Father Felipe Salvador Gilij, SJ
Missionary, Linguist, Historian



Father Felipe Salvador Gilij, SJ on Venezuela Scott 1604i
, 1996, the 5th centenary of Evangelization in Venezuela, Scott 1604i

Fr. Felipe Salvador Gilij, SJ was born in 1721 in Legogne, in Umbria, Italy. He entered the Jesuits in Rome in 1740 at the Roman College and continued his studies the next year in Seville at the old Jesuit College of Saint Hermenegildo. In 1743 he was assigned to the missions of the Nuevo Reino de Granada under Fr. José Gumilla, SJ, and sailed with him to the New World. He studied theology in the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. In 1748 he was ordained priest, traveled to the Orinoco, and in 1749 established the Reducción de San Luis Gonzaga, known as La Misión de la Encamarada or San Luis de la Encamarada. When the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish possessions in 1767 he returned to the college of Macerata where he was responsible for spirituality and education, and from 1770 until the Suppression of the Order by Pope Clement XIV (1773) was rector of the college of Orvieto. Then he returned to Rome and completed his book on the religious, ethnological, cultural and social aspects of Venezuela. He wrote a Grammar and Dictionary of the Languages of Various Native Tribes and his fundamental four-volume work pictured on the stamp above, Essay on American History, which reported especially on the achievements of the Jesuits around the Orinoco during the Spanish period. Gilij proposed the first theory on the origins of South American languages and anticipated William Jones' theories of genealogical relationships between languages. He died in Rome on March 19, 1789. More