar, Trejo decided to take Wadding with him to the renown Saint Francis College of Salamanca, in order to complete his theological formation.
In the first period of his staying in Spain, Wadding devoted himself to the learning of Hebrew, a language crucial for Biblical studies. For this purpose, he moved for about one year (1615) to the Franciscan Convent of Alba de Tormes, where Hebrew was especially cultivated by Francisco Castillo, whose lessons Wadding attended.

In 1616, however, he was called back to Salamanca: here his academic career starts, as he teaches for the first time Sacred Theology at the local Convent. Later, he lectured the same discipline also at the Saint Francis Convent of León, before coming back again again to Salamanca. In June 2, 1618 he took part to the Franciscan General Chapter of Salamanca, defending some theological Conclusiones in such a brilliant way that he was selcted to integrate the embassy of the King Philip III (headed by Antonio de Trejo) to the Holy See, whose mission was to define the dogma of Immaculate Conception. Wadding, as theologician, was in charge of advocating the Immaculate Conception doctrine in front of the Roman Curia. At the age of 30, the Irish friar leaves the Iberian Peninsula: he will never come back.

When the embassy reaches Rome, it is warmly welcomed by the brother of Antonio de Trejo, the Cardenal Gabriel. The cause, however, meets major difficulties: first, the strong theological opposition of the Dominicans; second, the political hostility of the Pope, who considered the royal embassy as an intrusion, a violation of the exclusive authority of the Holy See on religious issues (a sort of neo-caesaropapist attempt). This is why the mission failed and no new Immaculate Conception dogma was established at that time (Broggio 2010: 157-167). While the embassy failed and Trejo was called back in Spain, Wadding stopped in Rome, and here he will stay for the rest of his life. In the first years, he lived in the Franciscan Convent of San Pietro in Montorio, belonged by Spanish friars. Then, in 1625, he was asked to take the responsability for the recently-founded Franciscan House dedicated to Saint Isidore (cf. the special Bull of Pope Urban VIII on October 20, 1625). In few years, he trasformed this yet to be finished building in a flourishing cultural center – equipped with an enormous library containing ca. 5000 volumes (MacMahon & McCafferty 2010: 99) -, the first Franciscan Irish College, where many of the most famed Irish Franciscans in history have been trained. Wadding also founded, three years later (1628), the Ludovisian College, this time for the formation of Irish secular priests. His life in Rome was devoted to an abundand literary activity focused on the history of the Franciscan Order, inasmuch as chronista of the same Order. It should not be forgotten, however, the key political role he played in favour of Ireland, as he managed to become a sort of Irish ambassador to the Holy See, diplomatically and financially sustaining the Irish Catholic Confederation. He was also responsible for the introduction of the Saint Patrick’s day (March, 17) celebration in the liturgical calendar. Moreover, he took part in some of the most important curial commissions (consultor of the Index, of the Congregatio Rituum and de Propaganda Fide, qualificator of the Holy Office, member of the special Commission created by Pope Urban VIII for the reform of the Liturgy, member of the Commission that condemned the five theses of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen). Finally, he should be remembered for his patronage of art, chiefly for the church of Saint Isidore’s College (Fidanza 2016). Wadding died in Rome on November 18, 1657 and is buried in the same Saint Isidore’s church.


Luke Wadding is known mainly for his works on Franciscan history and for his editions of John Duns Scotus and Saint Francis of Assisi. Nevertheless, he also wrote theological treatises, hagiographies, essays on Hebrew language and he is responsible for editions of works of many other, but less famous, authors.

His most remarkable legacy is connected to the monumental Annales Minorum, an impressive survey on the history of Franciscan Order, from the origins to 1540. Wadding started to collect information to prepare the eight volumes of this work early in his career: already in 1619, the Minister General Benigno da Genova asked all the Franciscan provincies to send to Rome documents concerning the history of the Order. The first volume, however, was only published in 1625, while the last in 1654. Despite the inaccuracy of some data, the Annales can still be considered as a precious source of historical information.

Wadding also wrote an important history of Franciscan authors, the Scriptores Ordinis Minorum, an alphabetically ordered repository containing short biographies with lists of the works produced by every Franciscan he managed to be aware of, from the foundation of the Order until 1650. In many cases, Wadding’s Scriptores is the only source of information about Franciscan authors who would otherwise have been unknown to us.

Moreover, the Irish friar appears as a prolific author of hagiographies and biographies: he composed the life of John Duns Scotus, Saint Peter Thomas and Saint Anselm of Lucca; editing also the hagiographical poem on the Franciscan friar James of the Marches by Giovanni Battista Petrucci.

Wadding was not only an historian, but also a theologian. Next to his renown annalistic production, we find his commitment to Scotism and to the vexata quaestio of the Immaculate Conception. He is responsible for the most influent and cited edition of Scotus’ Opera Omnia in 1639, although it shows many inaccuracies (it cannot be considered as a critical text) and includes non-authentic works. Scotus also inspired his interest for the recognition of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary as Catholic dogma (a doctrine formerly defended by the Subtle Doctor in XIV century). On this issue, Wadding was involved since the royal embassy to the Holy See headed by Antonio de Trejo in 1618: the relations sent from Rome to the Spanish Kings Philip III and Philip IV were published in 1624. Immaculate Conception is the main core of Wadding’s theological speculation at the beginning of his career, but also in his final years, since among his last works are included four opuscula on this same issue, published between 1655 and 1656 (he will die in 1567).

Finally, he wrote on Hebrew language, as a result of his studies at Alba de Tormes, editing also Calasio’s Concordantiae; on Saint Francis, refuting the theory according to which the saint was formerly an augustian friar, and edited works of Franciscan authors such as, among others, John of Wales and Ángel del Paz.


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