Villanueva de los Infantes is a municipality in the province of Ciudad Real, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. St Thomas of Villanova was affectionately called “Tomasito” by his parents Alonzo Garcia and Lucia Martinez de Castellanos. He was not born in Villanova de los Infantes where the family had a sizeable house, but in the small village of Fuenllana (a population of 283 in 2007) just five kilometres away.
The Martinez family had estates in that village. Because the plague was present in Villanova the family had moved to the greater isolation of Fuenllana for the birth and the first few months of Thomas’s life. Once the plague had receded, the family moved back to Villanova.
In Villanova (population of 2,223 in 2009) the church of St Andrew dominated the skyline, but the town also contained two Dominican monasteries, one Franciscan friary, and a convent of Poor Clares. Thomas attended the Franciscan church, and was educated by the friars there.
While being prosperous people, Thomas’s parents were recognised as being compassionate and helpful towards others who were less financially fortunate than they were. Lucia, Thomas’s mother, established a small hospital across the street from the family home and fed the residents with food from the family’s farmyard and large garden beside their house.
It is no wonder that her son Thomas came to see the presence of Christ ion those who were poor. On one occasion he gave to the poor the grain that was waiting to be ground at the family’s mill, as well as flour and loaves stored there for his family’s use.
Because of his outstanding academic success, his parents were urged by his teachers to send him to the University of Alcala; there he continued his education under Franciscan tutors. He gained his Bachelor and Master’s degrees and was engaged to teach logic, metaphysics and philosophy at the University from 1512 to 1515.
In 1516 he was offered the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Salamanca, which was one of the most famous universities in Spain. Thomas went to Salamanca but, instead of accepting the position at the university, joined the novitiate of the Order of St Augustine and received the Augustinian habit in November 1516.
His Augustinian journey led him to become leader of the Augustinian Province, and to send the first Augustinian missionaries to Latin America. For details read another page about Thomas of Villanova on this website.