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This is our edition of Pia desideria of Hermannus Hugo, published in 1624 (Antwerp). In this introduction, we have limited ourselves to the essentials.

About Hermannus Hugo

Hermannus Hugo was born to Willem Hugo and Katrine Leman in Brussels, in April of 1588.1 Before he joined the order of the Jesuits, he received five years of secondary education in the Humaniora (including studies in philosophy and theology). He arrived at the University of Louvain in 1602, and was made 'Magister Artium' in 1604. Shortly thereafter he decided to become a Jesuit, entering the novitiate at Doornik in September of 1605. He then spent two years to familiarize himself with the Ignatian method for beginning Jesuits. Due to the increasing demand of trained personel in the order, he probably served as a teacher in the order while continuing his own studies after that. He took his vows in September 1607, and was ordained as a priest in 1613 in Louvain. By 1617 he had completed his studies in Louvain. He then spent one year in Lier, where he served a probationary year - intended to give young priests further experience with Igantius's Spiritual Exercises. After this year, he was called to Brussels to serve as prefect of studies under the rectorship of Father Antoine Sucquet. In 1621, he accompanied the Duke of Aerschot to Madrid, to express the sympathy of the Flemish nobility to Philips IV, who had just be installed as the new Spanish king. After the trip to Spain, and a brief trip to Rome in 1623, Hugo worked as a chaplain to the Spanish armies in the southern Netherlands. He died in 1629, still serving the armies, in Rheinberg (Germany), after the Spanish armies were defeated at 's Hertogenbosch.

About the Pia desideria

The engravings of the Pia desideria were made by the illustrator Boëtius à Bolswert, who was engaged in this project by publisher Hendrick Aertssens. Bolswert produced 45 copperplates that were used again for the Goddelycke wenschen by Justus de Harduwijn, published in 1629. Hugo's Pia desideria became very popular from the moment it was published. In all it was reprinted 49 times, and 90 translations and adaptations of the Pia desideria were published in all the major European languages. Therefore, the Pia desideria was one of the most widely distributed, most widely translated and imitated religious books (not just emblem books) of the seventeenth century.

Hugo's Pia desideria contains emblems constructed on the basis of the three stages of mystical life, and filled with references, allusions, and quotations taken from various sources (the Bible, ancient works, hagiography, mystical writings).

Copy Used for This Edition

In making this edition of Pia desideria we have used the copy of the Royal Library of The Hague, shelf number 871 F 61.


We have transcribed the full text from the The Hague copy and encoded this text using TEI mark-up, to allow for flexibility in presentation and non-destructive editorial enhancement of the text. The full Project Guidelines for transcription, editorial intervention and indexing of the text are available elsewhere on this site.


The full Emblem Project Utrecht bibliography may be accessed using the menu option at the top of this window. A selection of literature relevant to Pia desideria follows here.

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This brief sketch of Hugo's life is based on Leach, Literary and Emblematic Activity of Herman Hugo and Duyse, P. van