Polanco, Juan Alfonso de

*24 December 1517 Burgos; SJ 1541; priest 1546; professed 1549; †20 December 1576 Rome.


On Polanco’s Jewish ancestry, see Baroja, Judíos en la España, p. 233 (quoting Sicroff’s Les controversies, pp. 271, 273, 278, and 279-80; Jean Lacouture, Jesuits: A Multibiography (Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1995), p. 161-76; DHCJ, p. 1004. Francisco Cantera Burgos in his Alvar García de Santa María y su familia de conversos. Historia de la Judería de Burgos y de sus conversos más egregios (Instituto Arias Montano: Madrid, 1952), p. 403, argues that doña Constanza de Maluenda (died in 1520) may have been a daughter of Juana García de Castro and D. Martín Rodrígez de Maluenda (1454-1530), a descendant of the sister of the converted rabbi of Burgos, who after his conversion became its famous bishop (Pablo de Santa María). Costanza de Maluenda married Alfonso de Polanco (died in 1491). Their son, Gregorio, regidor of Burgos and doña María de Salinas were parents of our Juan Alfonso de Polanco. The tombs of both parents and grandparents of Juan Alfonso are located in the St. Nicolas Church in Burgos (see Mon Polanci 2: 836 and M.a Jesus Gómez Barcena, Escultura gótica funeraria en Burgos, Diputación Provincial de Burgos: Burgos, 1988, pp. 151-4). Juan Alfonso de Polanco’s nephew, Alonso de Polanco, was a member of the memorialistas.

 He functioned as secretary of the Society of Jesus, as well as of the first three superiors general for twenty-six years. After Loyola’s death in 1556, he played a crucial role as assistant general and vicar general in the Society’s constitutional crisis that was only overcome with the election of the converso Diego Laínez. Under Laínez he was assistant general for Spain and later for India, Brazil, France and Lower Germany, and the supervisor of the Germanicum. Polanco contributed to composing the Jesuit Constitutions and was commissioned by Loyola to translate them into Latin. He also participated in the colloquium of Poissy (1562) and in the last session of the Council of Trent in 1563. After Borja’s death (1572), however, the Italo-Portuguese close-knit anti-converso lobby gained ground within the Society. It sabotaged the election of Polanco as Borja's successor. The newly elected Superior General Mercurian replaced Polanco as secretary and sent him away to Sicily. The last years of his life he dedicated to writing a monumental chronicle of the Society, known as Chronicon. Polanco also authored the authoritative manual for confessors, Directorium confessarii ac poenitentis, which was used by Jesuits priests almost exclusively in the first decades of the Society. He died upon his return to Rome in 1576.


Bibliography.   Scaduto, Catalogo, p. 109; DHCJ, pp. 3168-9.