The Apache Tomcat Servlet/JSP Container

Apache Tomcat 7

Version 7.0.82, Sep 29 2017
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Top Level Elements




Nested Components

Cluster Elements



The Loader Component

Table of Contents

The Loader element represents the web application class loader that will be used to load Java classes and resources for your web application. Such a class loader must follow the requirements of the Servlet Specification, and load classes from the following locations:

  • From the /WEB-INF/classes directory inside your web application.
  • From JAR files in the /WEB-INF/lib directory inside your web application.
  • From resources made available by Catalina to all web applications globally.

A Loader element MAY be nested inside a Context component. If it is not included, a default Loader configuration will be created automatically, which is sufficient for most requirements.

For a more in-depth description of the class loader hierarchy that is implemented by Catalina, see the ClassLoader HowTo.

The description below uses the variable name $CATALINA_BASE to refer the base directory against which most relative paths are resolved. If you have not configured Tomcat for multiple instances by setting a CATALINA_BASE directory, then $CATALINA_BASE will be set to the value of $CATALINA_HOME, the directory into which you have installed Tomcat.

Common Attributes

All implementations of Loader support the following attributes:


Java class name of the implementation to use. This class must implement the org.apache.catalina.Loader interface. If not specified, the standard value (defined below) will be used.


Set to true if you want the class loader to follow the standard Java2 delegation model, and attempt to load classes from parent class loaders before looking inside the web application. Set to false (the default) to have the class loader look inside the web application first, before asking parent class loaders to find requested classes or resources.


Set to true if you want Catalina to monitor classes in /WEB-INF/classes/ and /WEB-INF/lib for changes, and automatically reload the web application if a change is detected. This feature is very useful during application development, but it requires significant runtime overhead and is not recommended for use on deployed production applications. You can use the Manager web application, however, to trigger reloads of deployed applications on demand.

NOTE - The value for this property will be inherited from the reloadable attribute you set on the surrounding Context component, and any value you explicitly set here will be replaced.

Standard Implementation

The standard implementation of Loader is org.apache.catalina.loader.WebappLoader. It supports the following additional attributes (in addition to the common attributes listed above):


Java class name of the java.lang.ClassLoader implementation class to use. If not specified, the default value is org.apache.catalina.loader.WebappClassLoader. Custom loaderClass implementations must extend org.apache.catalina.loader.WebappClassLoaderBase.The default loaderClass is not parallel capable. A parallel capable loaderClass is available when running on a Java 7 or higher JRE and can be used by specifying org.apache.catalina.loader.ParallelWebappClassLoader.


Set to true if you want repositories outside of WEB-INF/classes and WEB-INF/lib to be searched first. Default value is false.

VirtualWebappLoader Implementation

This implementation of Loader is org.apache.catalina.loader.VirtualWebappLoader. It extends WebappLoader and supports the following additional attributes


Additional repositories to search for resources. Multiple values can be joined using ; as a separator.

Leading and trailing whitespaces in values are ignored. If a value does not point to an existing directory or *.jar file, it is silently skipped. Diagnostic messages can be seen if you enable debug logging for the VirtualWebappLoader class.

Example: virtualClasspath="${catalina.base}/myapp_config"


Set to true if you want the virtual class path to be searched before WEB-INF/classes and WEB-INF/lib. Default value is false.

If searched before, resources located in the virtual class path take precendence over resources with the same name contained in the webapp.

Nested Components

No components may be nested inside a Loader element.

Special Features

A loader is associated with the log category based on its classname.


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