Ignatius was born in 1491 in Azpeitia, a town in northern Spain. His young adult life was characterized by ‘a desire for worldly praise and glory, eager to distinguish himself by daring or even reckless deeds against odds, and tenacity in reaching an objective once he had decided upon it.’ In 1521 he led a group of soldiers in a battle against the French and took a cannon-ball to the leg, shattering the bones. After surgery and near-death he spent time recovering in the castle at Loyola.
While recovering from that wound he read a few works that inspired him to commit his life to the ‘greater glory and praise of God.’ The previously mentioned Ludolph was one of those writers, as was Jacobus de Voragine’s ‘Golden Legend’ – a book on the lives of the saints. In 1522 he spent time at the Monastery in Manresa, where his spirituality deepened. He prayed seven hours a day, and started taking notes that would eventually be the basis of his great work ‘The Spiritual Exercises.’
In 1523 he went to Barcelona, a brief stopping point on his way to Jerusalem. He returned from Jerusalem to Barcelona in 1524 and at the age of 33, realizing he needed more education in order to serve God the way he was being called, spent 10 years going to school. He learned Latin, physics, philosophy, and theology. He was beginning to instruct others in his Spiritual Exercises and attracted a lot of attention, which was a bad thing to do during the Inquisition. He got in trouble with the Inquisition judges and basically had to leave one college. That’s when he decided to go to university in Paris. After all, he couldn’t speak French, so his interactions with others would be minimized and he wouldn’t get in trouble. Well, he flourished in Paris and met friends who would later form the core of the Society of Jesus. In 1535 they all went their separate ways to preach, and decided to reunite in Venice in 1537 for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But the Turks were invading Jerusalem at the time, so they spent a year in Venice studying for the priesthood and were ordained that same year.
So now Ignatius and his group of friends were priests, and without passage to Jerusalem they decided to go to Rome and offer their services to the pope. They presented a proposal to him for founding the Society of Jesus, and in 1540 it was approved. Ignatius died in 1556, but in those 16 years they ordained about 1000 Jesuit priests, had operations in 10 countries (including India and Brazil), and operated 33 colleges.
If you want more details, plus pictures, take a look at http://www.ignatiushistory.info/