Martino Martini stamp from Italy

March 12th, 2014

Italian post issued a stamp commemorating Martino Martini on the 4th centenary of his birth.

Martino Martini (1614-1661) - cartographer, astronomer and church builder - was yet another of the China mission's procurators, having been sent to Europe in 1650. In addition to the usual tasks of presenting the mission in a positive light and in amassing material that could be brought back to be used in the mission, Martini was responsible for presenting the Jesuit position in the Chinese Rites controversy.

Martino Martini was born in Trent, a relative of Fr. Eusebio Kino, SJ. After finishing his studies in Trent, he entered the Austrian Province of the Society of Jesus in 1631, studied at the Roman College under, among others, the polymath Fr. Athanasius Kircher, and after his theological studies in Portugal where he was ordained (1639) proceeded to the China mission. He spend much time and energy gathering historical and geographical data about China. In 1653 he was back in Europe both to publish his collected data and also to present the case at Rome for the Chinese Rites favored by the Jesuit missionaries in China. His publications were very favorable received by the scientific community, and his pleas for the Chinese Rites were favorably received by the Vatican (at least for the moment). On his return to China he worked in the Hangzhou area where he built a church considered one of the most beautiful in the country. But no sooner was it finished than he died of cholera.

The stamp shows, in the foreground, a detail of an anonymous painting dating back to the 17th century and depicting Father Martino Martini, author of the first modern atlas of China, Novus Atlas Sinesis, published in 1655 in Amsterdam, taken from which is the map that appears in the background both works are held at the Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento.