Science & Culture

San Diego de Alcalá

The California city of San Diego is named after San Diego de Alcalá (also known as Didacus of Alcalá, Saint Diego, and in Latin, Sanctus Didacus Complutensis), a lay brother of the Order of Friars Monor who was born around 1400 into an impovished family in a town near Seville, Spain.

At a very young age, Diego went to live with a nearby hermit and practiced living in austerity. After several years as a recluse, he returned to his parents but soon applied for admission to the Franciscan Order at the convent of Arizafa and was received as a lay brother. In 1445 he became guardian of a Franciscan community on the Canary Island of Fortaventura. It was unusual for a lay brother to be a superior, but his enthusiasm, good judgment, and piety made him an exemplary choice. In 1449 he was recalled to Spain. From there he traveled to Rome to attend the canonization of San Bernadino of Siena in 1450. While in Rome he took charge of the infirmary in the Ara Coeli convent, and according to his biographers, miraculously cured many of the patients he attended. Once again he was recalled to Spain, and this time was placed at the Convento de Santa María de Jesús in Alcalá de Henares, where he stayed for the rest of his life. San Diego was canonized by Sixtus V in 1588. His feast is November 13.

The Spanish painter Bartolomé Estéban Murillo is noted for painting representations of Didacus, and Lope de Vega wrote a play about him, entitled San Diego de Álcala.

In 1769 the Spanish friar Junípero Serra founded the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá. This was the first Franciscan mission in the Las Californias Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and gradually the city of San Diego developed from there. 


"Franciscan Siants Calendar, Secular Franciscan Order – FFMR." Five Franciscan Martyrs Region SFO.

"St. Didacus." New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. 

"St. Didacus." Catholic Online.