‘First See the Place’: Ignatius Loyola’s ‘Composition of Place’ in the Poetry of Robert Southwell

Batley, Karen
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The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
The Spiritual Exercises, written down as a guide to his followers by the founder and first General of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius Loyola, became the main weapon of the Jesuits in their Counter Reformation campaign, during which they revolutionized the spirituality of Catholic Europe. The Exercises are not so much devotional reading as a handbook and guide for meditation and have not been altered since Ignatius completed them in the 1530s. Even though he was advantaged by noble birth and education, he was not particularly lettered or intellectual. Rather, he dealt in the imagination, and his own was suffused with powerful visual images, not with theology. The Exercises are designed to be completed over four weeks. They are tightly structured, with explicit directions under headings, and deal with the topics of sin and Hell, the Incarnation and Nativity, the famous meditation on Two Standards, and, finally, events in the life of Christ. The composition of place holds a specific position within the structural framework of the Exercises, being one of the three Preliminaries that precede each meditation.
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