Aka: Joseph Calasanctius and Iosephus a Mater Dei, was a Spanish Catholic priest, educator and the founder of the Pious Schools, providing free education to the sons of the poor, and the religious order that ran them, commonly known as the Piarists. He was a close friend of the renowned astronomer Galileo Galilei. He is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church.

11 September 1557
Peralta de la Sal, Kingdom of Aragon, Crown of Aragon
15 August 1648 (aged 90)
Rome, Papal States
Venerated in
Catholic Church
7 August 1748, Rome, Papal States by Pope Benedict XIV
16 July 1767, Rome, Papal States by Pope Clement XIII
Major shrine
San Pantaleo, Rome
August 25
August 27
(Pre-1969 General Roman Calendar)

Calasanz was born at the Castle of Calasanz near Peralta De La Sal in the Kingdom of Aragon, on September 11, 1556, the youngest of the eight children, and second son, of Pedro de Calasanz y de Mur, an infanzón (minor nobleman) and town mayor, and María Gastón y de Sala. He had two sisters, Marta and Cristina. His parents gave him a good education at home and then at the elementary school of Peralta. In 1569, he was sent for classical studies to a college in Estadilla run by the friars of the Trinitarian Order. [1] While there, at the age of 14, he determined that he wanted to become a priest. This calling, however, met with no support from his parents.

For his higher studies, Calasanz took up philosophy and law at the University of Lleida, where he earned the degree of Doctor of Laws cum laude. After those studies, he began a theological course at the University of Valencia and at Complutense University, then still at its original site in Alcalá de Henares.

Joseph\’s mother and brother having died, his father wanted him to marry and carry on the family. But a sickness in 1582 soon brought Joseph to the brink of the grave, which caused his father to relent. On his recovery, he was ordained a priest on December 17, 1583, by Hugo Ambrosio de Moncada, Bishop of Urgel.

During his ecclesiastical career in Spain, Calasanz held various offices in his native region. He began his ministry in the Diocese of Albarracín, where Bishop de la Figuera appointed him his theologian, confessor, synodal examiner, and procurator. When the bishop was transferred to Lleida, Calasanz followed him to the new diocese.

During that period, he spent several years in La Seu d\’Urgell. As secretary of the cathedral chapter, Calasanz had broad administrative responsibilities. In Claverol, he established a foundation that distributed food to the poor.

In October 1585, de la Figuera was sent as apostolic visitor to the Abbey of Montserrat and Calasanz accompanied him as his secretary.

The bishop died the following year and Calasanz left, though urgently requested to remain. He hurried to Peralta de Calasanz, only to be present at the death of his father. He was then called by the Bishop of Urgel to act as vicar general for the district of Tremp.


On September 15, 1616, the first public and free school in Frascati was started up on Calasanz\’ initiative. One year later, on March 6, 1617, Pope Paul V approved the Pauline Congregation of the Poor of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools, the first religious institute dedicated essentially to teaching, by his brief \”Ad ea per quae.\” On March 25, 1617, he and his fourteen assistants received the Piarist habit and became the first members of the new congregation. The habits were paid for by the Cardinal Protector Justiniani, who with his own hands invested Joseph Calasanz in the chapel of his palace. They were the very first priests to have as their primary ministry teaching in elementary schools.

Emphasizing love, not fear, St. Joseph wrote: \”if from the very earliest years, a child is instructed in both religion and letters, it can be reasonably hoped that his life will be happy.\”

While residing in Rome, Joseph endeavored to visit the seven principal churches of that city almost every evening, and also to honor the graves of the Roman martyrs. During one of the city\’s repeated plagues, a holy rivalry existed between him and St. Camillus in aiding the sick and in personally carrying away for burial the bodies of those who had been stricken. On account of his heroic patience and fortitude in the midst of trouble and persecution, he was called a marvel of Christian courage, a second Job.

During the following years, Calasanz established Pious Schools in various parts of Europe. In October 1628 he was a guest of the Conti di Segni family in Poli and there he founded the Pious Schools. After convincing the pope of the need to approve a religious order with solemn vows dedicated exclusively to the education of youth, the congregation was raised to that status on November 18, 1621, by a papal brief of Pope Gregory XV, under the name of Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum (Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools).

The abbreviation \”Sch. P.\” following the name of the Piarist stands for Scholarum Piarum, Latin for \”of the Pious Schools\”. The Constitutions were approved on January 31, 1622, by Pope Gregory XV, and the order had all the privileges of the mendicant orders conferred upon it, Calasanz being recognized as superior general.

The Order of the Pious Schools was thus the last of the religious Orders of solemn vows approved by the Church. The Piarists, as do many religious, profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In addition, according to the wishes of St. Joseph, members of the Order also profess a fourth vow to dedicate their lives to the education of youth.

The concept of free education for the poor was not exclusive to Calasanz In the Duchy of Lorraine a similar project was being undertaken simultaneously by the Augustinians Peter Fourier and Alix Le Clerc whose educational heritage was carried to New France As recognized by Ludwig von Pastor Calasanz was the founder of the first free public school in modern Europe In both cases it was a revolutionary initiative a radical break with the class privileges that kept the masses marginalized and in poverty In the history of education Calasanz is an educator of the poor offering education free of charge to all classes of society without discrimination.

Calasanz displayed the same moral courage in his attitude to victims of the Inquisition such as Galileo and Campanella and in the acceptance of Jewish children in his schools where they were treated with the same respect as other pupils Similarly Protestant pupils were enrolled in his schools in Germany So great and universal was Calasanz\’s prestige that he was even asked by the Ottoman Empire to set up schools there a request which he could not to his regret fulfill due to a lack of teachers He organized and systematized a method of educating primary school pupils through progressive levels or cycles a system of vocational training and a system of public secondary education

In an era when no one else was interested in public education Calasanz managed to set up schools with a highly complex structure He was concerned with physical education and hygiene He addressed the subject in various documents and requested school directors to monitor children\’s health

Calasanz taught his students to read both in Latin and in the vernacular While maintaining the study of Latin he was a strong defender of vernacular languages and had textbooks including those used for teaching Latin written in the vernacular In that respect he was more advanced than his contemporaries

Calasanz placed great emphasis on the teaching of mathematics Training in mathematics and science was considered very important in his Pious schools both for pupils and teachers But Calasanz\’s main concern was undoubtedly the moral and Christian education of his students As both priest and educator he considered education to be the best way of changing society All his writing is imbued with his Christian ideals and the constitutions and regulations of the Pious schools were based on the same spirit Calasanz created an ideal image of a Christian teacher and used it to train the teachers who worked with him

Calasanz was the first educator to advocate the preventive method it is better to anticipate mischievous behaviour than to punish it This method was later developed by John Bosco the founder of the Salesian schools In terms of discipline and contrary to the prevailing philosophy of his own and subsequent eras Calasanz favored the mildest punishment possible While believing that punishment was necessary in certain cases he always preached moderation love and kindness as the basis of any discipline.

Relationship with Galileo and Campanella

At a time when humanistic studies ruled the roost, Calasanz sensed the importance of mathematics and science for the future and issued frequent instructions that mathematics and science should be taught in his schools and that his teachers should have a firmer grounding in those subjects. Calasanz was a friend of Galileo Galilei and sent some distinguished Piarists as disciples of the great scientist. He shared and defended his controversial view of the cosmos.

Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de\’ Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced /ˌɡælɪˈleɪ.oʊ ˌɡælɪˈleɪ.iˌ/ (GAL-ih-LAY-oh GAL-ih-LAY-ee, Italian: [ɡaliˈlɛːo ɡaliˈlɛi]). He was born in the city of Pisa, then part of the Duchy of Florence. Galileo has been called the \”father\” of observational astronomy, modern physics, the scientific method, and modern science.- Weidhorn, Manfred (2005). The Person of the Millennium: The Unique Impact of Galileo on World History

Galileo Galilei – Founder of the Scientific Method and Modern Science

Francis Bacon was the first to formalize the concept of a true scientific method, but he didn\’t do so in a vacuum. The work of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) influenced Bacon tremendously
Novum Organum by Francis Bacon

When Galileo fell into disgrace, Calasanz instructed members of his congregation to provide him with whatever assistance he needed and authorized the Piarists to continue studying mathematics and science with him. Unfortunately, those opposed to Calasanz and his work used the Piarists\’ support and assistance to Galileo as an excuse to attack them. Despite such attacks, Calasanz continued to support Galileo. When, in 1637, Galileo lost his sight, Calasanz ordered the Piarist Clemente Settimi to serve as his secretary.

Calasanz brought the same understanding and sympathy that he had shown to Galileo to his friendship with the great philosopher Tommaso Campanella (1558–1639), one of the most profound and fertile minds of his time, producing famous philosophical works. Although he was highly controversial as well, Campanella maintained a strong and fruitful friendship with Calasanz.

The philosopher whose utopian visions proposed social reforms in which the education of the masses played an important part must have been a kindred spirit for Calasanz, who was already putting such utopian ideas into practice. Calasanz, with his courage and open-mindedness, invited the controversial thinker to Frascati to help teach philosophy to his teachers. Thus, Campanella, who had rallied to the support of Galileo, also came to the defense of Calasanz with his Liber Apologeticus.

We must ask ourselves has the scientific method greatly increased our understanding of the true nature of science or further complicate things by its modifications?