Navarre boasts some of the Iberian Peninsula’s most beautiful landscapes, and Navarre holds special significance within Jesuit spirituality and history: St. Francis Xavier, Ignatius’s closest companion and one of the founding Jesuits, was born in Navarre.
Navarre is site of one of the most dramatic incidents in Ignatius’s own life. As a young man, Ignatius served as courtier and soldier who sought to win glory as a military man. In 1521, French troops invaded Navarre, supported by many in Navarre who, proud of their long, independent history, sought to carve out greater independence from the King of Castile (ruler of the kingdom that, over time, came to dominate the land we today call Spain). Ignatius of Loyola led a futile defense of the citadel at Pamplona, was wounded by cannon shot, and was transported back to his home. During his long convalescence, he underwent a profound conversion; no longer interested in military and courtly glory, he began to wonder how he might imitate the great saints in serving Jesus.