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Fr. Jacques Villotte
(1656 - 1743)

was from the Lorraine region
of north eastern France,
born at Bar-le-Duc, Meuse.
He entered the Society of
Jesus in 1673 and was
ordained a priest in 1686.
Two years later he set out
for the Middle East on one
of the many Jesuit ventures
to find a land route to China.
The project was aborted
when the diplomat leading
the venture was
assassinated. Fr. Villotte
stayed on in the area,
working with the Armenian
communities in Erzerom in
Eastern Ottoman lands and
Persia until 1708. He
returned to Rome where he
published his Commentarius
in Evangelia, and
Dictionnarium novum
latinum-armenium. His diary
was edited by Fr. Nicolas
Frizon, s.j. and published in
Paris in 1730. Villotte
remaine in France, serving
as Rector of the College at
Bar-le-Duc, then at Epinal.
His final years were spent
as Superior of the Jesuit
cpmmunity at Saint Michel.

The Diary

Fr. Jacques Villotte, s.j. set out from the Middle East by ship from Marseille in 1688. He decided to keep a diary of his travels and his works. He went as a missionary, but he had to travel around so much that at one point he wrote: "I think I am a traveler, not a missionary." He spent 20 years in the region, working with the Armenian communities at Erzerom, in eastern Turkey, and at Julfa (Isfahan) in Persia. He records his impression of sights like Constantinople and Rhodes, as well as his adventures sailing the Black Sea and crossing the Syrian desert. He also offers details concerning his daily routine as a Catholic pries among Orthodox Armenians. His account, sparse and unvarnished, has a strong contemporary echo.

The Translator

John J. Donohue, s.j., the translator, spent 46 years in the Middle East (Baghdad and Beirut) as a teacher and researcher. He first went to teach at Baghdad College in 1953. After expulsion from Baghdad he stopped off at St. Joseph University in Beirut where he taught and directed the Center for the Study of the Modern Arab World from 1971 to 2010. He is now at Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA.

 

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