[Castiglione (MN), March 9, 1568 – Rome, June 21, 1591]
The marriage of his parents – the Marquis Ferrante Gonzaga and Marta Tana accounts of Chieri (Torino) – is celebrated in the royal palace in Madrid, because Ferrante was in the service of King Philip II of Spain. Luigi was born in the family castle: it was the first of seven children, heir to the title and of course with a future soldier. So his father took him in the middle of the troop as a child. Then he began to stay in various courts and studies.
But 10 years Luigi decided that his path was different: that through humility, the vow of chastity and a life dedicated to the next would lead him to God.
In 1580, twelve years old, Luigi received First Communion from the hands of St. Charles Borromeo. In 1581 he went to Madrid for two years, as page court and student. It is a portrait of this era. Author is the great El Greek, showing the authentic Louis (like few other portraits), and very different from the fragile complainer shown later by painting so much hearsay, misguided fervor clumsy speakers and biographers: unfortunately his austerity life (which he opposed to the moral weakness of the great world) will, for a long time, presented as a kind of obsessive aversion against Women.
In Spain, Louis was brilliant student of letters, science and philosophy and held the traditional university dissertation; together, read spiritual texts and missionary relations, focused in prayer, he decided to become a Jesuit, and – despite the opposition of his father – at 17 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome, where he studied theology and philosophy.
In 1589 (at age 21) sent him in Castiglione delle Stiviere to make peace between his brother Rodolfo (to whom he had sold his rights as the firstborn) and the Duke of Mantua. Target achieved: Luigi moved well in politics, even though his health was fragile (and severe penance certainly not helped him). In return to Rome, a mysterious signal the announced close death. It was time to break away from many things. But not from the suffering of others; not by the struggle to defend them. In 1590/91 a set of evils infectious sowed death in all of Rome, killed in 15 months three Popes, one after the other (Sixtus V, Urban VII, Gregory XIV) and thousands of people. The massacre fought Camillo de Lellis with some brothers, and so did Luigi Gonzaga. But because he was ill for some time, he ordered him to devote himself to cases not contagious. But he found in the street a leper abandoned, he took him up on his shoulder, took him to the hospital, taking charge to cure him. Then he went home and died a few days later, at age 23.
In 1726, Pope Benedict XIII proclaimed him a saint. His body lies in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome, and the head is kept instead in the basilica dedicated to him, in Castiglione delle Stiviere, his birthplace.