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Gesu Residence and the Rooms of Ignatius; Location: Piazza del Gesu, adjoining the church
The Gesu Church and its adjoining residence are rich in memories of the life of Ignatius. The present buildings and their predecessors witnessed formative moments in the development of the Society of Jesus.
The Church of Our Lady of the Wayside.
Our Lady of the Wayside was in such a dilapidated condition when Ignatius and the companions arrived that, according to Father Salmeron, those who dared to enter must "assuredly be predestined." The buildings themselves were run down and too small for the number of people attracted to the first Jesuits, but the location made up for other defects and Ignatius hoped to replace it with a more suitable structure.
Within two months of the written approval of the Society, Father Pietro Codacio used his influence at the papal court to obtain title to the small chapel, which had been built by the Astalli family as a burial chapel. Codacio had joined the companions in 1539 and was the first Italian to do so. He was canon of Lodi and chamberlain of Clement VII before becoming a Jesuit; Ignatius put him in charge of the physical necessities of the community and made him the chief real estate agent, continually looking for new property as the Society developed.
Our Lady of the Wayside was a parish church, and in 1542 Ignatius accepted possession of it as its pastor (parish priest). After the 1544 deliberation over poverty in the Society, the determination that the Society would have no steady income led to transferring the parish with its revenues to the Basilica of St. Mark, about 200 meters to the east. Parishioners were free to continue receiving the sacraments without stole fees in the former parish church.
The Astalli House
The Astalli house next to S. Maria della Strada was Ignatius' fourth Roman residence and the site of important events in the early years of the companions. The companions moved into rented rooms in 1541 and stayed until they moved into the first building the Society of Jesus ever built; see below, the rooms of Ignatius. The Astalli house stood on a site that is now inside the Gesu Church, near the chapel of Our Lady of the Wayside and the tomb of Ignatius.
The first companions met in the Astalli house in March and April of 1541 to elect the first Superior General, prior to making their solemn profession. After fixing some constitutional norms (the "Constitutions of 1541"), they unanimously elected Ignatius Father General on April 8, but he abstained from voting: "opening all the ballots, one after the other, with no one to the contrary, all the votes fell upon Ignatius."
Ignatius, upon the advice of his confessor, Fray Teodosio da Lodi (see notes on #17) accepted on April 19.
In this same house Ignatius prayed and deliberated over the way the Society would live religious poverty (February-March 1544). Here he wrote the most important part of his Spiritual Diary, the private record of 40 days of spiritual illumination in regard to decisions on poverty.
Here also, it seems, he composed the "Constitutions regarding missions," which form the nucleus of Part VII of the definitive Constitutions.