An Assessment of the Role of Gregorio de Cespedes, S.J. during the Imjin War in the Late Sixteenth Century: Church and State Collaboration in the Spanish Colonization

Seung Ho Bang


When the Japanese invaded Joseon (an ancient Korean dynasty from 1392 to 1897) at the end of the sixteenth century, a Spanish Jesuit priest, Gregorio de Cespedes, S.J. (1551-1611), stayed in the Japanese fortress in Ungcheon with Japanese soldiers. While Cespedes is celebrated as the first European who allegedly came with an evangelical vision of proselytizing the native Koreans, previous scholarship has inadequately acknowledged Cespedes role without consideration of his concrete actions in the Japanese fortress and of the broader context of sixteenth century Spanish colonial expansion. An examination of the Jesuit mission to sixteenth-century Japan, the role of the Spanish chaplains and their activities in foreign expeditions, and Cespedes activities in Joseon indicate that Cespedes was not a missionary sent to Korea, but rather an active chaplain (for the Japanese soldiers) who played a role in the larger development of church and state collaboration under Spanish colonialism.


The Sixteenth Century, Christianity, Imjin War, the Japanese Invasion, Cespedes, Hideyoshi, Jesuits, Korea, Spanish Colonialism, Mission

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