Compendium Catholicae Veritatis

Compiled by Pedro Gomez (1535-1600 A.D.), Jesuit College of Japan

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イエズス会日本コレジヨ講義要綱 [Iezusukai Nihon Korejiyo Kougi Youkou]
Original Latin, contemporaneous Japanese Translation, and English Commentaries
Edited by Kirishitan Bunko Library, Sophia University

Compendium Photo

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At a time when warlords such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu were vying for hegemony, a high-level cultural interchange between Japan and the West was taking place at the Jesuit college in the town of Funai, in Bungo prefecture (now called Oita). In this college, foreign missionaries lectured not only on Christianity and Christian theology and morality, but also on cosmography and human nature. Their Compendia brought the essence of disciplines of sixteenth-century Europe to Japan.

The Compendia was first written in Latin and then translated into Japanese. However, both versions went missing, and were thought to have been engulfed in the waves of history. By great good fortune both manuscripts (original Latin and contemporaneous Japanese translation) have come to light in Europe during the course of this century. These two manuscripts are the only ones known to be in existence; and it is these which Sophia University, itself a descendant of the Jesuit colleges in Japan, is now publishing in a facsimile edition, working in collaboration with the Vatican Apostolic Library; the College Library of Magdalen College, Oxford; and the Kokuritsu Kobunsho-kan Naikaku Bunko in Tokyo.

Cross-cultural exchange based on mutual respect and co-operation with people who have different values is vital in today's world, and the efforts of pioneers like the compilers of the Compendia are still relevant. In this same spirit, we present this facsimile edition of a text over four hundred years old.

Koso, S.J.
Fr. Toshiaki Koso, S. J.
Professor, Faculty of Humanities
Kirishitan Bunko Library, Sophia University

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The Zenith of Cultural Exchange between Europe and Japan

The middle of the 16th century, in which St. Francis Xavier, the Apostle of the East, brought Catholicism to Japan, is labeled the Age of Great Voyages. To the Japanese of those days, the world was made up of three countries: Shin-tan (China), Ten-jiku (India) and Japan. St. Francis, who came to Japan from India, was in fact called "monk from Ten-jiku" and the God of Christianity was at first identified with Mahavirocanasatathagata.

Missionaries who came to Japan following the steps of St. Francis preached the gospel and tried to expand the Japanese view of the world by expounding scientifically on the shape of the earth and the movement of the celestial bodies. At the same time, they called into question the Japanese view of man and Japanese morality by emphasizing man's uniqueness and the differences between men, animals, plants. However, there were barriers formed by language, differences in the way of thinking, and cultural background. Therefore the missionaries afforded the Japanese an opportunity o learn the Latin language and European culture, while they themselves strove to learn the language and cutlture of Japan.

The Compendia manifests the zenith of cultural exchange between Europe and Japan. In 1999 Japan will celebrate the 450th anniversary of the arrival of St. Francis Xavier, her patron saint, who admired the qualities of the Japanese people and prepared the way for cultural exchange between Japan and the West. This facsimile edition of the Compendia is indispensable as a record of the efforts of our forerunners and as a reflection of our aspirations for the third millenium. I eagerly look forward to its inspiring a wide range of readers.

Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi
Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi
Archbishop of Tokyo

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The Most Appropriate Way to Celebrate the 450th Anniversary of St. Francis Xavier

In 1999 Japan will celebrate the 450th anniversary of the arrival of St. Francis Xavier and the beginning of the encounter between Christianity and Japanese cultural and religious tradition. For about 100 years, the so-called "Christian Century," there was a rich and fruitful exchange between the West and Japan. The publication in facsimile edition of two invaluable documents--the Compendium Catholicae Veritatis by Pedro Gomez (1535-1600) preserved in the Vatican Library, and its Japanese translation, found in 1995 in the Magdalen Library of Oxford University--is a most appropriate way to celebrate Xavier's anniversary.

The publication will help us to understand the significant efforts made by the foreign missionaries and the Japanese to inculturate t he Christian message and to make it understandable and appealing to the Japanese. These efforts formed a great cultural endeavor, creating new terms or giving new nuances to old terms. It is amazing that in such a short period of time the foreign missionaries, in close collaboration with Japanese Christians, could translate and adapt the complex body of Christian doctrine and Western knowledge, which had taken the West fifteen hundred years to elaborate.

Our gratitude goes to Sophia University and the members of Kirishitan Bunko Library for making available to the scholarly community these two precious works. Sophia University, which in a profound way is the result of St. Francis Xavier, strong desire to establish in the capital of Japan a great university like the Sorbonne of Paris, has chosen a most appropriate way to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the arrival in Japan of its Patron Saint.

Archbishop Pittau
Archbishop Joseph Pittau, S.J.
Gregorian University

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To Appreciate Better the Flow of Information between Japan and the West

Among the Jesuits missionaries in Japan in the sixteenth century were talented men, such as Luis Frois and Joao Rodrigues, who strove to inform Europe about their adopted country. But this transmission of knowledge was a two-way affair, and other Jesuits introduced to the Japanese both Western painting and Aristotelian thought. In about 1593, Pedro Gomez compiled De Sphaera, De Anima and Compendium Catholicae Veritatis for the benefit of the students at the Jesuit college in Kyushu. This work was discovered in the Vatican Library back in 1937 and has been the subject of scholarly research by Professor Obara Satoru, Sophia University. Then only two years ago a contemporaneous Japanese translation by Pedro Ramon and collaborators was found in the library of Magdalen College, Oxford University.

The text of De Sphaera is largely based on the work of the same title by the thirteenth-century scholar John Holywood (known in Latin as Joannes de Sacrobosco). Thus for a brief period select Japanese were able to study traditional European thought not only in Latin but also in their native language. The present facsimile edition helps us to appreciate better the flow of information not only from Japan to the West, but also from the West to Japan four centuries ago.

Michael Cooper
Dr. Michael Cooper
Former chief editor of Monumenta Nipponica

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Historians, Theologians and Librarians Should All Welcome This Facsimile Edition

Magdalen Manuscript 228 is a genuine new discovery that has surprised and delighted those of us in College who look after it. For years it was literally hidden away in the College Archives under the misleading description "an example of a seventeenth century Chinese manuscript". Thanks to the work of a number of scholars particularly Father Satoru Obara, S. J. and Father Antoni Ucerler, S. J. we now know that in fact MS 228 is the important long lost Japanese translation of Father Pedro Gomez's Compendia (1593-4). Its recent discovery is certain, but we can only speculate on how such an important and unusual manuscript came to reside in the historical archives of Magdale College, Oxford.

Historians, theologians, and librarians should all welcome this carefully prepared facsimile edition of the original sixteenth-century treatise reunited with Father Pedro Ramon's contemporary translation.

Dr C.Y. Ferdinand
Dr C.Y. Ferdinand
Fellow Librarian
Magdalen College, Oxford

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Exciting Prospect

Nicolaus Copernicus, working within the framework of the Catholic Church, published his heliocentric theory of planetary motion in 1543, six years before St.Francis Xavier, one of the cofounders of the Society of Jesus, arrived in Japan. Copernicus's theory was refuted and denounced by Martin Luther, the initiator of Protestantism, on the basis of biblical authority. The sixteenth century was a time of violent upheaval, and it was precisely in these confusing times that Japan first came into contact with European disciplines, through the mediation of missionaries teaching theology. It is a significant and interesting fact that in those days all disciplines were based on theology and since the Catholic Church (as its name implies) aimed at universality, it sought to unify all disciplines within its teaching. The Catholic Church, then maintained that truth was absolute, and equally true in all parts of the world. For this reason, the Japanese Compendia compiled under the direction of Pedro Gomez was much the same as other textbooks used elsewhere and we Japanese can learn how our ancestors received the European disciplines of the 16th century by studying contrastively the Latin and Japanese versions of the Compendia. This is truly an exciting prospect!

Professor Yoichiro Murakami
Professor Yoichiro Murakami
International Christian University
(Honorary professor of Tokyo University)

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The Latin and Japanese MSS of Pedro Gomez's Compendia
(Iezusukai Nihon Korejiyo Kougi Youkou)
Edited by Kirishitan Bunko Library, Sophia University


  • Vol. I Compendia compiled by Pedro Gomez, Jesuit College of Japan.
      A facsimile edition of the manuscript in Latin, Vatican MS, 746 pages.
  • Vol. 2 The Japanese translation of Compendia
      A facsimile edition of the manuscripts in Japanese, Naikaku Bunko MS and Magdalen MS, 938 pages.
    • Part 1. "Nigi Ryakusetsu" (De Sphaera, Naikaku Bunko MS, 208 pages)
    • Part 2. "Anima no ue ni tsuite" (De Anima, Magdalen MS, 144 pages)
    • Part 3. "Shinjitsu no Oshie" (De Theologia, Magdalen MS, 586 pages)
  • Vol. 3 "Commentaries"
      Background and textual commentaries in English and Japanese, 120 pages.
    • "Foreword" by Professor Toshiaki Koso, S. J., Director of Kirishitan Bunko Library, Sophia University
    • "Jesuit Humanist Education in Sixteenth-Century Japan" by M. Antoni J. Ucerler, S. J. (in English)
    • "Compendia of the Jesuit College of Japan" by Satoru Obara, S. J. (in Japanese)
    • "A Comparative Table of Contents for the Latin and Japanese MSS" by Satoru Obara, S. J.

The contemporary translation of Gomez's Compendia, discovered in the Archives of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1995 four hundred years after it was completed. This Magdalen MS, however, does not include the astronomical treatise, De Sphaera.

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Ordering Information

  • Title:
    • Latin Title: Compendium Catholicae Veritatis
    • Japanese Title: イエズス会日本コレジヨの講義要綱 [Iezusukai Nihon Korejiyo no Kougi Youkou ]
  • Book Data:
    • Size: 18.2 x 25.7 cm
    • Paper: kozo paper
    • Printing: Photo offset printing
    • Bookbinding: a deluxe edition, leather back and corners
    • Cost per set of 3 vols: 100,000 Yen + 5% sales tax
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