Born in Mantua on 17th April 1447, Bl. Baptist’s father was of Spanish origin and hence his surname. He entered the Carmelites in Ferrara and professed his religious vows in 1464. He was awarded a doctorate in theology in Bologna in 1475 and subsequently held a number of different positions in a succession of convents. Six times elected Vicar General for the Reformed Congregation (the Mantuan Reform), at the end of his life he was elected Prior General for the whole Order (1513-16).
His activities were not limited to the Carmelite Order. In 1513 he was invited to participate in the Lateran Council and, in 1515, he was entrusted by Pope Leo X with a diplomatic mission to negotiate a peace between the king of France and the duke of Milan. He was noted especially for his spirited and determined denunciations of the spreading corruption in society and he gave expression to his desire for reform with elegant literary appeals and a moving discourse in 1489 in St. Peter’s Basilica before the Pope and the cardinals. All this, though, did not distract him from living a very interior life and having a special devotion to the Virgin Mary.
He was a friend of many of the famous humanists and illustrious figures of his age, becoming an important figure in the literary world. Proclaimed by Erasmus as the “Christian Virgil” (he wrote with more than 50,000 Latin verses, besides other works of prose), he must be judged as one of the best poets of his time, a claim which is well attested by the numerous editions of his works.
He died in Mantua on 20th March 1516 and his incorrupt body is preserved in the Cathedral there. The cult of Blessed Baptist was approved by Pope Leo XIII on 17th December 1885 and his memorial day is celebrated on 17th April.