17. St. Robert Bellarmine, Detroit University

St. Robert Bellarmine
Detroit University, 1877

Detroit, Michigan

Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), one of the greatest theologians of his time, was born in a small town in central Italy, still known for its production of fine wine: Montepulciano. When Robert was fifteen years old, he was enrolled in the newly-opened Jesuit School, and like many young men in the United States and other countries prior to Vatican II, decided that right after secondary school he would seek to join the Jesuits who had taught him.

After only a short time as a Jesuit priest he was made the first professor of theology in the Jesuit’s college in Louvain, and was engaged in teaching and writing about most of the hotly controverted issues between Protestants and Catholics of those times. Though he was quite firm and clear in disagreeing with writers of opposing thoughts, he always addressed only the issues, never engaging in uncivil discourse with the persons whose theological positions were antithetical to his beliefs.

After a lifetime as a Jesuit priest teaching, writing and giving helpful advice to popes, he was made a Cardinal by Pope Clement VIII in 1599. Rather than assuming the lifestyle of a “prince of the Church,” Robert maintained his simple way of living and gave anything beyond his necessities to the poor.

Robert is depicted in the window as a bishop, wearing green vestments, holding a book open to the title page of the most famous of his doctrinal books, in Latin, “De Controversiis” (“On the Controversies”). Robert also published six very popular works on aspects of the spiritual life. Below his feet is the Bellarmine family coat of arms, with six pine cones which represent the great extent of hospitality for which that family was known.

The shield of the University of Detroit incorporates the arms of the family of St. Ignatius, the bends or stripes of his mother’s family are red and grey; the wolves and cauldron of his father’s family are crimson and silver. The inscription reads: “University of Detroit”; the foundation date is 1877. (In 1990, the University of Detroit and Mercy College consolidated to become the University of Detroit Mercy.)

The school colors are red and blue.


Robert Bellarmine - Detroit University