Jacob Dacian

Brother Jacob Dacian, Jacob the Dane or in Latin Jacobus de Dacia, was a Danish Franciscan monk (Copenhagen c. 1484 – Michoacan, Mexico, 1566). He also called himself "Jacobus Gottorpius" referring to the royal estate of Gottorp. During his life he achieved fluency in eight languages. He achieved fame amongst the Indians of Michoacan for being a righteous and helpful man towards his flock. His relics, now lost, were kept for a long time by the Indians of Tarecuato who still celebrate his birthday every year.

A royal heir?

The Danish historian Jørgen Nybo Rasmussen (Rasmussen 1974) argues that Jacob was the illegitimate son of King John I of Denmark and the younger brother of King Christian II of Denmark. This interpretation is not shared by all historians but it is also the basis for the novel "Brother Jacob" by Danish author Henrik Stangerup. Key arguments in the case for Jacob's royal lineage are the fact that he described himself as coming from Gottorp, the estate of the Danish Kings Christian I and John, that he had an excellent education normally reserved for higher nobility, and that he seemed to enjoy protection from the higher political forces. It was also common for the younger sons of royalty to enter into the clergy since they could not inherit the throne.

Life in Denmark until the Reformation

He entered the Franciscan Order as a young man, he received a good education studying Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as his mothertongues German and Danish. In the years prior to the reformation he lived in a convent in Malmö, Sweden, where he argued against the Lutheran leaders. In 1530 the Fransciscans were driven from the convent, as they were in the subsequent years from other Danish towns. He wrote about this in the "Chronicle of the expulsion of the Greyfriars" which was written to serve as a piece of evidence in a later trial to reclaim the convents. Such a trial never came. During the religious wars known as the Count's Feud which were fought between the supporters of his supposed brother the Catholic Christian II against the forces of King Christian III many Franciscans left Denmark and went to the Catholic provinces of northern Germany.

Jacob Dacian stayed in Denmark until the fall of Malmö in 1536 when the Lutheran Reformation was completed and the proscription of Mendicant Orders forced Brother Jacob into exile. First he went to Mecklenburg under the protection of Duke Albrecht who had fought on the Catholic side in the civil war. Here he was made the last "provincial" (head) of the Franciscan province of Dacia (whence his name). Later he went to Spain where he studied the Arabic language and was authorized by King Charles V of Spain to go to New Spain as a missionary.

Missionary to Mexico

In 1542 Brother Jacob arrived in Veracruz, Mexico. He stayed in Mexico for the rest of his life and learned several indigenous languages and founded several convents. He spent three years at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco studying Nahuatl before being sent to Michoacan to work among the P'urhépecha Indians where the bulk of his missionary work was done. He learned the P'urhépecha language and worked stubbornly to improve Indian rights, something which caused problems for him with the authorities of New Spain and with the local branches of the Church. He wrote a treatise, "Declamacion del pueblo barbaro de los Indios, que habiendo recibido el bautismo, desean recibir los demas sacramentos", in which he argued that Indians should be allowed to be ordained into the priesthood. In this question he was overruled by the church authorities and had to do penitence for his mistake - he had claimed that denying Indians the right to ordination was in fact tantamount to heresy. His standpoint has been vindicated in the modern church.

He died in the convent of Tarecuato, Michoacan, in the bishopric of Zamora where he served as a guardian. Beginning in 1996 attempts have been made towards his canonization.


*Stangerup Henrik, 1997 (1991), "Brother Jacob", Marion Boyars Publishers, Ltd.; New Ed edition
*Rasmussen, Jørgen Nybo, 1974, "Bruder Jakob Der Dane OFM ", Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH, Wiesbaden, Germany
*S. Tibesar, Antonine, 1975, "Review of: Bruder Jakob Der Dane OFM by Jorgen Nybo Rasmussen" in "The Americas, Vol. 32, No. 1", pp. 164-166
* [http://www.katolsk.dk/2249 Biography of Jacob Dacian at the website of the danish Catholic Church (In Danish)]
* [http://www.ambmexicocity.um.dk/la/menu/InfoDenmark/Personajes+daneses+en+la+historia+de+M%C3%A9xico/ Biography of Jacob Dacian at the Website of the Danish Embassy in Mexico city (In Spanish)]
* [http://www.katolsk.no/biografi/jacdacia.htm Biography of the Holy Jacob of Denmark by the Catholic church of Norway (in Norwegian)]
*This article is based on the corresponding article in the Danish Wikipedia.

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