Who was the first priest or the first member of a religious order to sail around the world?
The answer depends upon how you interpret the question. If you wish to include a man who did not become a priest and a member of a religious order until after he had sailed around the world, the answer is the name of a member of the Order of Saint Augustine. And if you interpret the question to require that the person was a priest or a member of a religious order at the time he sailed around the world, the answer is probably another member of the Order of Saint Augustine - or four members simultaneously.
This page will focus only on the relevant expeditions of discovery from among a greater number of them that were instituted by Emperor Charles V, King of Spain, and the kings after him. For a general coverage on Augnet of more of these expeditions, choose below:
First Voyage in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. (Page 4028)
Second Voyage in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. (Page 4028)
Third Voyage in 1519 by Ferdinand Magellan (and involving Jean Sebastian Elcano.) (Page 4028)
Fourth Voyage in 1525 by Garcia Jofré de Loaisa and Jean Sebastian Elcano (& involving the future Augustinian priest, Andrés de Urdaneta, as young man.) (Page 4029)
Fifth Voyage in 1541 by Ruy Lopex de Villalobos (& involving four members of the Order of Saint Augustine.) (Page 4029)
This Augnet page will now deal with the fourth voyage mentioned above. This voyage involved Andrés de Urdaneta, who was the first man to circumnavigate the world and then later to become a priest and member of a religious order. This expedition was sent to claim the Indonesian islands of the Moluccas for the Spanish ruler, Emperor Charles V. The emperor was interested in a western route to the East Indies via the Straits of Magellan (at the bottom of South America) because the Portuguese navy blocked Spanish movement into the Indian Ocean by the eastern route (i.e., via the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa.)
Garcia Yofre de Loaisa, a Basque like Juan Sebastián Elcano, was in charge. A fleet of seven ships was involved, and four of them belonged to Elcano. Elcano had been born in Vizacaya in the Basque area of Spain in the year 1476. He took on this voyage a boy of seventeen years, Andrés de Urdaneta, who was a fellow Basque, born nearby in 1508 at Villafranca, Guipuzcoa, Spain.
On 24 August 1525, the expedition departed from Coruna, in Galicia, which is the north-eastern corner of Spain immediately north of Portugal. It sailed westwards across the Atlantic to the Americas. During storms in the Straits of Magellan, one crew rebelled, and Garci'a de Loaisa died. The captain of one of the ships was killed by his own sailors. Elcano then assumed complete charge of the seven ships of the expedition, and led them into the Pacific.
But only four days later he died of malnutrition on 4th August of 1526. Of the seven ships in this expedition, only one reached the Moluccas, and Andrés de Urdaneta was on board it. The young Urdaneta then spent the next eleven years in Timor and East Indonesia, as a sailor and a merchant. He learned the language, and became familiar with the winds and the tides. When eleven years later he returned to Spain via the Indian Ocean and the Cape of Good Hope, Urdaneta too had circled the world, being the first person to be a priest (afterwards!) and a member of a religious order (later!) to have done so.
This Augnet page will now deal with the fifth voyage mentioned on the previous page. It contained four Augustinians who thus became the first persons while already priests and members of a religious order to circumnavigate the world. This expedition, led by Ruy López de Villalobos, departed Mexico on 1st November 1542 with four ships. He sighted Mindanao in the Philippines the following February.
One of this islands, which belonged to the Visayas group, was named "Filipina" after Prince Felipe, a young son of Charles V who had been born in 1527 and would rule Spain and its colonies from 1556 to 1598 under the name of Philip II (and also after 1580 simultaneously to rule Portugal as Philip I of Portugal). Once he reached the Philippines, Villalobos sent three of his ships back to Mexico to obtain more food and ammunition. All three ships capsized, however, shortly after leaving the islands.
When no help reached Villalobos from Mexico, he then decided to sail to safety with his remaining ship to the port of Ambonia (or Amboyna), which was located in an area of the Indies that was controlled and defended by Portugal. Of the three hundred and seventy men who had left New Spain (Mexico), only one hundred and forty seven survived to reach Ambonia, the nearest settlement of the king of Portugal. Amboyna was located on Ambon Island, one of the Moluccas in the Banda Sea. It lies in the eastern portion of the Republic of Indonesia today, and is part of the Malay Archipeligo.
As Villalobos expected, in 1544 the Portuguese demanded that he surrender to them for being in their territory. The Portuguese placed the captain and crew in prison. While still in the custody of the Portuguese at Amboyna two years later, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos died in deep melancholy. It would take another twenty years before there was another attempt by Spain to conquer "Las Islas Felipinas" (the Philippines).
While this expedition by Villalobos had originally been planned, the viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza arranged that members of the Order of Saint Augustine would be the ones appointed as chaplains to this expedition. As the highest official and the most influential Spanish person in Latin America, his desire was fulfilled. Four excellent men of the Order of Saint Augustine in Mexico had been selected. The choice was the task of the Province of Spain (Castile). The leader of the Order in that Province was Alonso de la Vera Cruz O.S.A., who previously himself had served in Mexico with distinction.
From among members of the Order then in Mexico, he wisely selected: Jeronimo de Santisteban, Nicholas de Perea, Sebastian Reina (or de Trasierra) and Alonso de Alvaro. From among members of the Order then in Mexico, four suitable members were selected: Jeronimo de Santisteban, Nicholas de Perea, Sebastian Reina (or de Trasierra) and Alonso de Alvaro. One of these men, Nicholas de Perea O.S.A., was to be one of the Council of the Order in Mexico who twenty two years later in 1564 signed a letter of authority to Andrés de Urdaneta O.S.A, and the four other members of the Order for the successful expedition that sailed from Mexico to Cebu in 1564.
Santisteban, who was leader of the group, wrote in his own handwriting a report that still exists. He described their seemingly endless journey that extended from November 1541 until early 1550, by which time the man who had led the expedition, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, had been dead for four years.
These four members of the Order were the first priests and the first members of any religious Order to sail around the world, although doing so had not been their intention. Accepting a position in an expedition like this could be regarded as an adventure, but realistically it also had to be accepted as a potential sentence of death.
They may well have anticipated death more than they could have guessed that this expedition was going to take them away from Mexico for ten whole years. They crossed the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and via the Cape of Good Hope arrived in Lisbon and Madrid. Finally they sailed westwards from Seville across the Atlantic Ocean to Mexico during 1549, arriving at their original point of departure early in 1550. The first four priests and members of a religious order to sail around the world were these four men: Jeronimo de Santisteban O.S.A., Nicolas de Perea O.S.A., Sebestian Reina (or de Trasierra) O.S.A., and Alfonso de Alvarado O.S.A..
The diary of one of the members of the expedition praised the spiritual contributions of the four Augustinians during their nine years of travelling. While in the custody of the Portuguese in the port of Amboyna, they met Saint Francis Xavier. Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit to set foot on Indian soil on 6th May 1542. In a letter, Francis Xavier commended them to his superiors in Goa, "because they are very religious and holy men, who are worthy of every consideration." (The first twelve men of the Order of Saint Augustine in the East Indies were not sent from Portugal to Goa until thirty years later, arriving on 3 September 1572.)
For the Augnet photo gallery on the Province of Cebu in the Philippines (including the above pictures), click here.
Explorers from 1501-1550: the Early Sixteenth Century. A comprehensive listing. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/1500a.shtml