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THE belief that, by prolonged meditation and abstraction from the phenomenal world, the soul can elevate itself to the Creator, and can even attain union with the Godhead, has existed from the earliest times and among many races. Passing through ecstasy into trance, it was admitted to the secrets of God, it enjoyed revelations of the invisible universe, it acquired foreknowledge and wielded supernatural powers. St. Paul gave to these beliefs the sanction of his own experience;[2] Tertullian describes the influence of the Holy Spirit on the devotee in manifestations which bear a curious similitude to those which we shall meet in Spain,[3] and the anchorites of the Nitrian desert were adepts of the same kind to whom all the secrets of God were laid bare.[4] These supernal joys continued to be the reward of those who earned them by disciplining the flesh, and the virtues of mental prayer, in which the soul lost consciousness of all earthly things, were taught by a long series of doctors—Richard of Saint Victor, Joachim of{2} Flora, St. Bonaventura, John Tauler, John of Rysbroek, Henry Suso, Henry Herp, John Gerson and many others. If Cardinal Jacques de Vitry is to be believed, the nuns of Liége, in the thirteenth century, were largely given to these mystic raptures; of one of them he relates that she often had twenty-five ecstasies a day, while others passed years in bed, dissolved in divine love;[5] and Richard Rolle, the Hermit of Hampole, who missed his deserved canonization, was fully acquainted with the superhuman delights of union with God.[6] These spiritual marvels are reduced to the common-places of psychology by modern researches into hypnotism and auto-suggestion. The connection is well illustrated by the Umbilicarii, the pious monks of Mount Athos who, by prolonged contemplation of their navels, found their souls illuminated with light from above.[7]


Yet there were dangers in the pursuit of the via purgativa and the via illuminativa. The followers of Amaury of Bène, who came to be popularly known in Germany as Begghards and Beguines, invented the term Illuminism to describe the condition of the soul suffused with divine light and held that any one, thus filled with the Holy Ghost, was impeccable, irrespective of the sins which he might commit; he was simply following the impulses of the Spirit which can do no sin. Master Eckhart, the founder of German mysticism, was prosecuted for sharing in these venturesome speculations and, if the twenty-eight articles condemned by John XXII were correctly drawn from his writings, he admitted the common divinity of man and God and that, in the sight of God, sin and virtue are the same.[8] Zealots too there were who taught the pre-eminent holiness of nudity and, in imitation of the follies of early Christian ascetics, assumed to triumph over the lusts of the flesh by exposing themselves to the crucial temptation of sleeping with the other sex and indulging in lascivious acts.[9] The condemnation, by the Council of Vienne in 1312, of{3} the tenets of the so-called Begghards respecting impeccability[10] was carried into the body of canon law and thus was rendered familiar to jurists, when mysticism came to be regarded as dangerous and was subjected to the Inquisition.

That it should eventually be so regarded was inevitable. The mystic, who considered himself to be communing directly with God and who held meditation and mental prayer to be the highest of religious acts, was apt to feel himself released from ecclesiastical precepts and to regard with indifference, if not with contempt, the observances enjoined by the Church as essential to salvation. If the inner light was a direct inspiration from God, it superseded the commands of the Holy See and, under such impulse, private judgement was to be followed, irrespective of what the Church might ordain. In all this there was the germ of a rebellion as defiant as that of Luther. Justification by faith might not be taught, but justification by works was cast aside as unworthy of the truly spiritual man. The new Judaism, decried by Erasmus, which relied on external observances, was a hindrance rather than a help to salvation. Francisco de Osuna, the teacher of Santa Teresa, asserts that oral prayer is a positive injury to those advanced in mental prayer.[11] San Juan de la Cruz says that church observances, images and places of worship are merely for the uninstructed, like toys that amuse children; those who are advanced must liberate themselves from these things which only distract from internal contemplation.[12] San Pedro de Alcántara, in his enumeration of the nine aids to devotion, significantly omits all reference to the observances prescribed by the Church.[13] In an ecclesiastical establishment, which had built up its enormous wealth by the thrifty exploitation of the text “Give alms and behold all things are clean unto you” (Luke, XI, 41), Luis de Granada dared to teach that the most dangerous temptation in the spiritual life is the desire to do good to others, for a man’s first duty is to himself.[14] Yet these men were all held in the highest honor, and two of them earned the supreme reward of canonization.{4}

There was in this a certain savor of Lutheranism, but it was not until the danger of the latter was fully appreciated that the Inquisition awoke to the peril lurking in a system which released the devotee from the obligation of obedience to authority, as in the Alumbrado or Illuminated, who recognized the supremacy of the internal light, and the Dejado or Quietist, who abandoned himself to God and allowed free course to the impulses suggesting themselves in his contemplative abstraction, with the corollary that there could be no sin in what emanated from God. The real significance of that which had been current in the Church for so many centuries was unnoticed until Protestantism presented itself as a threatening peril, when the two were classed together, or rather Protestantism was regarded as the development of mysticism. In the letter of September 9, 1558, to Paul IV, the Inquisition traced the origin of the former in Spain farther back than to Doctor Egidio and Don Carlos de Seso; the heresies of which Maestro Juan de Oria (Olmillos?) was accused and of those called Alumbrados or Dejados of Guadalajara and other places, were the seed of these Lutheran heresies, but the inquisitors who tried those heretics were insufficiently versed in Lutheranism to apply the proper vigor of repression.[15] It is necessary to bear all this in mind to understand the varying attitude of the Inquisition in its gradual progress towards the condemnation of all mysticism.


The distinction at first attempted between the mysticism that was praiseworthy and that which was dangerous was complicated by the recognized fact that, while visions and revelations and ecstasies might be special favors from God, they might also be the work of demons, and there was no test that could be applied to differentiate them. The Church was in the unfortunate position of being committed to the belief in special manifestations of supernatural power, while it was confessedly unable to determine whether they came from heaven or from hell. This had long been recognized as one of the most treacherous pitfalls in the perilous paths of illumination and union with God. As early as the twelfth century, Richard of St. Victor warns his disciples to beware of it, and Aquinas points out that trances may come from God, from the demon or from bodily affections.[16] John Gerson wrote a special{5} tractate in which he endeavored to frame diagnostic rules.[17] The Blessed Juan de Avila emphatically admonishes the devout to beware of such deceptions, but he fails to guide them in discriminating between demonic illusions and the effects of divine grace.[18] Arbiol describes the uncertainty as to the sources of these manifestations as the greatest danger besetting the path of perfection, causing the ruin of innumerable souls.[19] When, in the eighteenth century, mysticism had become discredited, Dr. Amort argues that, even if a revelation is from God, there can be no certainty that it is not falsified by the operation of the fancy or the work of the demon.[20] When to this we add the facility of imposture, by which a livelihood could be gained from the contributions of the credulous, we can appreciate the difficulty of the task assumed by the Inquisition, in a land swarming with hysterics of both sexes, to restrain the extravagance of the devout and to punish the frauds of impostors, without interfering with the ways of God in guiding his saints. It is merely another instance of the failure of humanity in its efforts to interpret the Infinite.

Apart from visions and revelations, there was another feature of mysticism which rendered it especially dangerous to the Church and odious to theologians. Though the mystic might not controvert the received doctrines of the faith, yet scholastic theology, on which they were founded, was to him a matter of careless contempt. Mystic theology, says Osuna, is higher than speculative or scholastic theology; it needs no labor or learning or study, only faith and love and the grace of God.[21] In the trial of María Cazalla, one of the accusations was that she and her brother Bishop Cazalla ridiculed Aquinas and Scotus and the whole mass of scholastic theology.[22] When Gerónimo de la Madre de Dios was on trial, one of his writings produced in evidence was a comparison between mystic and scholastic theology, to the great disadvantage of the latter. Its learning, he says, is perfectly compatible with vice; its masters preach the virtues but do not practise them; they wallow in the sins that they denounce; they are Pharisees,{6} and this is so general a pest that there is scarce one who is not infected with the contagion.[23]



Medieval Spain had been little troubled with mystic extravagance. Eymerich who, in his Directorium Inquisitorum, gives an exhaustive account of heresies existing towards the close of the fourteenth century, makes no allusion to such errors, except in his denunciation of his special object of hatred Raymond Lully, to whom he attributes some vagaries of mystic illuminism, and the Repertorium Inquisitorum of 1494 is equally silent.[24]Spiritual exaltation, however, accompanied the development of the fanaticism stimulated by the establishment of the Inquisition and its persecution of Jews and Moors. Osuna, in 1527, alludes to a holy man who for fifty years had devoted himself to recojimiento, or the abstraction of mental prayer, and already, in 1498, Francisco de Villalobos complains of the Aluminados or Illuminati, derived from Italy, of whom there were many in Spain, and who should be reduced to reason by scourging, cold, hunger and prison.[25] This indicates that mysticism was obtaining a foothold and its spread was facilitated by the beatas, women adopting a religious life without entering an Order, or at most simply as Tertiaries, living usually on alms and often regarded as possessing spiritual gifts and prophetic powers. The first of the class to obtain prominence was known as the Beata de Piedrahita. A career such as hers was common enough subsequently, as we shall see, and the discussion which she aroused shows that as yet she was a novel phenomenon. The daughter of a fanatic peasant, she had been carefully trained in mystic exercises and was wholly given up to contemplative abstraction, in which she enjoyed the most intimate relations with God, in whose arms she was dissolved in love. Sometimes she asserted that Christ was with her, sometimes that she was Christ himself or the bride of Christ; often she held conversations with the Virgin in which she spoke for both. As her reputation spread, her visions and revelations won for her the character of a prophetess. Many denounced them as superstitious and demanded her suppression,{7} but Ximenes who, as inquisitor-general, had jurisdiction in the matter, argued that she was inspired with divine wisdom and Ferdinand, who visited her, expressed his belief in her inspiration. In 1510 the matter was referred to the Holy See, and Julius II appointed his nuncio, Giovanni Ruffo, and the Bishops of Burgos and Vich, as commissioners to examine her and to suppress the scandal if it proved to be only female levity. Peter Martyr, to whom we are indebted for the account, was unable to ascertain their decision but, as they discharged her without reproof, it may be assumed that their report was favorable, for it could scarce have been otherwise with such supporters as Ferdinand and Ximenes.[26] Such success naturally stimulated imitation and was the foreshadowing of wide-spread delusion and imposture.

In this case there appears no trace of carnality, but it is the distinguishing feature of another soon afterwards, reported in 1512 to Ximenes by Fray Antonio de Pastrana, of a contemplative fraile of Ocaña “illuminated with the darkness of Satan.” To him God had revealed that he should engender on a holy woman a prophet who should reform the world. He was a spiritual man, not given to women and, in his simplicity, he had written to Madre Juana de la Cruz, apparently inviting her coöperation in the good work. Fray Antonio, who was custodian of the Province of Castile, imprisoned the alumbrado and subjected him to treatment so active that he speedily admitted his error.[27]

Guadalajara and Pastrana were becoming centres of a group of mystics who attracted the attention of the Inquisition about 1521, when it commenced gathering testimony about them. The earliest disseminator of the doctrine appears to have been a sempstress named Isabel de la Cruz, noted for her ability in the exposition of Scripture, who commenced about 1512 and was a leader until superseded by Francisca Hernández, of whom more hereafter. The Seraphic Order of St. Francis naturally furnished many initiates, whose names are included among the fifty or sixty forming the group. The Franciscan Guardian of Escalona, Fray Juan de Olmillos, had ecstasies when receiving the sacrament and when preaching, in which he talked and acted extravagantly. When removed to Madrid, this attracted crowds to watch his contortions and he was generally regarded as a saint; he was promoted to the provincialate of Castile and died in 1529. The Marquis of{8} Villena, at Escalona, was inclined to mysticism, induced perhaps by Fray Francisco de Ocaña, who was stationed there and had prophetic visions of the reform of the Church. Villena, in 1523, employed as lay-preacher Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz, one of the most prominent of the Guadalajara mystics, who seems to have converted all the members of the household. The name of Alcaraz appears frequently in the trials of the group; he was a married layman, uneducated but possessing remarkable familiarity with Scripture and skilled in its exposition, and he was an earnest missionary of mysticism. When sufficient evidence against him was accumulated, he was arrested February 26, 1524, and imprisoned by the Toledo tribunal. The formal accusation, presented October 31st, indicates that the mysticism, of at least some of the accused, embraced Quietism or Dejamiento to the full extent, with its consequent assumption of impeccability, no matter what might be the acts of the devotee, that mental prayer was the sole observance necessary, that all the prescriptions of the Church—confession, indulgences, works of charity and piety—were useless, and that the conjugal act was Union with God. There was also the denial of transubstantiation and of the existence of hell, which may probably be left out of account as foreign to the recognized tenets of mysticism. The latter, in fact, was presumably an exaggeration of an utterance of Alcaraz, who said that it was the ignorant and children who were afraid of hell, for the advanced served the Lord, not from servile fear but from fear of offending Him whom they loved, and moreover that God was not to be prayed to for anything—principles subsequently approved in S. François de Sales and condemned in Fénelon. There was no spirit of martyrdom in Alcaraz, and the severe torture to which he was exposed would seem a superfluity. He confessed his errors, professed conversion and begged for mercy. His sentence, July 22, 1529, recited that he had incurred relaxation but through clemency was admitted to reconciliation with confiscation, irremissible prison and scourging in Toledo, Guadalajara, Escalona and Pastrana, where he had disseminated his errors. This severity indicates the inquisitorial estimate of the magnitude of the evil to be suppressed but, after ten years, on February 20, 1539, the Suprema liberated him, with the restriction of not leaving Toledo and the imposition of certain spiritual exercises.[28]



In the ensuing trials, pursued with customary inquisitorial thoroughness, the question of sexual aberrations constantly obtrudes itself and offers no little complexity. That the majority of the Spanish mystics were thoroughly pure in heart there can be no doubt, but spiritual exaltation, shared by the two sexes, had the ever-present risk that it might insensibly become carnal, when those who fancied themselves to be advancing in the path of perfection might suddenly find that the flesh had deceived the spirit. This was an experience as old as mysticism itself, and the eloquent warning which St. Bonaventura addressed to his brethren shows, by the vividness of its details, that he must have witnessed more than one such fall from grace.[29] The danger was all the greater in the extreme mysticism known as Illuminism, with its doctrines of internal light, of Dejamiento, or abandonment to impulses assumed to come from God, and of the impeccability of the advanced adept, combined with the test of continence. Unquestionably there were cases in which these aberrations were honestly entertained; there were numerous others in which they were assumed for purposes of seduction, nor can we always, from the evidence before us, pronounce a confident judgement.

Of the trials which have seen the light several centre around the curious personality of Francisca Hernández, who succeeded Isabel de la Cruz as the leader of the mystic disciples. She seems to have possessed powers of fascination, collecting around her devotees of the most diverse character. We have seen how she entangled Bernardino de Tovar and how his brother, Juan de Vergara, became involved with the Inquisition, after detaching him from her. Francisco de Osuna, the earliest Spanish writer on mysticism and the teacher of Santa Teresa, was one of her disciples and so was Francisco Ortiz, a Franciscan of the utmost purity of heart. A devotee of a different stamp was Antonio de Medrano, cura of Navarrete, who had made her acquaintance in 1516 when a student at Salamanca. She was attractive and penniless but, through a long career, she always managed to live in comfort at the expense of her admirers. Though she claimed to be a bride of Christ, she practised no austerities; she was fastidious in her diet and slept in a soft bed, which she had no scruple in sharing with her male devotees. This required funds and she and Medrano persuaded an unlucky youth named Calero to sell his patrimony{10} and devote the proceeds to support the circle of Alumbrados whom she gathered around her. The episcopal authorities commenced investigations, ending with a sentence of banishment on Medrano, when the pair betook themselves to Valladolid, whither Tovar followed them, and where the Inquisition commenced proceedings in 1519; it was as yet not aroused to dealing harshly with these eccentric forms of devotion, and it merely forbade him and Tovar from further converse with Francisca; this they eluded, the tribunal insisted and Medrano went to his cure at Navarrete. She was kept under surveillance, but her reputation for holiness was such that Cardinal Adrian, after his election to the papacy, in 1522, ordered his secretary Carmona to ask her prayers for him and for the whole Church.


In 1525 the Inquisition again arrested her; she was accused of suspicious relations with men and, when discharged, was obliged to swear that she would permit no indecent familiarities. Meanwhile Medrano, at Navarrete continued his career as an Alumbrado, holding conversations with the Holy Ghost and declaring himself to be impeccable. In 1526 the Logroño tribunal arrested him and, after nearly eighteen months, he was discharged June 4, 1527, with the lenient sentence of abjuration de levi and such spiritual penance as might be assigned to him. This escape emboldened him to greater extravagance and to renewed devotion to Francisca, leading to another prosecution, in 1530, by the Toledo tribunal. There was evidence of highly indecent character as to their relations, but he stoutly denied it, asserting that he was so favored by God that all the evil women in the world and all the devils in hell could not move him to carnal sin—a grace which came to him after he knew Francisca; he could lie in bed with a woman without feeling desire and it gave him grace to do so with Francisca and to fondle and embrace her, which she enjoyed; he believed her to be free from both mortal and venial sin, and he held her to be a greater saint than any in heaven except Our Lady. Under torture, however, he confessed whatever was wanted—that when he told people that she could not sin, because she was illuminated by the Holy Ghost, it was to spread her reputation and gain money for them both; that he was jealous of all her other disciples, among whom he named Valderrama, Diego de Villareal, Muñoz, Cabrera, Gumiel, Ortiz and Sayavedra and his brother, showing that she had a numerous following. He admitted teaching that male and female devotees could embrace{11} each other naked, for it was not clothes but intention that counted. By this time the Inquisition was dealing harshly with these aberrations, and his sentence, April 21, 1532, excused him from relaxation as an incorrigible heretic because he was only a hypocritical swindler whose object was to raise money for a life of pleasure; he was to retract his propositions in an auto de fe, to abjure de vehementi and to be recluded for life in a monastery, with two years’ suspension from his sacerdotal functions, and was to hold no further communication with Francisca, under pain of impenitent relapse, but he was not deprived of his cure of Navarrete. In 1537 the Duke of Nájera interceded for his release, with what result the records fail to inform us.[30]

Francisca’s strange powers of fascination were manifested by the influence which she acquired over a man of infinitely higher character than Medrano. Fray Francisco Ortiz was the most promising member of the great Franciscan Order, who was rapidly acquiring the reputation of the foremost preacher in Spain. He was not fully a mystic, but his pulpit exhortations, stimulating the love of God, caused him to be regarded as wandering near to the dangerous border. In 1523 he made the acquaintance of Francisca and his feelings towards her are emphatically expressed in a defiant declaration to the Inquisition during his trial.—“No word of love, however strong, is by a hundredth part adequate to describe the holy love, so pure and sweet and strong and great and full of God’s blessing and melting of heart and soul, which God in his goodness has given me through His holy betrothed, my true Mother and Lady, through whom I hope, at the awful Day of Judgement, to be numbered among the elect. I can call her my love for, in loving her, I love nothing but God.” There can be no doubts as to the purity of his relations with her whom he thus reverenced, but they were displeasing to his superiors who viewed with growing disquiet the distraction of one whom they regarded as a valuable asset of the Order. It was in vain that he was ordered to break off all relations with her; he replied vehemently that God was to be obeyed rather than man and that if he was to be debarred from seeing that beloved one of God he would transfer himself to the Carthusians. To effect the separation the Franciscan prelates induced the Inquisition to arrest Francisca,{12} but the unexpected result of this was that Ortiz, in a sermon before all the assembled magnates of the city April 7, 1529, arraigned the Inquisition for the great sin committed in her arrest. Such revolt was unexampled and he was forthwith prosecuted, not so much to punish him as to procure his retractation and submission, but he was obstinate and defiant for nearly three years. It was in vain that the Empress Isabel twice, in 1530, urged his liberation or the expediting of his case, and equally vain was a brief of Clement VII, July 1, 1531, to Cardinal Manrique, asking his discharge if his only offence was his public denunciation of the arrest of that holy woman, Francisca Hernández.[31] At length, in April 1532, Ortiz experienced a revulsion of feeling, and the same emotional impulsiveness that had led to his outbreak now prompted him to declare that God had given him the grace to recognize his errors and that he found great peace in retracting them. He escaped with public abjuration de vehementi, five years’ suspension from priestly functions, two years’ confinement in a cell of the convent of Torrelaguna, and absolute sundering of relations with Francisca. He betook himself to his place of reclusion and, although papal briefs released him from all restrictions and his prelates repeatedly urged him to leave his retreat, he seems never to have abandoned the solitude which he said had become sweet to him. Until his death, in 1546, he remained in the convent, the object of overflowing honor on the part of his brethren.[32]


Francisca herself seems to have been treated with remarkable leniency, in spite of her previous trials and the evidence of Medrano. Her arrest had been merely with the object of separating her from Ortiz, and her trial seems to have been scarce more than formal for, in September 1532, we find her merely detained in the house of Gutierre Pérez de Montalvo, at Medina del Campo, with her maid María Ramírez in waiting on her.[33] Possibly this favor may have been earned by her readiness to accuse her old friends and associates, among whom were two brothers and a sister, Juan Cazalla, Bishop of Troy in partibus, Pedro Cazalla and María Cazalla, wife of Lope de Ruida.[34] The trial of the latter is worth{13} brief reference as it throws some light on the confusion existing at the time between Illuminism and Protestantism.

María Cazalla was a resident of Guadalajara who visited Pastrana, where women assembled to listen to her readings and expositions of Scripture. When proceedings were commenced against the group, in 1524, she was arrested and examined but was discharged. For six years she remained undisturbed, when the testimony of Francisca Hernández caused a second prosecution, in which the heterogeneous character of the fiscal’s accusation shows how little was understood as to the heresies under discussion. She was a Lutheran who praised Luther, denied transubstantiation and free-will, ridiculed confession, decried scholastic theology and held indulgences as valueless; she was an Alumbrada who regarded Isabel de la Cruz as superior to St. Paul, who rated matrimony higher than virginity, who wrote letters full of Illuminism and taught the Alumbrados their doctrines from Scripture, decrying external works of adoration and prayer; she was an Erasmist who pronounced Church observances to be Judaism, despised the religious Orders and ridiculed the preachers of sermons.[35] She had been arrested about May 1, 1532, and her trial dragged on as usual. As a solvent of doubts she was tortured smartly and, on December 19, 1534, her sentence pronounced that the fiscal had not proved her to be a heretic but that, for the suspicions arising from the trial, she should abjure de levi and undergo solemn public penance in her parish church, she should avoid all intercourse with Alumbrados or other suspects and pay a fine of a hundred ducats.[36]

An affiliated group comes before us in Toledo, centering around Petronila de Lucena, an unmarried woman of 25, living with her brother, Juan del Castillo. She had a high reputation for sanctity and was credited with thaumaturgic powers; when the Duke del Infantazgo was mortally ill, she was sent for, but too late. We hear of María Cazalla, Bernardino de Tovar and Francisca Hernández; there are allusions to Erasmus, and Diego Hernández had included her in his denunciations of Lutheranism. Letters to her from her brother, Gaspar de Lucena, are mere mystical maunderings, showing the atmosphere in which they lived, but the other brother, Juan del Castillo, then on trial, admitted many{14} Lutheran doctrines—works were not necessary, Church precepts were not binding, man had not free-will, indulgences were useless and a book by Œcolampadius had led him to disbelieve in transubstantiation. Both Juan and Gaspar were on trial, and we hear of another prisoner, Catalina de Figueredo. Petronila was arrested, with sequestration, May 7, 1534, and her trial pursued the ordinary course until March 20, 1535, when, as we have seen (Vol. III, p. 111), it was decided that, as the principal witness against her, Juan del Castillo, had revoked the evidence given under torture, she might be released on bail of a hundred thousand maravedís, which was promptly entered. In June she petitioned to be wholly discharged and that the sequestration be lifted; to this no attention was paid but a second application, October 20, 1536 procured the removal of the sequestration. Gaspar de Lucena was sentenced to reconciliation and this was presumably the fate of Juan del Castillo unless he was impenitent.[37]


These cases show that the prevalence of the mingled heresies of Illuminism and Lutheranism was calling for repression, nor was this confined to Castile. In 1533, Miguel Galba, fiscal of the tribunal of Lérida, in a letter to Cardinal Manrique, declared that only the vigilance of the Inquisition prevented both kingdoms from being filled with the followers of the two heresies.[38] There was of course exaggeration in this, but the fears of the authorities led them to see heresies everywhere. As Juan de Valdés, himself inclined to mysticism, says, when any one endeavored to manifest the perfection of Christianity, his utterances were misinterpreted and he was condemned as a heretic, so that there was scarce any one who dared to live as a Christian.[39] Many suffered from the results of this hyper-sensitiveness. When Ignatius Loyola, after his conversion, came in 1526 to Alcalá to study, he was joined by four young men; they assumed a peculiar gray gown and their fervor brought many to the Hôpital de la Misericordia, where they lodged, to consult with them and join in their spiritual exercises. This excited suspicion and invited investigation. What was the exact authority of Doctor Miguel Carrasco, confessor of Fonseca Archbishop of Toledo, and of Alonso Mexia, who bore a{15} commission as inquisitor, does not appear, but they examined witnesses and the sentence rendered by the Vicar-general, Juan Rodríguez de Figueroa, was merely that the associates should lay aside their distinctive garments. After this the number who went to listen to Loyola continued to increase, and the women had a fashion of falling in convulsions, there was nothing of illuminism in his exhortations, but he was open to suspicion, and it was inadmissible that a young layman should assume the function of a director of souls. This time it was Vicar-general Figueroa who took the matter in hand and threw Loyola into prison, in 1527, finally sentencing him and his companions not to appear in public until they had assumed the ordinary lay garments, nor for three years to hold assemblages public or private and then only with permission of the Ordinary.[40] It was this experience that drove Loyola to complete his studies in Paris, where he was not subject to the intrusion of excitable devotees.

Carranza offered a mark too vulnerable to be spared. He was inclined to mysticism, and there were many passages in his unfortunate Comentarios which, separated from their context, afforded material for reprehension. The keen-sighted Melchor Cano was able to cite isolated texts to prove that he held the alumbrado doctrines of impeccability, of interior illumination, of the supreme merits of contemplation, of despising all exterior works and observances—in short that he defended the errors of the Begghards and Beguines, of Pedro Rúiz Alcaraz and of the Alumbrados who figured in the autos of Toledo.[41] It is significant of the advanced position of Spanish orthodoxy on the subject of mysticism that these accusations had no weight with the Council of Trent, which approved the Comentarios, nor with Pius V, when he permitted the publication of the book in Rome. When, at last in 1576, Gregory XIII yielded and condemned the book and its author, of the sixteen propositions which he was required to abjure only three bore any relation to mysticism, and these were on the border line between it and Protestantism—that all works without charity are sins and offend God, that faith without works suffices for{16} salvation, and that the use of images and veneration of relics are of human precept.[42]


In this inquisitorial temper it was a matter of chance whether a devotional writer should be canonized or condemned and mayhap both might befall him, as occurred to San Francisco de Borja, whose Obras del Cristiano was put on the Index of 1559, though it disappeared after that of Quiroga in 1583.[43] Santa Teresa herself, the queen of Spanish mystics and, along with Santiago, the patron saint of Spain, was confined in a convent by the Nuncio Sega, who denounced her as a restless vagabond, plunged in dissipation under pretext of religion, and an effort was made to transport her to the Indies, which were a sort of penal settlement. But for the accident that Philip II became interested in her, she would probably have come down to us as one of the beatas revelanderas whom it was the special mission of the Inquisition to suppress. When, in 1575, she founded a convent of her Barefooted Carmelites in Seville, they were denounced as Alumbradas; the inquisitors created a terrible scandal by going to the house with the guards to investigate, but they could substantiate nothing to justify prosecution. So, when in 1574 her spiritual autobiography was denounced to the Inquisition, it was held for ten years in suspense, and the Duchess of Alva, who possessed a MS. copy, was obliged to procure a licence to read it in private until judgement should be rendered—although finally, in 1588, it was printed by Fray Luis de Leon at the special request of the empress. Even after canonization her Conceptos del Amor divino, when printed with the works of her disciple Jerónimo Gracian, were put on the Index and remained there.[44] Her most illustrious disciple, San Juan de{17} la Cruz, escaped prosecution, though repeatedly denounced to the Inquisition, and his writings were not forbidden, but he was most vindictively persecuted as an Alumbrado, first by his unreformed Carmelite brethren and then by the Barefooted Order, and he ended his days in disgrace, recluded in a convent in the Sierra Morena.[45] Yet Francisco de Osuna, the preceptor of Santa Teresa, although his writings are of the highest mysticism, escaped persecution himself, and his Abecedario Spiritual incurred only a single expurgation.[46]

The Venerable Luis de Granada was not canonized, for the proceedings were never completed. He was one of the most moderate of those who taught the supreme virtues ofrecojimiento and his Guia de Pecadores ranks as one of the Spanish classics, yet his works were prohibited in the Index of 1559.[47] Melchor Cano declared that his books contained doctrines of Alumbrados and matters contrary to the faith, while Fray Alonso de la Fuente, who was a vigorous persecutor of illuminism, endeavored to have him prosecuted and pronounced his De la Oracion the worst of the books which presented these errors so subtly that only the initiated could discover them. It illustrates the difference between Spanish and Roman standards, at this period, that his writings were translated and freely current in many languages and that, in 1582, Gregory XIII wrote to him eulogizing them in the most exuberant terms and urging him to continue his labors for the curing of the infirm, the strengthening of the weak, the comfort of the strong and the glory of both Churches, the militant and the triumphant. When he died, in 1588, it was in the odor of sanctity, and he subsequently appeared to a devotee arrayed in a cloak of glory, glittering with innumerable stars, which were the souls of those saved by his writings.[48]

Ignatius Loyola was inclined to mysticism, and the mental prayer which he taught—the Ejercicio de las tres Potencias or exercise of the memory, intellect and will—differed little from{18} the meditation which, with the mystics, was the prelude to contemplation.[49] Yet he was sceptical as to special graces vouchsafed to mystic ardor; such things were possible, he said, but they were very rare and the demon often thus deludes human vanity.[50] His disciples were less cautious and indulged in the extravagance of the more advanced school, producing many adepts gifted with the highest spiritual graces. Luis de la Puente, who died in 1624, at the age of 69 may be mentioned as an example, for in him the intensity of divine love was so strong that in his ecstasies he shone with a light that filled his cell; he would be elevated from the floor and the whole building would shake as though about to fall; during his sickness, which lasted for thirty years, angels were often seen ministering to him; he had the gift of prophecy and of reading the thoughts of his penitents and, when he died, his garments were torn to shreds and his hair cut off to be preserved as relics. He taught the heretical doctrine that prayer is a satisfaction for sin, while his views as to resignation to the will of God approach closely to the Quietism which we shall hereafter see condemned by the Holy See. Yet he escaped condemnation and his works have continued to the present time to be multiplied in innumerable editions and translations.[51]

It was probably the impossibility of differentiation between heresy and sanctity that explains the vacillation of the Inquisition. During the active proceedings of the Toledo tribunal, the Suprema, in 1530, issued general instructions that there should be appended to all edicts requiring denunciation of prohibited books a clause including mystics given to Illuminism and Quietism.[52] There seem to be no traces of any result from this and the whole matter appears to have ceased to attract attention for many years, until the animosity excited by the Jesuits led to an investigation of the results of their teachings. Melchor Cano, who hated them, denounced them as Alumbrados, such as the Devil has constantly thrust into the Church, and he foretold that they would complete what the Gnostics had commenced.[53]



The warning was unheeded and, some ten years later, another Dominican, Fray Alonso de la Fuente, was led to devote himself to a mortal struggle with Illuminism, and with the Society of Jesus as its source. In a long and rambling memorial addressed, in 1575, to Philip II, he relates that, in 1570, he chanced to visit his birth-place, la Fuente del Maestre, near Cuidad Rodrigo, and found there a Jesuit, Gaspar Sánchez, highly esteemed for holiness, but who was blamed for perpetually confessing certain beatas and granting daily communion. Sánchez appealed to him for support and he preached in his favor, which brought to him numerous beatas, whose revelations of their ecstasies and other spiritual experiences surprised him greatly. This led him to investigate, when he found that the practice of contemplation was widely spread, but its inner secrets were jealously guarded, until he persuaded a neice of his, a girl of 17, to reveal them. She said that her director ordered her to place herself in contemplation with the simple prayer, “Lord I am here, Lord you have me here!” when there would come such a flood of evil thoughts, of filthy imaginings, of carnal movements, of infidel conceptions, of blasphemies against God and the saints and the purity of the Mother of God, and against the whole faith, that the torment of them rendered her crazy, but she bore it with fortitude, as her director told her that this was a sign of perfection and of progress on the path.[54]

Thenceforth Fray Alonso devoted himself to the task of investigating and exterminating this dangerous heresy, but the work of investigation was complicated by the concealment of error under external piety. Before discovering a single false doctrine, we meet, he says, a thousand prayers and disciplines and communions and pious sighs and devotions. It is like sifting gold out of sand; to reach one heresy you must winnow away a thousand pious works. So it is everywhere in Spain where there are Jesuits and thus we see what great labor is required to overcome it, since there are not in the kingdom three inquisitors who understand it or have the energy and requisite zeal. Yet he penetrated far enough into it, after sundry prosecutions, to draw up a list of thirty-nine errors, some of which, like those ascribed to witchcraft, suggest the influence of the torture-chamber in extracting{20} confessions satisfactory to the prosecutor. Not only are the adepts guilty of all the heresies of the Begghards, condemned in the Clementines, and of teaching that mental prayer is the sole thing requisite to salvation, but the teachers are great sorcerers and magicians, who have pact with the demon, and thus they make themselves masters of men and women, their persons and property, as though they were slaves. They train many saints, who feel in themselves the Holy Ghost, who see the Divine Essence and learn the secrets of heaven; who have visions and revelations and a knowledge of Scripture, and all this is accomplished by means of the demon, and by magic arts. By magic, they gain possession of women, whom they teach that it is no sin, and sometimes the demon comes disguised as Christ and has commerce with the women.

If Fray Alonso found it difficult to inspire belief in these horrors, it is easily explicable by his account of the origin of the sect in Extremadura, the region to which his labors were devoted. When Cristóbal de Rojas was Bishop of Badajoz (1556-1562) there came there Padre González, a Jesuit of high standing, who introduced the use of Loyola’s Exercicios; there were already there two priests, Hernando Alvarez and the Licentiate Zapata, who were familiar with it, and the practice spread rapidly, under the favor of the bishop and his provisor Meléndez, and none who did not use it could be ordained, or obtain licence to preach and hear confessions, for the bishop placed all this in the hands of Alvarez; and when he was translated to Córdova (1562-1571) and subsequently to Seville (1571-1580) he continued to favor the Alumbrados. He was succeeded in Badajoz (1562-1568) by Juan de Ribera, subsequently Archbishop of Valencia, who was at first adverse to the Alumbrados, but they won him over, and he became as favorable to them as Rojas had been, especially to the women, whose trances and stigmata he investigated and approved and rewarded. If any preacher preached against Illuminism, Ribera banished him and, under this protection, the sect multiplied throughout Extremadura. It is true that Bishop Simancas, who succeeded Ribera (1569-1579) was not so favorable, and his provisor, Picado, at one time prosecuted a number of Alumbrados, who took refuge in Seville under Rojas, among whom was Hernando Alvarez, but the Llerena tribunal took no part in this and the great body of the sect was undisturbed.


It is easy to conceive, therefore, the obstacles confronting Fray{21} Alonso, when he commenced his crusade in 1570. He relates at much length his labors, against great opposition, especially of the Jesuits, and he found no little difficulty in arousing the Llerena inquisitors to action, for they said that it was a new matter and obscure, which required instructions from the Suprema. It is true that, in February 1572, they lent him some support and made a few arrests, but nothing seems to have come of it. He wished to go to Madrid and lay the matter before the Suprema, but his superiors, who apparently disapproved of his zeal, sent him, in October 1572, to Avila, to purchase lumber, and then to Usagre, to preach the Lenten sermons of 1573. After this his prior despatched him to Arenas about the lumber, and it was a providence of God that this business necessitated action by the Council of Military Orders, so that he had an excuse for visiting Madrid. There he sought Rodrigo de Castro—the captor of Carranza—to whom he complained of the negligence and indifference of the Llerena inquisitors, and gave a memorial reciting the errors of the Alumbrados. This resulted in the Suprema sending for the papers, on seeing which it ordered the arrest of the most guilty, when Hernando Alvarez, Francisco Zamora and Gaspar Sánchez were seized in Seville, where they had taken refuge. This produced only a momentary effect in Extremadura, where the Alumbrados comforted themselves with the assurance that their leaders would be dismissed with honor.

It had been proposed to remove the tribunal from Llerena to Plasencia, where houses had been bought for it, but, early in 1574, Fray Alonso remonstrated with the inquisitor-general, pointing out that the land was full of Alumbrados, many of them powerful, and what preaching had been done against them, under the protection of the Inquisition, would be silenced if it was removed. This brought a summons and in May he appeared before the Suprema, where his revelations astonished the members and they asked his advice. He urged a visitation of the district, to be made by the fiscal Montoya, who had studied the matter and understood it, while the inquisitors did not comprehend the subtile mysteries and distinctions involved. It was so ordered, and Montoya commenced his visitation at Zafra, where, on July 25th he published the Edict of Faith, and a special one against Illuminism and Quietism. At first he was much disconcerted in finding among the Alumbrados nothing but fasts and disciplines, prayers, contemplation, hair-shirts, confessions and communions or, if traces{22} appeared of evil doctrines, so commingled with the words of God and the sacraments that evil was concealed in good. Fray Alonso however encouraged him to investigate the lives and conversation of those who enjoyed trances and visions and the stigmata, when it became evident that all was magic art, the work of Satan and of hell. For four months Montoya gathered information and sent the papers to the Suprema, which ordered the arrest with sequestration of five persons, four of the adepts and a female disciple. Towards the close of December he returned to Llerena, to resume the visitation in March, 1575. During the interval Fray Alonso was summoned to Madrid, where he was ordered to accompany Montoya, and the inquisitors were instructed to pay him a salary; this at first they refused to do and then assigned him four reales a day for each day on which he should preach, but the Suprema intervened with an order on the receiver to pay him a certain sum that would enable him to perform the duty. The visitation lasted from March till the beginning of November, and comprised sixteen places, in which Fray Alonso tells us that there were found great errors and sins. Unfortunately he omits to inform us what were the practical results or what was done with the culprits arrested the previous year, and he concludes his memorial by assuring us that the Jesuits and the Alumbrados are alike in doctrine and are the same, which is so certain that to doubt it would be great sin and offence to God.


Fray Alonso might safely thus attack the children of Loyola in Spain, but he made a fatal error when his zeal induced him to carry the war into Portugal. In the following year, 1576, he addressed memorials to the Portuguese ecclesiastical authorities, ascribing to the Jesuits all the Illuminism that afflicted Spain; they taught, he said, that their contemplation of the Passion of Christ was rewarded with the highest spiritual gifts, including impeccability, with the corollary that carnal indulgence was no sin in the Illuminated, while in reality their visions and revelations were the work of demons, whom they controlled by their skill in sorcery. The Jesuits, however, by this time were a dominant power in Portugal; Cardinal Henry, the inquisitor-general, transmitted the memorials to the Spanish Inquisition, with a request for the condign punishment of the audacious fraile. It was no more than he had openly preached and repeatedly urged on the Suprema, but the time was fast approaching for the absorption of Portugal under the Castilian crown, and Cardinal Henry{23} was to be propitiated. Fray Alonso was forced to retract, and was recluded in a convent, but this did not satisfy the Cardinal, who asked for his extradition, or that the matter be submitted to the Holy See, when the opportune death of the fraile put a happy end to the matter.[55]

Yet, in Spain, Fray Alonso exerted a decisive influence on the relations of the Inquisition to mysticism and, before this unlucky outburst of zeal, he had the satisfaction of seeing the indifference of the Llerena tribunal excited to active work. In 1576, while preaching in that city, he said that he had heard of persons who, under an exterior of special sanctity, gave free rein to their appetites. On this, an imprudent devotee, named Mari Sanz, interrupted him, exclaiming “Padre, the lives of these people are better and their faith sounder than your own” and, when he reproved her, she declared that the Holy Spirit had moved her. This was a dangerous admission; she was arrested, and her confessions led to the seizure of so many accomplices that the tribunal was obliged to ask for assistance. An experienced inquisitor, Francisco de Soto, Bishop of Salamanca, was sent, who vigorously pushed the trials until he died, January 29, 1578, poisoned, as it was currently reported, by his physician, who was long detained in prison under the accusation. How little the sectaries imagined themselves to have erred is seen in the fact that one of them, a shoemaker named Juan Bernal, obeyed a revelation which directed him to appeal to Philip II, to tell him of the injustice perpetrated at Llerena and to ask him why he did not intervene and evoke the matter to himself—hardihood which earned for him six years of galley-service and two hundred lashes.

The evidence elicited in the trials showed the errors ordinarily attributed to Illuminism, including trances and revelations and sexual abominations unfit for transcription. After three years spent in this work, an auto was held, June 14, 1579, in which, among other offenders, there appeared fifteen Alumbrados—ten men and five women. Of the men, all but the unlucky shoemaker were priests, and among them we recognize Hernando Alvarez, against whom there appeared no less than a hundred and forty-six witnesses. Many were curas of various towns and naturally the illicit relations were principally between confessors and their spiritual daughters. From a doctrinal standpoint, their{24} offence seems not to have been regarded as serious, for none of them were degraded, and the abjurations were for light suspicion, but this leniency was accompanied by deprivation of functions, galley-service, reclusion and similar penalties, while the fines inflicted amounted to fifteen hundred ducats and eight thousand maravedís. The unfortunate Mari Sanz, who had caused the explosion, expiated her imprudence by appearing with a gag and a sentence to perpetual prison, two hundred lashes in Llerena and two hundred more at la Fuente del Maestre, her place of residence.[56] From the number of those inculpated it may be assumed that this auto did not empty the prisons, and that it was followed by others, but if so, we have no record of them. The impression produced by the affair was wide and profound. Páramo, writing towards the end of the century, speaks of it as one in which the vigilance of the Inquisition preserved Spain from serious peril.[57]


In fact, it marks a turning-point in the relations of the Inquisition to Spanish mysticism, of which the persecution became one of its regular and recognized duties. Even before the auto of 1579, the Suprema, in a carta acordada of January 4, 1578, ordered the tribunals to add to the Edict of Faith a section in which the errors developed in the trials were enumerated. These consisted in asserting that mental prayer is of divine precept and that it fulfils everything, while vocal prayer is of trivial importance; that the servants of God are not required to labor; that the orders of superiors are to be disregarded, when conflicting with the hours devoted to mental prayer and contemplation; decrying the sacrament of matrimony; asserting that the perfect have no need of performing virtuous actions; advising persons not to marry or to enter religious Orders; saying that the servants of God are to shine in secular life; obtaining promises of obedience and enforcing it in every detail; holding that, after reaching a certain degree of{25} perfection, they cannot look upon holy images or listen to sermons, and teaching these errors under pledge of secrecy.[58]

It is noteworthy that here there is no allusion to ecstasies or trances or to sexual aberrations, as in subsequent edicts, although Páramo, some twenty years later, in his frequent allusions to the Alumbrados, dwells especially on the latter and on the dangers to which they led in the confessional.[59] That this danger was not imaginary is indicated by the case of Fray Juan de la Cruz, a discalced Franciscan, so convinced of the truth of alumbrado doctrine that, in 1605, he presented himself to the Toledo tribunal with a memorial in which he argued that indecent practices between spiritual persons were purifying and elevating to the soul, and resulting in the greatest spiritual benefit when unaccompanied with desire to sin. He was promptly placed on trial and six witnesses testified to his teaching of this doctrine. Ordinary seduction in the confessional, as will be seen hereafter, when the culprit admitted it to be a sin, was treated with comparative leniency, but doctrinal error was far more serious, and the unlucky fraile, who maintained throughout the trial the truth of his theories, was visited with much greater severity. Humiliations and disabilities were heaped upon him; he received a circular scourging in a convent of his order and a monthly discipline for a year, with six years of reclusion.[60]

Simple mysticism, however, even without the advanced doctrines of Illuminism and Quietism, was becoming to the Inquisition an object of pronounced hostility. The land was being filled with beatas revelanderas; mystic fervor was spreading and threatening to become a part of the national religion, stimulated doubtless by the increasing cult paid to its prominent exemplars, for Santa Teresa was beatified in 1614 and canonized in 1622, while San Pedro de Alcántara was beatified in the latter year. Apart from all moral questions, the mystic might at any moment assert independence; his theory was destructive to the intervention of the priest between man and God, and Illuminism was only a{26} development of mysticism. The Inquisition was not wholly consistent, but its determination to stem the current which was setting so strongly was emphatically expressed in the trial of Padre Gerónimo de la Madre de Dios by the Toledo tribunal in 1616.

The padre was a secular priest, the son of Don Sánchez de Molina, who for forty-eight years had been corregidor of Malagon. He had entered the Dominican Order, had led an irregular life and apparently had been expelled but, in 1610, had been converted from his evil ways by a vision and, in 1613, obeying a voice from God, he had come to Madrid and taken service in a little hospital attached to the parish church of San Martin. His sermons speedily attracted crowds, including the noblest ladies of the court; his fervent devotion, the austerity of his life, the rigor of his mortifications and the self-denial of his charities won for him the reputation of a saint, which was enhanced by the trances into which he habitually fell when celebrating mass, and popular credulity credited him with elevation from the ground. There is absolutely no evidence that in this there was hypocrisy or imposture, and the most searching investigation failed to discover any imputation on his virtue. All that he received he gave to the poor, even to clothes from his back, and his sequestrated property consisted solely of pious books, rosaries and objects of devotion. He speedily gathered around him disciples, prominent among whom was Fray Bartolomé de Alcalá, vicar of the Geronimite convent; the number of their penitents, all espirituales was large, and these usually partook of the sacrament daily or oftener; many of them had revelations and were consulted by the pious as being in direct relations with God, from whom they received answers to petitions.


In all this there was nothing beyond the manifestations of devotional fervor customary to Spanish piety, but an accusation was brought against Padre Gerónimo, September 20, 1615, for teaching that the soul could reach a state of perfection in which it would be an act of imperfection to ask God for anything. This, which was one of the refinements of mysticism, was subsequently proved by the calificadores to be subversive of existing observances, because the saints in heaven were in a state of perfection and, if they could ask nothing of God, what would become of their suffrage and intercession and what would be the use of the cult and oblations offered to them? Still, at the time, the tribunal took no action beyond examining a few witnesses, and Gerónimo would probably{27} not have been disturbed in his useful career had he not written a book. In his mystic zeal he imagined himself inspired in the composition of a work entitled El Discipulo espiritual que trata de oracion mental y de espiritu, which he submitted to several learned theologians, whose emendations he adopted. This had considerable currency in MS.; a demand arose for its printing, and he laid it before the Royal Council for a licence, when he was informed that the approbation of the episcopal provisor of Toledo was a condition precedent. After sending it to that official and receiving no answer for six months, he submitted a copy to the Suprema, October 20, 1615, explaining what he had done and asking for its examination; if there was in it anything contrary to the faith, he desired its correction, for he wished the work to be unimpeachably orthodox and would die a thousand deaths in defence of the true religion.

He waited some seven months and, on May 17, 1616, he ventured an inquiry of the Suprema, but a month earlier three calificadores had reported on it unfavorably, the Suprema had ordered the Toledo tribunal to act and, on May 28th, the warrant for his arrest with sequestration was issued. A mass of papers, MS. sermons, tracts and miscellaneous accumulations were distributed among fifteen calificadores, who, as scholastic theologians, were not propitiated by his contempt for schoolmen. They performed their task with avidity and accumulated an imposing array of a hundred and eighty-six erroneous propositions—many of them the veriest trifles, significant only of their temper, but, after all his explanations, there was a formidable residuum of twenty-five qualified as heretical, twenty-nine as erroneous, three as sacrilegious, and numerous others as scandalous, rash and savoring of heresy.

Despite the piteous supplications of his aged father, his trial lasted until September, 1618—some twenty-seven months of incarceration, during which his health suffered severely. Throughout it all he never varied from his attitude of abject submission; kneeling and weeping he begged for penance and punishment, as he would rather be plunged in hell than commit a sin or give utterance to aught offensive to pious ears. This availed him little. He was sentenced to appear in the auto of September 2, 1618, as a penitent, to abjure de vehementi and to retract publicly a list of sixty-one errors. He was forbidden for life to preach or to hear confessions, or to write on religious subjects; he was recluded for{28} a year in a designated convent and for five more was banished from Madrid and Toledo, and a public edict commanded the surrender of all his writings. Thus he was not only publicly proclaimed a heretic, but his career was blasted, he was virtually deprived of the means of subsistence, yet his first act on reaching his place of confinement was to write humbly thanking the inquisitors for their kindness. Seven months later he appealed to them, saying that he was sick and enfeebled, he had been bled four times and he begged for the love of God that he might be spared the rest of his reclusion and be allowed to comfort his aged father. To this no attention was paid and we hear nothing more of him.


For us the interest of the case lies not so much in the cruelty with which the bruised reed was broken, as in the revelation of the silent revolution in the Spanish Church with regard to mysticism. In the sixty-one condemned propositions there were one or two properly liable to censure, the most dangerous being that ascribed to the Begghards—that the perfected soul enjoys the spirit of liberty, going at will without laws or rules, and that in this state God gives it the power of working miracles. Another which asserted that devotion to images, rosaries, blessed beads etc. was an error so great that souls so employed could have no hope of salvation was scarce more than an exaggeration of the precepts of Francisco de Osuna and Juan de la Cruz. For the most part, the condemned propositions were merely the common-places of the great mystics of the sixteenth century—that the perfected soul enjoys absolute peace, for the appetites and passions are at rest and the flesh in no way contradicts the spirit—that trances are the highest of God’s gifts—that the supreme grade of contemplation becomes habitual, and that the soul at will can thus enter God’s presence—that, in the trance, God can be seen—that the perfected soul should ask only that God’s will be done. Other condemnations were directed against the claims of inspiration and revelation, against the suspension of the faculties in mental prayer, against the Union with God which had been the aim of all the mystics. In short, it was a condemnation of the doctrines and practices which, for centuries, had been recognized by the Church as manifestations of the utmost holiness. Had Francisco de Osuna, Luis de Granada, San Pedro de Alcántara, Santa Teresa, San Juan de la Cruz and their disciples been judged by the same standard, they would have shared the fate of Padre Gerónimo unless, indeed,{29} their convictions had led them to refuse submission, in which case they would have been burnt.[61] This was shown at Valladolid when, in 1620, Juan de Gabana, priest of San Martin de Valverri and Gerónima González, a widow, were prosecuted for mysticism. He died in prison, pertinacious to the last and was duly burnt in effigy, in 1622. She was less firm and was voted to reconciliation, but the Suprema ordered her to be tortured; this she escaped by dying, and her effigy was reconciled.[62]

Yet the mystic cult was too firmly planted in the religious habits of Spain to be readily eradicated, nor was the Inquisition prepared to be wholly consistent. While Padre Gerónimo was thus harshly treated for unpublished writings, the Minim Fray Fernando de Caldera was allowed undisturbed to publish, in 1623, his Mística Teología, perhaps the craziest of the mystic treatises. It is cast in the form of instructions uttered by Christ, in the first person, and teaches Illuminism and Quietism of the most exalted kind. The intellect is to be suspended and the will abandoned to God, who does with it as he pleases, infusing it with divine light and admitting it to a knowledge of the divine mysteries. Lubricious temptations, if they come from the flesh are to be overcome with austerities; if from pride, with humility; if they are passive, they are to be met with patience and resignation, for God who sends them will remove them at his own time and with great benefit to the soul.[63] No teaching more dangerous is to be found in Molinos but, although a translation of the work appeared in Rome in 1658, it escaped condemnation both there and in Spain.

During this time there was a storm gathering in Seville which enabled the Inquisition to impress its definite policy on the mystically inclined. We have seen how mysticism flourished there under the patronage of Archbishop Rojas, and the persecution in Extremadura seems not to have extended to Andalusia, so that it continued unrepressed. While Padre Gerónimo was awaiting his doom in Toledo, a much more extravagant performer was enjoying the cult of the devout in Seville. A priest named Fernando Méndez had a special reputation for sanctity; when celebrating mass he fell into trances and uttered terrible roars; he taught his disciples to invoke his intercession, as though he were already a saint in heaven; fragments of his garments were treasured{30} as relics; he gathered a congregation of beatas and, after mass in his oratory, they would strip off their garments and dance with indecent vigor—drunk with the love of God—and, on some of his female penitents, he would impose the penance of lifting their skirts and exposing themselves before him. His disciples were not drawn merely from the lower classes, for we are told that as many as thirty coaches could be counted of a morning around the gate of the Franciscan convent to which he had retired.[64]


This hysteric contagion spread through Seville, affecting a considerable portion of the population. There was no concealment and evidently no thought that it involved suspicion of heresy, or that it departed in any way from orthodoxy. A special group of mystics, known as la Granata, under successive spiritual directors, had long held their meetings in the chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Granada, without exciting animadversion or calling for interference from the Inquisition.[65] When, however, the imperious Pacheco, in 1622, assumed the office of inquisitor-general, he speedily ordered the Seville tribunal to investigate and report as to the mystic extravagances current in the city, and there could have been no difficulty in collecting ample material for condemnation according to the new standard. This resulted in the publication of a special Edict of Grace, May 9, 1523, granting the customary thirty days in which those feeling themselves inculpated could denounce themselves and their accomplices and be admitted to absolution with salutary penance and without confiscation or disabilities affecting their descendants. That all might understand what these new heresies were, the edict embodied a list of seventy-six errors ascribed to the Alumbrados, which marks the advance made since 1578 in suppressing mysticism in general and in attributing to it additional evil practices. There was a fuller condemnation of the beliefs common to all mystics, which had so often earned canonization—that their trembling or burning or fainting was a sign of grace and of the influence of the Holy Spirit—that a stage of perfection could be reached in which they could see the Divine Essence and the mysteries of the Trinity and that, in this state, grace drowned all the faculties—that they were governed directly by the Holy Spirit in what they did or left undone—that in contemplation they dismissed{31} all thought and concentrated themselves in the presence of God—that, in the state of Union with God, the will is subordinated—that in trances God is clearly seen in his glory—that mental prayer renders other works superfluous—that other duties, both religious and worldly, can be neglected to devote oneself wholly to this supreme devotion.

Besides these, there was an enumeration of the errors commonly attributed to the Alumbrados with more or less justice—impeccability—the elevation of mental prayer to the dignity of a sacrament—communion with more than one wafer—promiscuous intercourse among the elect—indecent actions in the confessional regarded as meritorious—teaching wives to refuse cohabitation—forcing girls to take vows of chastity or to become nuns—requiring vows of absolute obedience to the spiritual director—breathing on the mouths of female penitents to communicate to them the love of God—violation of the seal of the confessional—that the perfected have power of absolution even in reserved cases—that those who follow this doctrine will escape purgatory and that many who refused to do so have returned to beg release, when they give them an Evangelio and see them fly to heaven. One article would indicate that among the devotees, as was usually the case, there was at least one who boasted of bearing the stigmata, of conversing with God and of living solely upon the sacrament, while a clause requiring the surrender of all statutes and instructions for their congregations and assemblies shows that they were organized into more or less formal associations.[66]

The audacious assumption of power in this pronouncement was forcibly pointed out by Juan Dionisio Portocarrero, in an opinion furnished to the Archbishop Pedro de Castro y Quiñones. There was gross disrespect shown to him, who had been kept in ignorance, though it was known that an edict was in preparation, of which the nature was sedulously concealed until it was suddenly published in all the churches. Inquisitors could not decide cases without the participation of the Ordinary, while here the cases were tried and the parties admitted to reconciliation, without calling in the episcopal authority. Similar usurpation was manifested{32} in the definition of heresies, which was the attribute of the Holy See and of general councils, not of the Inquisition. No general council could do more than the inquisitor-general had done in defining the seventy-six errors, and to say that these errors were widely disseminated in Seville, not without fault of those permitting it, and to do so without calling upon the archbishop to explain the condition of his flock, was to condemn him without a hearing. These seventy-six propositions were all styled matters of faith, although many of them were rather matters of discipline, pertaining to the Ordinary, yet all were reserved to the Inquisition. Moreover, the inquisitor-general was not competent to decide the disputed question whether the power assured to bishops to absolve for secret heresy was annulled by the bull in Cœna Domini. Then Portocarrero proceeded to examine one by one a considerable portion of the condemned propositions and showed that some of them expressed the accepted teaching of the Church, while many were not cognizable by the Inquisition, because they had nothing to do with faith, and others again he omitted as being unintelligible. He urged the archbishop to vindicate his jurisdiction quietly, without causing scandal, and that the edict be examined and qualified by learned men, not Dominicans, for it had originated with them—the truth being that the inculpated mystics were mostly under the direction of Franciscans and Jesuits and that, in the bitter hatred between the Orders, the Dominicans had stirred up the matter to strike a blow at their rivals.[67]


The poor old archbishop, who died in December of the same year, of course did nothing. The edict was published on June 4th and again on the 11th, when the most pious circles in Seville suddenly found themselves arraigned for heresy. Mysticism had become fashionable, especially among the women, from the noblest to the lower classes, and they rushed at once to obtain the pardon promised within the thirty days. A Seville letter of June 15th says that an inquisitor with a secretary established himself in San Pablo (the Dominican church used in autos de fe), eating and sleeping there, and on duty from 5 A.M. until 10 P.M., with an hour’s intermission for meals, but that he could not attend to a twentieth part of the applicants, and that another thirty days{33} would have to be granted. In this there is doubtless exaggeration, but another authority states the number of those inculpated at 695.[68] There had of course been no intentional heresy and there were no pertinacious heretics, although among them were impostors who had traded upon popular credulity and love for the marvellous. Still, an auto de fe was necessary to confirm the impression and it was held on November 30, 1624, in which eleven Alumbrados appeared, but eight of them were confessed impostors. Of the remaining three, one was the Padre Fernando Méndez, who in dying had distributed his garments and his virtues among his disciples; no special punishment was decreed against his memory, but his effigy was displayed in the auto, his revelations, trances, visions and prophecies were declared to be fictitious, and his disciples were required to surrender the articles which they had treasured as relics. Another was a mulatto slave named Antonio de la Cruz, who had united to his mysticism some unauthorized speculations respecting the power of Satan; he escaped with abjuration de levi and deprivation of the sacrament except at Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. The third was Francisco del Castillo, a priest whose trances were so frequent and uncontrollable that they would seize him in the act of eating; he was at the head of a congregation, the members of which he boasted were all saved, and through which the Church was to be reformed, he being possessed of the spirit of Jesus Christ and his disciples of that of the Apostles—all of which had not prevented him from maintaining improper relations with his female penitents. He was sentenced only to abjuration de levi, perpetual deprivation of confessing and reclusion for four years in a convent, with exile from Seville—the usual penalty, as we shall see, for solicitation ad turpia in the confessional—with warning of severer punishment if he did not abandon his visions and revelations.[69]

Evidently the object of the Edict had been to warn rather than to punish; but few examples were deemed necessary, and in these the mildness of the penalties indicates a recognition of the fact that these so-called heresies had not previously been regarded as culpable. It sufficed to set an impressive stamp of reprobation on mysticism without unnecessary severity.

Seville, however, was not yet cleansed of the infection. At an auto held some two years later, on February 28, 1627, there were{34} two conspicuous mystics, Maestre Juan de Villalpando, a priest in charge of one of the city parishes, and Madre Catalina de Jesus, a Carmelite beata. Notwithstanding the Edict of 1623, Villalpando had maintained a congregation of both sexes, who obeyed him implicitly in all things, temporal and spiritual. No less than two hundred and seventy-five erroneous propositions were charged against him, and he was required to retract twenty-two articles. He was deprived of his priestly functions, recluded for four years in a convent and confined subsequently to the city of Seville, with a fine of two hundred ducats. Madre Catalina, for thirty-eight years, had been sick with the love of God, and her continued existence was regarded as a miracle by her numerous disciples, who treasured as relics whatever had touched her person. She was accused of improper relations with a priest—probably Villalpando—who reverenced her as his guide and teacher, and she was a dogmatizer, for her writings, both MS. and printed, were required to be surrendered. On the testimony of a hundred and forty-eight witnesses, she was sentenced to reclusion for six years in a hospital, where she was to earn her support by labor.[70]

This shows increasing severity, and a still more deterrent example was furnished, in 1630, by an auto in which eight Alumbrados, as we are told, were burned alive and six in effigy. There were also sixty reconciliations, of which some were doubtless for the same heresy.[71] We have no further details of this auto, save that Bernino characterizes the victims as obstinate; possibly they may have been relapsed but, as we have seen, the abjurations had been for light suspicion, which did not entail relaxation for relapse. Be this as it may, the affair would indicate that Illuminism was now regarded as formal heresy, not as merely inferring suspicion, and that pertinacity incurred the stake.


Obstinacy, in fact, converts into formal heresy what may be otherwise regarded as light suspicion, as it infers disobedience to the decisions of the Church. This is seen in an interesting review of the whole subject by an inquisitor about 1640. He describes the evidence customarily brought against alumbrado confessors and preachers, of teaching sensuality under cover of mortification. Some hold that indecent handling and sleeping with a woman{35} are meritorious as trampling on the devil and overcoming temptation; so it is with making the penitent strip and stand against a wall with arms outstretched, and other details that may well be spared. There is also teaching that obedience is better than the sacrament and that it excuses what would otherwise be evil, or that God has revealed to them that such things are not sin, or that interior impulses are to be followed in doing or not doing anything. Such persons, he tells us are confined in the secret prison, without sequestration, although, if there is suspicion of heresy, there is sequestration. If, as usually occurs, they confess to these teachings, extenuating them as the result of thoughtlessness or ignorance without errors of belief, and if they are priests or frailes, the sentence is read in the audience-chamber and the punishment is the same as for solicitation in the confessional—that is to say, reclusion in a monastery for a term of years and deprivation of the faculty of confessing. But, if this evil doctrine has caused much injury, as at Llerena, they appear in a public auto with some years of galley-service and, if they are priests owning property, they are fined at discretion.

If there should be obstinacy and rejection of the arguments of the theologians deputed to reason with them, there is postponement for some months to allow time for conversion, as happened in Logroño with a certain priest, and in Valladolid with a fraile. The priest taught his female penitents that there was no sin in kisses and in indecent handling and in sleeping with a woman so long as the final act was omitted. He revoked repeatedly and varied between submission and persistence, but was convinced at last and appeared in a public auto, abjured de vehementi, was verbally degraded with five years of galleys and ten more of exile, besides perpetual deprivation of confessing. If the culprit is impervious to argument and will not abandon errors of belief, he must be treated as a heretic and be relaxed even if he denies intention. There was one who abjured de vehementi and relapsed. It was alleged by his Order that he was insane, for he was a person of high repute for virtue and learning; he was given secret penance, but so severe that he was never heard of again.[72]

From this statement it would appear that the extreme position assumed by Pacheco had not been maintained and that simple mysticism was tolerated unless it was complicated with the{36} follies of Illuminism, especially as concerned the relations between the sexes. The policy of the Inquisition, in fact, was by no means uniform; for a time many harmless mystics were allowed to enjoy in peace the veneration of their disciples while, if there was scandal or imposture or some ulterior motive, prosecution was easy. One such case was that of Fray Francisco García Calderon whom we have seen (Vol. II, p. 135) concerned with the case of the nuns of San Placido and the Marquis of Villanueva, in 1630. A contemporary was Doña Luisa de Colmenares, popularly known as Madre Luisa de Carrion, a nun of the convent of Santa Clara, at Carrion de los Condes, who, at the age of seventy, had passed fifty-three years in a cloister. She was not strictly an Alumbrado but a mystic of the type of Santa Teresa, and her case is instructive as showing how general was the belief attributing supernatural powers to beings favored by God, how profitably this belief could be exploited by shrewd management, and how effectively the Inquisition could intervene, in the face of the most intense popular opposition. There is no reason to suppose that Madre Luisa was consciously an impostor; she was merely an ignorant old woman, hypnotically habituated to trances and visions like so many others, and the Franciscan Order, to which she belonged, saw in her a speculative value of which they made the most. Philip IV venerated her and popes were her correspondents; there was an immense demand for objects sanctified by her—crosses, beads, images of the Christ-child and similar trifles—the sales of which brought in large profits and, between these and the offerings of pilgrims, the Order was said to have realized two hundred thousand crowns and to look forward to much more if it could secure her canonization after death.


Suddenly, in 1635, the Inquisition undertook to investigate her. There had been nothing exceptional in her career, except its success and, under Franciscan management she had been mostly kept clear of the errors condemned in Pacheco’s edict. The motive for action is obscure, and the most probable suggestion is that the opponents of Count-Duke Olivares had sought, after the fashion of the time, to make use, for political ends, of the boundless popular veneration of which she was the object. Yet there was significant caution in the preliminaries. Juan Santos, senior Inquisitor of Valladolid, was ordered to examine her, when he pretended a visit to the Bishop of Palencia and on the road stopped for a fortnight at Carrion. It was not difficult to involve an untutored{37} nun in erroneous theological speculations, and a warrant for her arrest followed; she was placed in a carriage with a female relative of one of the inquisitors, when her journey to Valladolid was a triumphal procession. A pillar of light, changing into a cross, was seen in the sky; everywhere the population gathered in mass, and the precaution of entering Valladolid at night was unavailing, for the crowds were so great that she was with difficulty carried in safety, through the surging mob striving to gather some fragment of her dress as a talisman. She was housed in the Augustinian convent, where she was the object of veneration to the nuns, who declared her destined to be the most powerful saint in the annals of the Church; but it was observed that she no longer had ecstasies, although at Carrion they had been of daily occurrence and were celebrated by sounding the organ, when everyone rushed to see them.

The Franciscans officially undertook her defence; the population of Valladolid, with the bishop at their head, were so demonstrative in her favor that the tribunal hesitated, and the Suprema had to send a special commissioner, who was no other than our old acquaintance Juan Dionisio Portocarrero, soon afterwards rewarded with the bishopric of Guadix. It was easy to make her convict herself of heresy, for she was foolish and ignorant, full of vain-glory, and merely a tool of the rapacious friars who had exploited her. Papers signed by her were in circulation in which she declared that she had seen the Divine Essence, that she was confirmed in grace, that at six years of age Christ had removed her heart of flesh and substituted his own, that he had given her an apple of paradise by which she would remain immortal until the Day of Judgement, when she would accompany Enoch and Elias in the war with Antichrist; that God sustained her without food, and much more that testifies to the incredible credulity of the people, and to the unscrupulous audacity of the friars. Under examination, she declared that she had seen the Divine Essence, but she proved herself wholly ignorant of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and uttered a thousand follies, including a revelation from God that all who possessed her crosses, beads, rosaries or other objects of devotion would be saved unconditionally and could rest secure of their predestination.

The fore-ordained condemnation was preceded by an edict of October 23, 1636, requiring the surrender of all letters, portraits, crosses, beads etc., which were so numerous that in a few days the{38} cura of the parish of San Miguel had a room full of them. The poor old crone was blind, toothless and exhausted with a life of hysteria; the shock of these experiences was too great for her feeble vitality, and she died in November. This was, of course, no impediment to her trial, and the tribunal was justly incensed to learn that the bishop had buried her without its permission. When summoned to answer for this he threatened a popular uprising, but the tribunal held good, exhumed the body and verified its identity, after which the Suprema ordered a second exhumation and burial under its authority.

It seems that no formal sentence was ever rendered. The Franciscans talked of appealing to the pope, but were only laughed at. Madre Luisa had ceased to be of importance, but that her devotees had not lost all veneration for her is shown by the Inquisition, in 1638, forbidding all discussion of the case. In 1643 it was referred to Arce y Reynoso, together with that of San Placido and, in 1644, he was said to be pushing it with energy, but probably it was wisely allowed to be forgotten, without reaching a conclusion. Yet, notwithstanding the inquisitorial edict, her crosses were not all surrendered and continued to be regarded as enriched with indulgences, for we find them condemned by the Roman Congregation of Indulgences in 1668 and again in 1678.[73]


But for the presumably political motive prompting her prosecution it may be assumed that Madre Luisa would have been enrolled in the calendar of saints. Her career was no more extravagant than that of her contemporary, the Blessed María Ana de Jesus, a Madrileña, who was born in 1565 and died in 1624. She belonged to the Order of La Merced, and her biography was written in 1673, by Fray Juan de la Presentacion, official historiographer of Philip IV, who informs us that, when an infant at the breast, she gave evidence of her future sanctity; at the age of four she was constantly at prayer, and at six she had ecstasies, visions and revelations. She says herself that her soul was ordinarily illuminated by God, who manifested his will to her unmistakably. The effort for her canonization began shortly after her death and{39} was renewed at intervals, until she was beatified in 1783.[74] Another contemporary of María Ana de Jesus was she of Peru, known as la Azucena de Quito. Born in 1618 and dying in 1645, her miracles commenced before her birth, and she began to mortify the flesh by refusing to suckle before noon-day. It was in vain that, in her humility, she prayed to be denied the favor of visions and miracles. Efforts were commenced, in 1670, to procure her canonization, but it was not until 1850 that she was beatified by Pius IX.[75]

These saintly mystics, with their direct communications from God, wielded an influence which we can scarce realize. They had become so numerous and their revelations were so unhesitatingly accepted, that Spain was enveloped in an atmosphere of mysticism, in which the divine guidance was sought, rather than the councils of human wisdom. Olivares might well fear any adverse utterances of Madre Luisa, for his downfall, in 1643, was accelerated by visions enjoyed by Don Francisco de Chiribaga, although the Jesuit Padre Galindo, who was concerned in making them known, was imprisoned by his superiors for acting without their permission.[76] When the affairs of the Spanish monarchy were at their lowest ebb at this time, it is a curious revelation of the impulses under which it was governed to find Philip IV complaining of the perplexities to which he was exposed by the visions brought to him by the frailes; this matter of revelations, he says, is one which requires much consideration, especially when he is told that God orders him to punish those who have rendered him good service, and to elevate those whose methods have not earned them a good reputation. All that is lacking to complete this picture of unreasoning superstition is found in the fact that this utterance is made to another mystic to whom he appeals for guidance and for intercession with God to send him light.[77]

María de Jesus, commonly known as Sor María de Agreda, to whom Philip thus turned for counsel, was too strongly entrenched in the royal favor to be in danger from the Inquisition yet, notwithstanding that favor, her revelations were rejected by Rome, thus furnishing another example of the difficulty of differentiating{40} between sanctity and heresy. She had practised mental prayer from the time when she was able to use her reason, and she was in constant communication with God, the Virgin and the angels.[78] Her fame filled the land, and her voluminous writings, which claim to be inspired, still form part of the devotional literature of the faithful. She so captured the confidence of Philip that he made her his chief adviser; for twenty-two years, until her death in 1665, four months before his own, he maintained constant correspondence with her by every post. Her influence thus was almost unbounded, but she seems never to have abused it; her advice was usually sound, and she never sought the enrichment of the impoverished convent of Agreda, of which she was the superior.


With all the power of the Franciscan Order and of the Spanish court to sustain her claims to sanctity, the canonization of such a personage would seem almost a matter of course, and it would doubtless have been effected if she had not reduced her revelations to writing. However they might suit the appetite of Spanish piety, nourished so long on mystic extravagance, they did not appeal to the sober judgement of the rest of the Catholic world. In spite of their divine inspiration, her Letanía y nombres misteriosos de la Reina del Cielo and her Mística Ciudad de Dios were condemned in Rome, and the decree as to the latter was posted on the doors of St. Peter’s, August 4, 1681. The Mística Ciudad was eminently popular in Spain and, at the instance of the Spanish court, its prohibition was suspended. The Inquisition took advantage of this, in 1686, to issue a decree permitting its circulation, at which the Congregation of the Index was naturally offended and, in 1692, the papal decree of condemnation appeared in the Appendix to the Index of Innocent XI, in spite of which the book was formally permitted by the Spanish Inquisition.[79] When, in 1695, a translation by Père Thomas Croset appeared in France, the Sorbonne, by decree of September 27, 1696, condemned it as containing propositions contrary to the rules of ecclesiastical modesty, and many fables and dreams from the Apocrypha, exposing Catholicism{41} to the contempt of the heretics.[80] The Spanish court labored earnestly to obtain a renewal of the suspension and finally succeeded, so that the book was omitted from the 1716 Index of Clement XI. Then in 1729, the subject was again taken up, when, after a long debate, the book was permitted, though Dr. Eusebius Amort tells us that in Rome, in 1735, he was shown a decree of Benedict XIII renewing the prohibition and asserting that its withdrawal had been obtained fraudulently; still, the book has never since reappeared in the Index.[81] There was a similar struggle over the Letanía, which was still included in the 1716 Index of Clement XI and the first Index of Benedict XIV, in 1744, but has disappeared from all succeeding issues.[82] Less successful thus far has been the persistent effort to procure the canonization of Madre María, leading to a papal decree of April 27, 1773, forbidding all future proceedings in the case. Notwithstanding this, Leo XIII, on March 10, 1884, ordered the Congregation of Rites to consider in secret whether this prohibition could be removed. To suggest such a discussion is almost equivalent to prejudging it affirmatively but, before the decision was reached, chance led to the publication in theDeutscher Merkur of December 29, 1889, of the whole secret history of the case, which has probably put an end, at least for the present, to the prospect of enrolling in the calendar of saints one whose revelations have been so repeatedly condemned as illusory or as emanating from Satan.


While, as we shall see, the pest of beatas revelanderas and more or less conscious impostors continued to afflict the land, the cases recognized as Alumbrados are comparatively few during the remainder of the seventeenth century. In a Toledo record, commencing in 1648, the first one occurs in 1679, when the Franciscan Fray Francisco de Toledo was convicted. In this the offence is treated as formal heresy, requiring reconciliation, and the punishment was extremely severe. He was to receive a circular discipline{42} in his convent; he was to be confined in a cell for two years and for two years more was to be recluded, during which time he was to be occupied in works of humility. In addition, he was perpetually suspended from orders, deprived of active and passive voice, and reduced to lay communion. It is possibly to this, or to some movement in which Fray Francisco bore a part, that Miguel Molinos refers, in a letter of February 16, 1680, to the Jesuit General Oliva, saying that when, in 1679, Satan sought to revive the sect of Illuminists in Spain, and they had applied to him, he had given an opinion so contrary to their follies that it frightened them and stopped the attempt.[83]



While Spain had thus been combatting Mysticism, Rome had remained comparatively indifferent, for in Italy it had not developed into a popular mania to be suppressed irrespective of the immoral extravagances to which it sometimes led. In the Edict of the Inquisition requiring denunciation of all offences subject to its jurisdiction, there is no mention of Mysticism or Illuminism.[84] The elaborate folios of the writers on the Holy Office—Carena, Del Bene, Lupo, Dandino—are silent as to its eccentricities. Yet these were by no means unknown to the Roman Holy Office, which took cognizance of them when brought to its notice. Occasionally some book too extravagant in its teachings was put upon the Index.[85] Cardinal Scaglia († 1639), a member of the Congregation of the Inquisition, in his little manual of practice, which was circulated only in MS., when treating of the troubles customary in nunneries, says that through giddiness of brain, or vain-glory, or illusion, nuns often claim to have celestial visions and revelations and intercourse with God and the saints when, if the confessor is imprudently given to spirituality, he reduces their utterances to writing and, if he is learned, he defends them, very often with propositions punishable by the Inquisition. Sometimes, he adds, sensuality is involved, leading to the assertion that carnal acts are not sinful but meritorious, when, if the confessor desires to take advantage of this, he seeks with revelations and false doctrines to prove that they are lawful. Cases of this kind{43} have occurred in the Holy Office, when priests who so justify themselves become liable to the penalties of heresy. Such cases also occur between women assuming to be spiritual and their confessors, who so teach them, even without revelations and visions, leading their spiritual daughters to believe these to be works of merit and mortification.[86]

Bernino tells us that, early in the seventeenth century, Illuminism was widely diffused throughout Italy, where abjurations enforced by the Inquisition were frequent, but this is probably the exaggeration so frequent with heresiologists.[87] A well-marked case, however, startled Florence in 1640, when the Canon Pandolfo Ricasoli, a highly respected member of the noble house of the Barons of Trappola and a man of wide learning and handsome fortune, was arrested with his chief accomplice Faustina Mainardi, her brother Girolamo, and the Maestro Serafino de’ Servi, Dottor Carlo Scalandrini, the priest Giacomo Fantoni, Andrea Biliotti, Francesco Borgeschi and two others, Mozzetti and Cocchi. Some nuns of Santa Anna sul Prato were also implicated, but if they were prosecuted no knowledge of it was allowed to reach the public. They seem to have formed a coterie of Illuminists to whom Ricasoli taught that all manner of indecent acts conduced to purity, if performed with the mind fixed on God; they claimed special relations with heaven and were free from sin in whatever they did for the greater glory of God. This continued for eight years; rumors spread abroad and were conveyed to the Inquisition, when Ricasoli came forward and denounced himself with expressions of contrition. A public atto di fede was held, November 28, 1641, in the great refectory of the convent of Santa Croce, attended by the Grand Duke, the Cardinal de’ Medici, the nuncio and other notabilities. One of the culprits, Serafino de’ Servi, had died in prison and appeared in effigy, the rest abjured de vehementi. Ricasoli, Faustina and Fantoni were condemned to perpetual irremissible prison, others to prison with the privilege of asking for pardon, while two, Cocchi and Borgeschi, had a private atto di fede and were confined in the Stinche prison at the pleasure of the Inquisition. Ricasoli, as he was led away, declared that he had acted foolishly and ignorantly, and he asked{44} pardon of the people for the scandal which he had caused; he lingered in his prison until July 1657, when he died at the age of 78, protesting to the end that he had erred through ignorance and not through lust; there was some question as to his interment, but finally he received Christian burial. The inquisitor, Fra Giovanni Muzzarelli, was sternly rebuked for misplaced mercy by the Roman Congregation and was speedily replaced by one of severer temper.[88]

Impostors likewise were not unknown, as appears in the career of Francesco Giuseppe Borri, a brilliant but dissolute scion of a noble Milanese house. A misadventure in Rome forced him to take asylum in a church where, in recognition of the mercy of God, he changed his life. He soon had visions and revelations, from which he constructed a new theology, showing an intimate acquaintance with the mysteries of the Trinity and of the universe. That St. Anne was conceived by the operation of the Spirit and the Virgin consequently was Deity, was one of the twenty errors set forth in his sentence. Moreover he had been selected to found the Kingdom of the Highest, in which all mankind would be brought under papal rule, and the world would live in peace for a thousand years; the philosopher’s stone, of which he had the secret, would furnish the means of raising the papal armies, in the leadership of which he would be guided by St. Michael. Rome soon became dangerous for the new prophet and, in 1655, he transferred his propaganda to Milan, where he founded a secret mystical Order, the members of which were trained in meditation and mental prayer, pledged themselves to shed their blood in the execution of the work and, what was more to the purpose, contributed all their property to the common fund. The Milanese inquisitor got wind of the new sect and arrested some of the members; Borri thought of raising a tumult but decided in favor of the safer alternative of flight. His case was transferred to the Roman Congregation, which cited him, March 20, 1659, to appear within ninety days and then tried him in absentia, with the result that his effigy, with all his impious writings, was burnt on January 3, 1661. His dupes were duly prosecuted, but seem not to have been severely punished.{45}


Meanwhile he was starting on a fresh career in Northern Europe, as a man possessed of all the secrets of alchemy and medicine, with a success that even Cagliostro might have envied. Strassburg and Amsterdam had reason to repent of his seductive arts. In Hamburg, Christina of Sweden furnished him with means to prosecute the work of the Grand Arcanum. Frederic III of Denmark lavished large sums on him and even made him chief political adviser, which aroused the hatred of the heir-apparent, Christian V, on whose accession, in 1670, he was obliged to save his life by flight. He sought to find refuge in Turkey, but in Moravia, when within a day’s journey of the frontier, he was arrested by mistake, on suspicion of complicity in a conspiracy in Vienna. There the papal nuncio recognized and claimed him, but Leopold I, whose favor he had speedily acquired by his chemical marvels, surrendered him only on condition that his life should be spared. Before the Inquisition he confessed his errors and attributed them to diabolical inspiration, and his sentence, September 25, 1672, was merely to perpetual prison and certain spiritual penances. Even here his good luck befriended him, for Cardinal d’Estrées, the influential ambassador of Louis XIV, in dangerous illness, asked to consult him and, on recovery, procured his transfer to easier confinement in the castle of St. Angelo, where he was allowed special privileges and sometimes to go out and visit the sick. There he remained until his death, August 20, 1695—just a century before Cagliostro came to the same end.[89]

Although the Roman Inquisition issued no general denunciations, there was a surveillance kept over the votaries of mental prayer and contemplation, in view of the extravagances to which they might be led when, abandoning themselves wholly to God, they felt themselves irresponsible for what God might cause them to do, in the rapture of Quietism. There was a little community of this kind formed in Genoa, where they were known as Sequere me, from the phrase used when addressing those whom they elected to join them. Under the lead of a Trinitarian friar, they bought a house in the suburbs, where they lived in the utmost austerity, devoting themselves to contemplation. Thus came visions and revelations that the Church was to be reformed through them by{46} a new pope, of whom they were to be the apostles. One of them communicated this to a vicar of the Inquisition who promptly reported to the tribunal. They were all summoned before it; some went into ecstasies and, as a body, they threatened the inquisitor with the vengeance of God and were thrown into prison. The Congregation of the Inquisition ordered their prosecution, which resulted in their being adjudged to be crazy rather than evil-minded. The friar was deprived of active and passive voice in his Order and the rest were dismissed with threats of the galleys if they reassembled and continued to wear the habit which they had adopted.[90]

More persistent was the sect known as the Pelagini which, about 1650, developed itself in the Valcamonica and spread throughout Lombardy. Giacomo Filippo di Santa Pelagia was a layman of Milan, highly esteemed for conspicuous piety. From Marco Morosini, Bishop of Brescia (1645-1654) he obtained permission to found conventicles or oratories in the Valcamonica, but it shows that mental prayer was regarded as a dangerous exercise when Morosini imposed the condition that it should not be practised in these little assemblies. The prohibition was disregarded and the devotees largely gave themselves up to contemplation, with the result that they had trances and revelations; they threw off subjection to their priests and were accused of claiming that mental prayer was essential to salvation, that none but Pelagini could be saved, that those who practised it became impeccable, that laymen could preach and hear confessions, that indulgences were worthless and that God through them would reform the world. In 1654, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (afterwards Alexander VIII) obtained the see of Brescia and by accident discovered some colporteurs distributing the Catechism of Calvin, along with the tracts of the Pelagini. In March, 1656, he sent to the Valcamonica three commissioners with verbal instructions and armed with full powers, who temporarily suppressed the oratories and made a number of arrests, but the Inquisition intervened, taking the affair out of his hands and prosecuting the leaders.[91]


We hear nothing more of Filippo, except that he never was condemned. He probably died early in the history of the sect{47} and his memory was cherished as that of a saint with thaumaturgic power. In 1686, the Archpriest of Morbegno, in the Valtelline, was found to be distributing relics of him and collecting materials for his life and miracles, all of which he was obliged to abandon, after obeying a summons from Calchi, the Inquisitor of Como. There were also inquiries made of the Provost of Talamona as to his motives in keeping a picture of Filippo and whether it was prayed to.[92]

After Filippo’s disappearance we hear of Francesco Catanei and of the Archpriest Marc Antonio Ricaldini as leaders of the sect, but Agostino Ricaldini, a brother of the latter and a married layman, was really the centre around which it gathered. In Ottoboni’s prosecution, he was imprisoned in 1656 and thrice tortured, and, on September 19, 1660, he was sentenced by the Brescia tribunal to exile from the Valcamonica and was relegated to Treviso. Persisting in his errors, he was again tried in Treviso, obliged to abjure de vehementi and sentenced to perpetual prison, while a book which he had written was publicly burnt. How long his imprisonment lasted does not appear but, in 1680, we find him living in Treviso, under surveillance of the episcopal vicar-general.[93]

If Ottoboni and the Inquisition fancied that they had crushed the sect, they were mistaken. It maintained a secret existence for over twenty years, which enabled it to spread far beyond its original seat and, about 1680, it had associations and oratories for mental prayer established in Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Treviso, Padua, Pesaro, Lucca and doubtless many other places, while its votaries expected it to spread through the world. Ricaldini, at Treviso, was busy in corresponding with the heads of the associations and receiving their visits. In Brescia, Bartolommeo Bona, priest of S. Rocco, presided over an oratory of sixty members and was even said to have six hundred souls under his direction. They were called Pellegrini di S. Rocco, they practised mental prayer assiduously and had even procured an episcopal licence for the association. In Verona, Giovanni Battista Bonioli guided a membership of thirty disciples, many of them persons of high consideration. For the most part the devotees seem to have been quiet and pious folk, humbly seeking salvation by the interior way,{48} but there were some who were given to extravagance. Margarita Rossi had visions and revelations, strangely repeating portions of the fantastic theology of Borri, and when written out by a believer, Don Giovanni Antonio, it was not difficult to extract from them a hundred and thirty-four errors, concerning which she was tortured as to intention as well as in caput alienum. Two others, Cosimo Dolci and Francesco Nigra had visions and prophetic insight, for which the latter was sentenced, in 1684, to five years’ incarceration.[94]

The sect could not continue spreading indefinitely without discovery. In 1682 the Inquisition suddenly awoke to the necessity of action and it repeated an edict which it had issued in 1656, forbidding all oratories and assemblages for mental prayer. Ricaldini felt his position critical, for he had abjured de vehementi and was liable to the stake for relapse. He disappeared from Treviso and all that the Inquisition could learn was that he was somewhere on the Swiss border. At length, in 1684, his retreat was found to be Chiuro, in the Valtelline, and Antonio Ceccotti, Inquisitor of Brescia, made fruitless attempts to induce the authorities of the Valtelline and the Podestà of Brescia to unite in procuring his extradition, but in March, 1685, Ceccotti had the mortification to learn that he had died on the previous October 6th, having received all the sacraments and with the repute of a most pious Christian.[95]


The prominent Pelagini were duly prosecuted, but there seems to have been little vindictiveness aroused in regard to them and little heresy attributable to them. The punishments inflicted were light, for we hear, in 1685, of Bona, one of the leaders, having returned to his district and living in retirement, and of Belleri, another, being in the Valcamonica, where the bishop had appointed him missionary for the whole district. Evidently the disciples must have escaped with a warning. What the ecclesiastical authorities objected to was not Mysticism and its long-accepted practices, but organization, more or less secret, under leaders outside of the hierarchy and free from its supervision, when heated brains, under divine inspiration, indulged in dreams of regenerating the Church. It was not until the case of Molinos had called attention to other dangers that there came from Rome{49} strict orders for the suppression of all oratories and of the practice of mental prayer—that rapture of meditation which had been the distinguishing habit of mystics through the ages.[96]


Miguel de Molinos was a Spaniard, born probably about 1630 at Muniesa (Teruel). After obtaining at Coimbra the degree of doctor of theology, he came to Rome in 1665, in connection with a canonization—probably of San Pedro Arbués, who was beatified in 1668. There he speedily acquired distinction as a confessor and spiritual director. Innocent XI prized him so highly as to give him apartments in the papal palace; the noblest women placed themselves under his care; his reputation spread throughout Italy and his correspondence became enormous. On the day of his arrest it is said that the postage on the letters delivered that day at his house amounted to twenty-three ducats; he made a small charge to cover expenses and, in the sequestration of his property, there were found four thousand gold crowns derived from this source. The letters seized were reported variously as numbering twelve or twenty thousand, of which two hundred were from Christina of Sweden and two thousand from the Princess Borghese. The mysticism which proved so attractive, when set forth by his winning personality, had in it—ostensibly at least—nothing that had not long since received the approbation of the Church in the writings of the great Spanish mystics and of St. François de Sales. It is true that Molinos dropped the machinery of ecstasies and visions, which loom so largely in the writings of Santa Teresa, and confined his way of perfection to the Brahmanical ideal of the annihilation of sense and intellect, the mystic silence or death, in which speech and thought and desire are no more and in which God speaks with the soul and teaches it the highest wisdom.[97] This spiritualized hypnotism was in no way original with Molinos, but was the goal which all the mystic saints sought to attain. To reach it he tells{50} us the soul must abandon itself wholly to God; it must make no resistance to the thoughts or impulses which God might send or allow Satan to send; if assailed by intruding or sensual thoughts, they should not be opposed but be quietly contemned and the resultant suffering be offered as a sacrifice to God.[98] This was the Quietism—the Spanish Dejamiento—which was subsequently condemned so severely; there is no question that it had its dangers if the senses were allowed to control the spirit, and the adversaries of Molinos made the most of it, but he taught that the soul must overcome temptation through patience and resignation. When souls have acquired control of themselves, he says, if a temptation attacks them they soon overcome it; passions cannot hold out against the divine strength which fills them, even if the violence is continued and is supported by suggestions of the enemy; the soul gains the victory and enjoys the infinite resultant benefit.[99]


All this Molinos was allowed to teach for years in the Holy City with general applause, though it had been persecuted in the Pelagini. In 1675, at the height of his popularity, he embodied his doctrine in the Guida spirituale, a little volume which came forth with the emphatic approbation of five distinguished theologians—four of them consultors or censors of the Inquisition and all of them men of high standing in their respective Orders of Franciscans, Trinitarians, Jesuits, Carmelites and Capuchins. The book had an immediate and wide circulation and was translated into many languages. Even in Spain there was a Madrid edition in 1676, one at Saragossa in 1677 and another at Seville as late as 1685, without exciting animadversion. Yet such a career as that of Molinos could not continue indefinitely without exciting hostility, none the less dangerous because prudently concealed. His immense success was provocative of envy and, if mystic contemplation was largely adopted as the surest path to salvation, what was to be the result on the infinite variety of exterior works to which the Church owed so much of its power and wealth? It was found that in many nunneries in Rome, whose confessors had adopted his views, the inmates had cast aside their rosaries and chaplets and depended wholly on contemplation. It was observed that at mass the mystic devotees did not raise their eyes at the elevation of the Host or gaze on the holy images, but pursued uninterruptedly their mental prayer. Molinos gave further occasion{51} for criticism by a tract on daily communion, in which he asserted that a soul, secure that it was not in mortal sin, could safely partake of the sacrament without previous confession—a doctrine which, however, theologically defensible, threatened, if extensively practised, largely to diminish the authority of the priesthood, while encouraging the sinner to settle his account directly with God.

To attack as a heretic a man so universally respected and so firmly entrenched as Molinos might well seem desperate, and it is not surprising that the credit for the work was attributed to the Jesuits, as the only body daring and powerful enough. The current story is that, having resolved upon it, they procured Père La Chaise to induce Louis XIV to order his ambassador, Cardinal d’Estrées to labor unceasingly for the removal of the scandal caused by the teaching of Molinos. Whether this was so is doubtful, but it is certain that the first attack came from the Jesuits, and that d’Estrées, who had professed the warmest admiration for Molinos, became his unrelenting persecutor. The campaign was opened in 1678, when Gottardo Bell’ Uomo, S. J., issued at Modena a work on the comparative value of ordinary and mystic prayer, which was duly denounced to the Inquisition. Molinos had been made to recognize in various ways the coming storm, and he sought to conjure it in a fashion which revealed his conscious weakness. February 16, 1680, he addressed to the Jesuit General Oliva a long exculpatory letter. He had not attacked the Society but had always held it in the highest honor, and when, in Valencia, the University had forbidden the Jesuit College to teach theology, he was the only one who had disobeyed the order and had come to its aid. He had never decried the Spiritual Exercises of Loyola, but had recognized the vast good accomplished by them, though he held that, for those suited to it, contemplation was better than meditation. He had for some years been persecuted and stigmatized as a heretic, in writing and preaching, by the most distinguished members of the Society, but he rejoiced in this and only prayed God for those who reviled him nor, in his defence of the Guida, had he sought aught but the glory of God and, so far from defending the Begghards and Illuminati, he had always condemned them. Evidently the work of the Jesuits in discrediting him had been active and better organized than the records show, and he thought it wiser to disarm, if possible, rather than to struggle with adversaries so powerful. Oliva{52}’s answer of February 28th was by no means reassuring. He complimented Molinos on his Christian spirit in returning good for evil and on the flattering terms bestowed on the Society and its founder. He had never read the books of Molinos and could not speak of them with knowledge but, if they corresponded with his letter, his disciples were doing him great wrong in applying his system of contemplation, of which only the rarest souls were capable, indiscriminately to nuns and worldly young women. Finally, he could not understand why so distinguished a member of the Society as Padre Bell’ Uomo should have been brought before the Congregation of the Index, and he gave infinite thanks to God for defending him before it.

Promptly on the next day, February 29th, Molinos replied to this discouraging epistle. At much length he disculpated himself for writings and sayings falsely attributed to him. He held meditation in the highest esteem as an exercise suited to all; the loftiest form of contemplation was a gift of God bestowed on the rare souls fitted for it. He again spoke of the persecution to which he was exposed and, as for Padre Bell’ Uomo, whom he did not know, if his doctrine was as sound as represented by Oliva, God would enlighten his ministers to recognize it. Oliva’s rejoinder to this, on March 2d, would appear to be written in a style of studied obscurity, saying much and meaning little, but one passage reveals a source of Jesuit enmity, in alluding to the number of convents which had passed out of the direction of the Society to practise the new method.[100]


The effort of Molinos to propitiate his enemies had only encouraged them by its confession of weakness. Their next step was a dextrous one. Padre Paolo Segneri was not only the most popular Jesuit preacher in Italy, but his favor with Innocent XI was almost as great as that of Molinos. He was selected as the next athlete and, in 1680, he issued a little volume—“Concordia tra la fatica e la quiete nell’ oratione,” in which he argued that the highest life is that which combines activity with contemplation. He was promptly answered by Pietro Matteo Petrucci, an ardent admirer of Molinos, who was rewarded by Innocent with the see of Jesi. Segneri rejoined in a “Lettera di riposta al Sig. Ignacio Bartalini” and the controversy was fairly joined. A more aggressive antagonist was the Minorite Padre Alessandro Reggio whose{53} “Clavis Aurea qua aperiuntur errores Michaelis de Molinos” appeared in 1682 and boldly argued that the Guida revived the condemned errors of the Begghards, that Quietism destroyed all conceptions of the Trinity, while the practice of prayer without works was destructive of all the pious observances prescribed by the Church, and the teaching that temptation should be endured without resistance was dangerous and contrary to Scripture and to the doctors. Petrucci responded vigorously, while Molinos remained silent. He had, at least, the advantage of official support, for Bell’ Uomo’s book was forbidden donec corrigatur; Segneri’s “Lettera” and the “Clavis Aurea” were condemned unconditionally, and Segneri’s “Concordia,” while it escaped the Index, was quietly forbidden and he was instructed to revise it.[101]

The Jesuits, however, were not the only body interested in the downfall of Molinos. There is a curious anonymous tract devoted to explaining what it calls the secret policy of the Quietists, assuming their main object to be the destruction of all the religious Orders and especially of the Dominicans and Franciscans. Apparently taking advantage of the development of the Pelagini about this time, it asserts that the Quietists had organized conventicles and oratories throughout Italy; that they had a common treasury in which 14,000 ducats were found; that they flattered the secular clergy and sought to unite them in opposition to the regulars, whom they systematically decried, raking together all the stories of their corruption and ignorance. In short, Quietism was a deep-laid conspiracy, through which Molinos expected to revolutionize the Church and reduce the religious Orders to impotence.[102] The only importance of the tract is as a manifestation of the attitude of the regulars towards Molinos and the hostility aroused by his success in winning from them, for his disciples, the directorship of souls which was their special province.

The enormous influence of the elements thus combining for his destruction left little doubt of the result. The first open attack was made in June, 1682, when Cardinal Caraccioli, Archbishop of Naples, a pupil of the Jesuits, reported to the pope that he found his diocese deeply infected with this new Quietism, subversive{54} of the received prescriptions of the Church, and he asked instructions for its suppression, nor was he alone in this for similar appeals came from other Italian bishops. Molinos was too firmly established in the papal favor for this to dislodge him, but the hostile forces gradually gathered strength and, in November, 1684, the Congregation of the Inquisition formally assumed consideration of the matter. At its head was Cardinal Ottoboni, a fanatic whose experience with the Pelagini, when Bishop of Brescia, had sharpened his hatred of mysticism. The spirit in which he conducted the inquest is revealed in a memorandum in his handwriting of the points to be elaborated in the next day’s meeting of the Congregation—that this heresy is the worst of all and if left alone will become inextinguishable; that it is spreading in Spain through the Archbishop of Seville and in France with many books of the most dangerous nature; that it destroys the Catholic faith and all the religious Orders; that in Jesi the canons and the cura of the cathedral keep a school for its propagation; that a rich and powerful citizen of Jesi threatens the witnesses and that a vigorous commissioner must be sent there; that the monasteries of Faenza and Ravenna are infected and one in Ferrara has a Quietist confessor; that this pestilence calls for fire and steel.[103] In a court presided over by so bitter a prosecutor, the judgement was fore-ordained.

For awhile the contending forces seem to have been equally balanced and eight months were spent in gathering testimony sufficient to justify arrest. At last, on July 3, 1685, at a meeting of the Congregation, Cardinal d’Estrées insisted that no one should leave the chamber until the arrest was ordered and executed. This was agreed to; the sbirri were despatched and Molinos was lodged in the prison of the Inquisition.[104] Yet when, on November 9th the Spanish Holy Office condemned the Guia espirituale as containing propositions savoring of heresy and Illuminism, the Congregation addressed to the pope a vigorous protest against its action on a matter which was still under consideration at headquarters.[105]


The influence of Queen Christina, we are told, was exerted to{55} procure for Molinos better treatment than was usual with prisoners. Of the details of the trial we know little or nothing, but, as torture was habitual in the Roman Inquisition, it is not probable that he was spared. As his books had not been condemned, the evidence employed was drawn exclusively from the immense mass of his correspondence and MSS. which had been seized, the depositions of witnesses and his own confessions, so that we are unable to judge how far it justified the conclusions set forth in the sentence, though, from the manner in which that discriminates between what he admitted and what he denied, it is but fair to assume that it represents correctly the evidence before the tribunal. The trial was necessarily prolonged. In his defence interrogatories were forwarded to Saragossa and Valencia, in 1687, where his witnesses were duly examined.[106] Two hundred and sixty-three erroneous propositions were extracted by the censors from the mass of matter before them, to which he of course was required to answer in detail, and these seem to have been condensed into nineteen for the consideration of the Congregation.[107]

Petrucci was threatened and his elevation to the cardinalate,{56} September 2, 1686, was ascribed to the desire of Innocent to save him from prosecution. Shortly afterwards, two of the principal assistants of Molinos, the brothers Leoni of Como, of whom Simone was a priest and Antonio Maria was a tailor, were arrested. Then, on February 9, 1687, followed the arrest of the Count and Countess Vespiniani, of Paolo Rocchi, confessor of the Princess Borghese, and of seventy others, causing general consternation, not diminished by the subsequent imprisonment of some two hundred more. The Congregation was doing its work thoroughly and it was even said that, on February 13th, it appointed a commission which examined the pope himself. A revolution in the traditional standards of orthodoxy could not be effected without compromising multitudes, and the victors were determined that their victory should be complete. On February 15th, Cardinal Cibò, the secretary of the Congregation, addressed to all the bishops of Italy a circular stating that in many places there existed or were forming associations called spiritual conferences, under ignorant directors, who, with maxims of exquisite perfection, misled them into most pernicious errors, resulting in manifest heresy and abominable immorality. The bishops were therefore ordered to investigate and, if such assemblies were found, to abolish them forthwith, taking moreover especial care that this pestilence was not allowed to infect the monasteries.


There could be but one end to the trial. Every possible accusation was brought against Molinos, even to a foolish self-laudatory speech made to the sbirri who arrested him, and his admiring certain anagrams made of his name. One charge, which he denied, was his giving to a certain person the soiled shirt in which he had come from Spain, saying that, after his death, it would be a great relic. He seems to have responded with candor to the various articles, denying some and admitting others. Of the articles the most important were his justifying the sacrilege of breaking images and crucifixes; depreciating religious vows and dissuading persons from entering religious Orders; saying that vows destroyed perfection; that, by the prayer of Quiet, the soul is rendered not only sinless but impeccable, for it is deprived of freedom and God operates it, wishing us sometimes to sin and offend him, and the demon moves the members to indecent acts; that the three ways of the spirit, hitherto described by the doctors, are absurd and that there is but one, the interior way; that he had formed conventicles of men and women and permitted them to perform immoral{57} acts and to eat flesh on fast days. He admitted excusing the breaking of images and crucifixes; he denied depreciation of solemn vows, but admitted it as respects private ones, and he had only dissuaded from entering religion those whom he knew would create scandal. He denied teaching that in Quietism the soul becomes impeccable, but only that it did not consent to the act of sin and he said that he knew many persons practising it who lived many years without committing even venial sin. He denied also that Quietism deprived the soul of freewill, but said that, in that perfect union with God, it was God who worked and not the faculties, and when he said that God sometimes wished sin, he meant material sin (as distinguished from formal), and that the demon, as God’s instrument to mortify the flesh and purify the soul, causes sometimes the hand and other members to perform lascivious acts. He denied condemning the three ways of the spirit, having meant only that the interior way was so much more perfect that the others were negligible by comparison. He denied forming conventicles in which lascivious acts were permitted and he had excluded some persons who would not refrain from them. He admitted eating flesh on prohibited days, and that he had not perfectly observed a single Lent since he came to Rome, but said that this was by licence of his physician. He confessed that for many years he had practised the most indecent acts with two women, the details of which need not be repeated; he had not deemed this sinful, but a purification of the soul and that in them he enjoyed a closer union with God; these were merely acts of the senses, in which the higher faculties had no part, as they were united with God. When he was told that these were propositions heretical, bestial and scandalous, he replied that he submitted himself in all things to the Holy Office, recognizing that its lights were superior to his own.[108]

A sentence of condemnation was inevitable. It was drawn up,{58} August 20, 1687; on the 28th an inquisitorial decree was signed embodying sixty-eight propositions, drawn from the evidence and confessions, which were condemned as heretical, suspect, erroneous, scandalous, blasphemous, offensive to pious ears, subversive of Christian discipline and seditious; they were not to be taught or practised under pain of deprivation of office and benefice and perpetual disability, and of an anathema reserved to the Holy See. All the writings of Molinos, in whatever language, were forbidden to be printed, possessed or read, and all copies were, under the same penalties, to be surrendered to the inquisitors or bishops, who were to burn them.[109] This was posted in the usual places on September 3d, the day fixed for the atto di fede in which Molinos was to appear.

Under a heavy guard he was brought, on the previous evening, from the inquisitorial prison to the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, in which the atto was to be celebrated. In the morning, in a room next to the sacristy, he was exhibited to some curious persons of distinction, eliciting from him an expression of indignation, construed as indicating how little he felt of real repentance. This was confirmed by what followed, explicable possibly by Spanish imperturbability, but more probably by the Quietism which led him to regard himself as the passive instrument of God’s will, and superbly indifferent to whatever might befall him, so long as his soul was rapt in the joys of the mystic death, which he had taught as the summum bonum. Called upon to order a meal, he specified one which in quantity and quality might satisfy the most voracious gourmet and, after partaking of it, he lay down to a refreshing siesta, until he was roused to take his place on the platform where, in spite of his manacles, his bearing was that of a judge and not of a convict.


The vast church was thronged to its farthest corner with all that was notable in Rome, including twenty-three cardinals, and the spacious piazza in front and all the neighboring streets were crowded. An indulgence of fifteen days and fifteen quarantines had been proclaimed for all in attendance, but in Rome, where plenary indulgences could be had on almost every day in the year by merely visiting churches, this could not account for the eagerness which brushed aside the Swiss guards stationed at the portals, requiring a reinforcement of troops and resulting in considerable{59} bloodshed. As the long sentence was read, with its details of Molinos’s enormities, occupying two hours, it was interrupted with the frequent roar of Burn him! Burn him! led by an enthusiastic cardinal and echoed by the mob outside. Through all this, we are told, his effrontery never failed him, which was reckoned as an infallible sign of his persistent perversity. The sentence concluded by declaring him convicted as a dogmatizing heretic but, as he had professed himself repentant and had implored mercy and pardon, it ordered him to abjure his heresies and to be rigidly imprisoned with the sanbenito for life, without hope of release, and to perform certain spiritual exercises. This was duly executed and he lingered, it was said repentant, until his death, December 28, 1696. The day after the atto di fede his disciples performed their abjuration. There was no desire to deal harshly with them, and they were dismissed with trivial penances, except the brothers Leoni. Simone the priest, who had been a popular confessor, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment; Antonio Maria, the tailor, who had been a travelling missionary and organizer, was incarcerated for life. There was still another victim, the secretary of Molinos, Pedro Peña, arrested May 9, 1687, for defending his master. He was fully convicted of Quietism and, on March 16, 1689, he was condemned to life-long prison.[110]

There still remained the publication to Christendom of the new position assumed by the Holy See towards Mysticism. The sixty-eight propositions, condemned in the inquisitorial decree of August 28th, were printed in the vernacular and placed on sale, but were speedily suppressed. There must still have been opposition in the Sacred College, or on the part of Innocent XI, for the bull Cœlestis Pastor was not drawn up and signed until November 20th, and was not finally published to the world until February 19, 1688. This recited the same series of propositions and the condamnation{60} of Molinos and confirmed the decree of August 28th. The propositions condemned consisted, for the most part, of the untenable extravagances of Quietism, including impeccability and the sinlessness of acts committed while the soul was absorbed with God, but it was impossible to do this without condemning much that had been taught and practised by the mystic saints, and there were no saving clauses to differentiate lawful from unlawful converse of the soul with its Creator. The Church broke definitely with Mysticism, and by implication gave the faithful to understand that salvation was to be sought in the beaten track, through the prescribed observances and under the guidance of the hierarchical organization.[111]

This change of front was emphasized in various ways. Innocent’s favor saved Cardinal Petrucci from formal prosecution; to the vexation of the Inquisition, his case was referred to four cardinals, Cibò, Ottoboni, Casanate and Azzolini; he professed himself ready to retract whatever the pope objected to and, though the Inquisition held an abjuration to be necessary, he was not required to make it; he was relegated to Jesi and then recalled to Rome, where he was kept under surveillance. He could not, moreover, escape the mortification of seeing the books, which had been so warmly approved, condemned by a decree of February 5, 1688. Many other works, which had long passed current as recognized aids to devotion, were similarly treated—those of Benedetto Biscia, Juan Falconi, François Malaval and of numerous others—even the Opera della divina Gratia of the Dominican Tommaso Menghini, himself Inquisitor-general of Ferrara and author of the Regole del Tribunal del Santo Officio, which long remained a standard guide in the tribunals. What had been accepted as the highest expression of religious devotion had suddenly become heresy.[112] Apparently it was not until May, 1689, that instructions were sent everywhere to demand the surrender of all books of Molinos and to report any one suspected of Molinism.[113]


Persecution received a fresh impulse when Cardinal Ottoboni, as Alexander VIII, succeeded Innocent XI, October 6, 1689. Bernino tells us that he appeared to him an angel in looks and an apostle in utterance when he declared that there was no creature{61} in the world so devoid of sense as a heretic for, as he was deprived of faith so also was he of reason. His first care was to remove from office and throw into irremissible prison every one who was in the slightest degree suspect of Molinism; in this he did not even spare his Apostolic camera, for he arrested an Apostolic Prothonotary and, although in the Congregation of the Inquisition there were four kinsmen of the prisoner, zeal for the faith preponderated over blood.[114] Fortunately his pontificate lasted for only sixteen months, so that he had but limited opportunity for the gratification of his ardent fanaticism and scandalous nepotism.

In spite of all this, there were still found those who indulged their sensual instincts under cover of exalted spirituality. In 1698 there was in Rome the case of a priest, named Pietro Paolo di San Giov. Evangelista, who had already been tried by the tribunals of Naples and Spoleto, so that his career must have been prolonged, while references to a Padre Benigno and a Padre Filippo del Rio show that he was not alone. He had ecstasies and a following of devotees; he taught that communion could be taken without preliminary confession and that, when the spirit was united with God, whatever acts the inferior part might commit were not sins. He freely confessed to practices of indescribable obscenity with his female penitents, whom he assured afterwards that they were as pure as the Blessed Virgin. He was sentenced to perpetual prison, without hope of release, and to a series of arduous spiritual penances, while Fra Benigno escaped with seven years of imprisonment.[115]

Another development of the same tendencies—probably a survival of the Pelagini—was discovered in Brescia in 1708. The sectaries called themselves disciples of St. Augustin, engaged in vindicating his opinions on predestination and grace, but they were popularly known as Beccarellisti, from two brothers, priests of the name of Beccarelli, whom they regarded as their leaders. For twenty-five years—that is, since the ostensible suppression of the Pelagini—the sect had been secretly spreading itself throughout Lombardy, where it was said to number some forty-two thousand members, including many nobles and wealthy families and ecclesiastics of position. They had a common treasury and a regular organization, headed by the elder Beccarelli as pope, with{62} cardinals, apostles and other dignitaries. The immediate object of the movement, we are told, was to break the power of the religious Orders and to restore to the secular priesthood the functions of confession and the direction of souls which it had well-nigh lost, but there was taught the Quietist doctrine of divine grace to which the devotee surrendered all his faculties. This was allowed to operate without resistance, and Beccarelli held that Molinos was the only true teacher of Christian perfection, but we may safely reject as exaggeration the statement that carnal indulgence was regarded as earning a plenary indulgence, applicable to souls in purgatory. Cardinal Badoaro, then Bishop of Brescia, took energetic measures to stamp out this recrudescence of the condemned doctrines; the leaders scattered to Switzerland, Germany and England, while Beccarelli was tried by the Inquisition of Venice and was condemned to seven years of galley-service.[116]

Probably the latest victims who paid with their lives for their belief in the efficacy of mental prayer and mystic death were a beguine named Geltruda and a friar named Romualdo, who were burnt in a Palermitan atto di fede, April 6, 1724, as impenitent Molinists after languishing in gaol since 1699.[117]


If, in the condemnation of Molinos, Mysticism was not wholly condemned, what was lacking was supplied when the duel between the two glories of the Gallican Church—Bossuet and Fénelon—induced an appeal to the Holy See. Beyond the Alps, mystic ardor was not widely diffused in the seventeenth century, yet there were those who revelled in the agonies and bliss of the interior way. St. François de Sales, who died in 1622, was beatified in 1661 and canonized in 1665, taught Quietism as pronounced as that of Molinos, although he avoided the application to sensuality. The soul abandoned itself wholly to God; when divine love took possession of it, God deprived it of all human desires, even for spiritual consolations, exercises of piety and the perfection of virtue. He said that he had scarce a desire and, if he were to live again, he would have none; if God came to him, he would go to meet him but, if God did not come, he would remain quiescent and would not seek God. Freedom of the spirit consisted in detachment from everything to submit to the will of God, caring{63} neither for places, or persons, or the practice of virtue.[118] It followed that the soul, absorbed in divine love, had nothing to ask of God; it rested in the quiet of contemplation, while vocal prayer and all the received observances of religion were cast aside, as fitted only for those who had not attained these mystic altitudes. Then there was Antoinette Bourignon (1616-1680) who, in her voluminous writings, taught the supremacy of the interior light, the abandonment of the faculties to the will of God, and the utter renunciation of self in the ardor of divine love.[119] There was Jean de Bernières-Louvigny (1602-1659) whose writings had an immense circulation and whose views as to mystic death were virtually the same as those of Molinos.[120] All these and others taught and wrote without interference, save from polemics, such as those of Pére Archange Ripaut, Guardian of the Capuchin convent of S. Jacques in Paris, who devoted a volume of near a thousand pages to their refutation and reprobation. If we are to believe him, these superhuman heights of spirituality were accompanied in France, as elsewhere, with sensuality.[121]

The condemnation of Molinos and the sixty-eight propositions attributed to him naturally attracted attention to the more or less quietistic developments of Mysticism, but it is probable that no action on the subject would have been taken in France had not personal motives suggested the persecution of one who chanced at the moment to be the most prominent representative of the interior way—that very curious personality, Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mothe Guyon, whose autobiography, written with a frank absence of reserve, affords a living picture of the self-inflicted martyrdom endured in the struggle to emancipate the soul from the ties of earth. When she reached the final stage she tells us that formerly God was in her, now she was in him, plunged in his immensity without sight or light or knowledge; she was lost in him as a wave in the ocean; her soul was as a leaf or a feather borne by the wind, abandoning itself to the operation of God in all that it did, exteriorly or interiorly. She acquired the faculty of{64} working miraculous cures and her power over demons was such that, if she were in hell, they would all abandon it. At times the plenitude of grace was so superabundant and so oppressive that she could only lie speechless in bed; it so swelled her that her clothes would be torn and she could find relief only by discharging the surplus on others.[122]

It is beyond our province to enter into the miserable story of her persecutions, commenced by some of her relatives and carried on by Bossuet, leading to her reclusion in convents and imprisonment in Vincennes and the Bastile. It suffices for us that her influence stimulated Fénelon’s tendency to Mysticism and converted into bitter hostility the friendship between him and Bossuet. A commission, appointed to examine her doctrine and headed by Bossuet, drew up, in 1694, a list of thirty-four errors of Mysticism, which Fénelon willingly signed and which Bossuet and Noailles, then Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, issued with instructions for their dioceses, including condemnations of the Guide of Molinos, the Pratique facile of Malaval, the Règle des Associés de l’Enfant Jésus, the Analis of Lacombe and Madame Guyon’s Moyen court and Cantique des Cantiques. By this time Madame Guyon had been put out of the way, and the matter might have been allowed to rest under the comprehensive definitions of the bull Cœlestis pastor, but Bossuet’s combative spirit had been aroused and he was determined to crush out all vestiges of Mysticism, heedless of what the Church had accepted for centuries. He drew up an Instruction on the various kinds of prayer, in which he pointed out, in vigorous terms, the dangers attendant on contemplation. Noailles, now Archbishop of Paris, signed it with him, and they invited Fénelon to join but he refused, in spite of entreaties and remonstrances, for it attributed to Madame Guyon all that was most objectionable in Illuminism.


The breach between the friends had commenced and it widened irrevocably when Fénelon, in justification of himself, published, in February 1697, his Explication des Maximes des Saints sur la Vie intérieure, with a letter to Madame de Maintenon animadverting sharply on Bossuet’s injustice. The book was based chiefly on the utterances of St. François de Sales, but it carefully guarded{65} the practice of Quietism from all objectionable deductions. There was no self-abandonment to temptations and no claim of impeccability; souls of the highest altitude could commit mortal sin; they were bound daily to ask God for forgiveness, to detest their sins and seek remission, not for the mercenary motive of their own salvation but in obedience to the wishes of God. It is true that they were not tied down to formal observances, but vocal prayer was not to be decried,—though its value depended upon its being animated by internal prayer. The indifference, which was the point most objected to in Quietism, was greatly limited by Fénelon. The senseless determination to wish for nothing was an impious resistance to the known will of God, and to all the impulses of his grace; it is true that the advanced soul wishes nothing for itself but it wishes everything for God; it does not wish perfection or happiness for itself, but it wishes all perfection and happiness, so far as it pleases God to make us wish for these things, by the impulsion of his grace. In this highest state the soul does not wish salvation in its own interest, but wishes it for the glory and good pleasure of God, as a thing which he wishes and wishes us to wish for his sake.

It is difficult to see what objection could be raised to a Quietism thus strictly limited and guarded, and no one who compares the Maximes des Saints with the extravagance of the great mystic saints can fail to recognize that the violent quarrel which arose was a purely personal matter. In this Fénelon defended himself with dignity and moderation, while the violence of Bossuet’s attack sometimes bordered on truculence. He was secure in the support of the court. Louis XIV had been won over, and it soon became to him a matter of personal pride to overcome all resistance to his will. Fénelon was banished to his diocese of Cambrai and deprived of his position of preceptor to the royal children, showing that he was in complete disgrace and warning all time-servers to abandon him.

It was soon evident that the matter would have to be settled in Rome. Bossuet sent an advance copy of his Instruction to Innocent XII, pointing out that he was applying in France the principles affirmed in the condemnation of Molinos. Fénelon followed his example and, on April 27th, sent the Maximes, stating that he submitted it to the judgement of the Holy See. The curia gladly accepted the task, rejoiced at the opportunity of intervening authoritatively in a quarrel within the Gallican Church. Fénelon{66} was refused permission to go to Rome and defend himself, but he had a powerful protector in the person of the Cardinal de Bouillon, then French ambassador and a member of the Congregation of the Inquisition, who loyally stood by him even at the expense of a rebuke from his royal master. He also secured the support of the Jesuits, whose Collége de Clermont had approved of the Maximes, and who promised to manifest as much energy in his defence as they had shown in procuring the condemnation of Cornelis Jansen. These weighty influences might secure delay and discussion, but they could not control the result against the overmastering pressure of such a monarch as Louis XIV who, on July 27, 1697, wrote to the pope that he had had the Maximes examined and that it was pronounced “très mauvais et très dangéreux,” wherefore he asked to have judgement pronounced on it without delay. Then, on May 16, 1698, the nuncio at Paris reported that the king complained of the delay; it was in contempt of his person and crown, and if Rome did not act promptly he would take such measures as he saw fit. Threats such as this were not to be lightly disregarded, and still more ominous was an autograph letter to the pope, December 23d, expressing his displeasure at the prolongation of the case and urging its speedy conclusion.


To Bossuet’s representative and grand-vicar, the Abbé Phelippeaux, we owe a minute report of the long contest, which affords an interesting inside view of the conduct of such affairs, showing how little regard was paid to the principles involved and how completely the result depended on intrigue and influence. The case passed through its regular stages. A commission of seven consultors had been found, to whom, after a struggle, three were added. These disputed at much length over thirty-seven propositions extracted from the book and, when at length they made their report to the Congregation of the Inquisition, they stood five to five, showing that each side had succeeded in putting an equal number of friends on the commission. In the Congregation, the struggle was renewed and continued through thirty-eight sessions. Had the fate of Europe been at stake, the matter could not have been more warmly contested. At length the inevitable condemnation was voted, and then came a fresh contest over the phraseology of the decree. Bossuet’s agents were not content with the simple condemnation of twenty-three propositions and the prohibition of the book, and they struggled vigorously for clauses condemning and humiliating Fénelon himself, showing how purely{67} personal was the controversy. In this they failed, as well as in the endeavor to have the propositions characterized as heretical; they were only pronounced to be respectively rash, scandalous, ill-sounding, offensive to pious ears, pernicious in practice and erroneous. The principal doctrine aimed at was that the pure love of God should be wholly disinterested, and that its acts and motives should be divested of all mercenary hope of reward. The brief was finally agreed to, on March 12, 1699, and published on the 13th. It was in the form of a motu proprio which, under the rules in force in France respecting papal decrees, precluded its acceptance and registration by the Parlement, but Louis, ordinarily so tenacious about papal intrusion, found indirect means of eluding the difficulty.

Fénelon, however, had not awaited this cumbrous procedure. In a dignified letter of submission to the pope, April 4, 1699, he stated that he had already prepared a mandement for his diocese, condemning the book with its twenty-three propositions, which he would publish as soon as he should receive the royal permission. This was promptly given and, on April 9th he issued it, forbidding the possession and reading of the Maximes, and condemning the propositions “simply, absolutely and without a shadow of restriction.” Innocent XII, who had more than once indicated sympathy with Fénelon, responded May 12th, in a brief expressing his cordial satisfaction, bestowing on him his loving benediction and invoking the aid of God for his pastoral labors. Bossuet, with the royal assistance, had triumphed, at the cost of a stain on his reputation; what the Church had gained, in condemning the sublimated speculations of a rarefied and impracticable Mysticism, it would be hard to say.[123]

Yet, as though to indicate that there is no finality in these matters, Pius VI, in 1789, beatified the Blessed Giovanni Giuseppe{68} della Croce († March 5, 1734), who was much given to contemplation and to union with God, in which all his faculties were lost, as completely as in the trances of his prototype, San Juan de la Cruz, or as in the mystic death of Molinos. That his Mysticism did not forfeit the favor of heaven was shown by his possessing the gift of bilocation—of being in two places at one time—of which numerous instances were cited in the beatification proceedings.[124]


The Spanish Inquisition which had so long carried on single-handed the struggle against Mysticism, watched with satisfaction the Roman proceedings against Molinos. As we have seen, his arrest, on July 3, 1685, was promptly followed, November 9th with a condemnation of the Guida which, for nine years, had been allowed to circulate freely in Spain. The edict pronounced it to contain propositions ill-sounding, offensive to pious ears, rash, savoring of the heresy of the Alumbrados, and some erroneous ones, and the title was denounced as misleading because it spoke only of the interior way.[125] When the sentence of the Roman Inquisition was published, September 3, 1687, although as a rule the Spanish Holy Office paid no attention to its decrees, the sixty-eight propositions were speedily translated into the vernacular and widely distributed. On October 11th, sixty copies were sent to Valencia to be posted, with orders to print more if they should be required. These were accompanied with an edict, commanding obedience and threatening the most rigorous prosecution for remissness, while all persons were ordered to denounce, within ten days, contraventions of any kind coming to their knowledge. This edict was to be published in all churches of the capitals of partidos and an authentic record of such publication was to be affixed to the doors. In due time, when the bull Cœlestis pastor was issued, it was circulated with the same prescriptions.[126] There was evidently a determination to make the most of this new ally in the struggle with Mysticism.


The Seville tribunal, indeed, had not waited for this, as it had already, April 24, 1687, arrested a canon of the church of San Salvador, Joseph Luis Navarro de Luna y Medina, who was a{69} correspondent of Molinos and had sent him his autobiography, in order to obtain instructions for his spiritual guidance. He had previously been deprived of his licence as confessor, on charges of imprudent conduct as spiritual director of a nunnery, but Jaime de Palafox, Archbishop of Seville, who was a warm admirer of Molinos, had restored the licence, introduced him in all the convents and adopted him as confessor of himself and his family. For four years Navarro endured incarceration and the torture which was not spared, but he succumbed at last, confessed and sought reconciliation. His sentence declared him guilty of the errors of the Lutherans, Calvinists, Arians, Nestorians, Trinitarians, Waldenses, Agapetæ, Baianists and Alumbrados, besides being a dogmatizer of those of Molinos, with the addition that evil thoughts arising in prayer should be carried into execution, and also that, when his disciples assembled in his house, the lights would be extinguished and he would teach doctrines too foul for description. The tribunal itself could scarce have believed all this, for he was only required to abjure, to be deprived of benefice and functions, to be recluded for two years and be exiled for six more. When the term had expired he returned to Seville and then, until his death, in 1725, he passed his days in the churches, where the Venerable Sacrament was exposed for adoration, carrying with him a hinged stool on which he sat, gazing at the Host.[127] He was not the only Molinist in Seville for in 1689, after three years’ trial, Fray Pedro de San José was condemned as a disciple of Molinos, for committing obscenities with his penitents and foretelling his election as pope and his suffering under Antichrist, who was already in Jerusalem, twenty years old. He was sentenced to abjure de vehementi, to undergo a circular discipline in his convent, to perpetual deprivation of teaching and confessing, and to six years’ reclusion in a convent, with the customary disabilities.[128] Soon afterwards there was penanced in an auto, May 18, 1692, a woman named Ana Raguza, popularly known as la pabeza, as an Alumbrada and Molinista. She had come from Palermo as a missionary to convert the wicked, probably in the train of Palafox, who had been Archbishop of Palermo. She called herself a bride of Christ, she had visions and revelations, she denied the efficacy of{70} masses and fasts, and she had the faculty of determining the condition of consciences by the sense of smell. She escaped with two years of reclusion and six more of exile.[129]


The condemnation of Molinos seems to have stimulated the Inquisition to greater activity in the suppression of mysticism, for cases begin to appear more frequently in the records and henceforth the term Molinism, to a great extent, takes the place of Illuminism. We hear of a Molinist penanced in a Córdova auto of May 12, 1693,[130] and he cannot have been the only one there for Fray Francisco de Possadas of that city tells us that he was led to write his book against the carnal errors of Molinos by his experience in the confessional, showing that some of his penitents had been misled by them.[131] The report of the Valencia tribunal, for 1695, contains three cases then on trial. The Franciscan, Fray Vicente Selles, had been arrested in 1692. He had led a life exteriorly austere, practising meditation and contemplation, and he freely admitted that when Molinos was condemned he held that the pope was wrongly informed. His overwrought brain gave way under the stress of confinement; at times he was full of religious emotion and solicitous as to his salvation, while at others he was violently insane, performing various crazy freaks. On August 24th he attempted suicide by dashing his head against a projecting piece of iron, causing a wound so serious that several pieces of skull were discharged and, on February 6, 1693, the surgeons reported his life to be still in danger. He remained melancolico, variable in mood, confessing and retracting until, on October 23d, he confessed fully to Molinism, naming eleven women with whom he had had relations in the confessional and also admitting unnatural crime and other offences. At the date of the report his trial was still unfinished. Another phase of these eccentric methods of salvation is presented in the case of Vicente Hernan, a hermit of San Cristóbal of Concentayna, accused by three women of teaching them the way of bruising the head of the serpent by sleeping with them and resisting temptation, and of attempting indecencies, which they denied permitting. He was arrested September 23,{71} 1692, and in two audiences he was a negativo. Then on December 17th he asked for an audience in which he said that for eight days some little flies and black pigeons had been biting him and reminding him of things forgotten, whereupon he told of the women whom he had got to sleep with him, sometimes two or three at a time, and he also mentioned numerous miraculous cures which he had wrought. In January 1693, he said that the demons with the voice of flies had been recalling his sins, and he told of three other women. Doubts arose as to his sanity and, at the end of 1693 steps were taken to investigate it, which were still in progress at the time of closing the report. The third case was that of Mosen Antonio Serra, whose doctrines the calificadores reported to be Molinistic. He was arrested December 19, 1695, so that his trial had only begun.[132]

In 1708 the Toledo tribunal arrested Fray Manuel de Paredes, a contemplative fraile, who encouraged mystic practices among his penitents, leading to several trials, which illustrate the increased severity visited upon these condemned forms of devotion.[133] The same tendency is visible soon afterwards at Córdova, where a little conventicle of Molinistas alumbradoswas discovered in the Dominican convent of San Pablo, under the leadership of a beata named Isabel del Castillo. Her disciples abandoned to her their free-will and all their faculties; they had no need of fasts and penances but could transfer their sins to her and the path of salvation lay through sensual indulgence. In the auto of April 24, 1718, there were seven of them penanced, Isabel being visited with two hundred lashes and perpetual prison; the friars were reconciled, deprived of their functions and imprisoned, some irremissibly and some perpetually, while the laymen had penances of various degrees of severity.[134]

During this period there occurred a case deserving of consideration in some detail, not only because of the prominence of the culprit but because it affords a clearer view than others of the strange intermixture of sensuality and spirituality, which was distinctly known as Molinism, and of the self-deception which enabled men and women to indulge their passions while believing themselves to be living in the mystic altitude of Union with God.{72} Perhaps this may partly be explicable by the teachings of the laxer morality, current in the sixteenth century and known under the general name of Probabilism, and by the distinction between material and formal sin, whereby that alone was mortal sin which the conscience recognized as such, the conscience being still further eased by refinements as to advertence and consent. In the skilful hands of the casuists, the boundaries between right and wrong became dangerously nebulous, and arguments were plentiful through which men could persuade themselves that whatever they chose to do was lawful.


Joseph Fernández de Toro was an inquisitor in Murcia, deeply imbued with quietistic Mysticism. In 1686 he issued anonymously in Seville a little tract with the significant title of “Remedio facilissimo para no pecar en el uso y exercicio de la Oracion,” which in time duly found its way into the Index.[135] As inquisitor he had manifested his tendencies, when a prelate of high repute and station in a religious Order was tried before him for solicitation ad turpia in the confessional. Guided by the light within, Toro was satisfied that it was merely a case of obsession by the demon; he persuaded the Suprema to accept this view, and the culprit escaped with suspension from celebrating mass and hearing confessions until the obsession should pass. In 1706, he was promoted to the see of Oviedo, of which he took possession October 1st. Unluckily for him there was at Oviedo the Jesuit college of San Mathias; his reputation for Quietism seems to have preceded him, and the heads of the college resolved themselves into a corps of detectives. Professing the utmost friendship, they speedily acquired his confidence and he talked with them freely. They were prompt in action for, in January 1707, Padre José del Campo drew up for the inquisitor-general an elaborate secret denunciation, setting forth how Toro in conversation had offered to explain to him the contemplation of Molinos; since coming to Asturias, he had spoken to no one about these things, for he knew that they had occasioned much murmuring against him, but he described the mode in which the soul reached the summit of perfection in Union with God, while the inferior sensual part might be abandoned to the foulest temptation. These dangerous speculations were reported in full detail and were accompanied by a long and skilful argument to prove that Toro was in every sense a Molinist.{73}

Other Jesuits drew up similar denunciations, or attested their truth, and the case was fairly before the Holy Office. It was too serious for hasty action and investigation was made in Murcia, where his female accomplices were arrested, and ample confirmatory evidence was obtained from their confessions and from eighteen of his letters. The Carranza case had taught the lesson that bishops could be reached only through papal authority and, on November 7, 1709, Inquisitor-general Ybáñez forwarded to Clement XI the accumulated evidence, to which the pope replied, March 8, 1710, that the matter would be thoroughly examined and the necessary action be taken. Toro had at first been disposed to make a contest, asserting that God would work miracles in defence of the women, and that their imprisonment was a martyrdom; that the light infused in him by God rendered him superior to the Inquisition, and that he was illuminated above all other men. By this time, however, he realized his position; on February 8, 1710, he made, through his confessor, a partial confession, and he followed this with several letters to the pope, begging permission to come to Rome for judgement. Then a papal brief of June 7th ordered Ybáñez, within three years and under the advice of the Suprema, to frame a prosecution, for which full powers were granted; if the evidence sufficed, Toro was to be arrested and the case carried on up to the point of sentence, when all the documents were to be transmitted to Rome, where the pope would render the decision.

Toro was duly imprisoned and his trial proceeded. Ybáñez died, September 3, 1710 and was succeeded by Giudice, who was empowered, by a brief of October 3, 1711, to carry on the process. Toro was found to be diminuto on a hundred and four of the articles of accusation; he was reticent and refused to answer interrogations, begging earnestly to be sent to Rome. His request was granted, by a brief of June 7, 1714, but his departure was delayed, and it was not until June 11, 1716, that he reached Rome and was lodged in the castle of Sant’Angelo. Andrés de Cabrejas, fiscal of the Suprema, accompanied him, to represent the Spanish Inquisition in the trial which proceeded slowly. Toro’s confessions and letters were a rich mine for the calificadores, who extracted from them four hundred and fifty-five propositions of various degrees of error—some of them being identical with those of Molinos. Finally he abandoned all defence and acknowledged that he had been a dogmatizing heretic, a soliciting seducer, a blasphemer{74} against the purity of God, Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin, a reviver of the filthy sects of the Begghards, Illuminists and Molinists and subject to the same penalties.


In fact he seems to have recognized his errors and to have confessed with a freedom indicative of sincere repentance. Much of his confessions is unfit for transcription, but a brief extract will indicate the self-deception that reconciled the grossest sensuality with aspirations for perfection. Thus of one of his accomplices he says that, believing himself to be illuminated in the sacrifice of the mass, he had written that none of her directors could estimate her spiritual state as regards her perfection and Union with God, in spite of the concussions of her inferior part, excited by obsession, through which those could be deceived who were unable to understand her interior virtues and perfect state. Although in obscene acts the woman might seem externally to be a sinner, yet, by asserting that she had not yielded consent, she might internally be perfect and be in Union with God. That, as the Incarnate Word did not contract original sin in his union with humanity, so with persons annihilated, purged and perfected, God could direct them to supernatural operations in such wise that the operations of the inferior part worked no prejudice to their state of perfection, and that the woman’s obscene acts might proceed from obsession, and she be passive without consent.... That he had believed this doctrine to be infused in him by God, and thus to be true, like the doctrine of the Church, to be held unhesitatingly, especially by those obsessed, and he had written that he was ready to give his life in its defence.... That he had believed the indecencies committed with this same woman might be an exercise and martyrdom sent by God for the humiliation and purification of both, but nevertheless he made confession of them, and took care that she should do so. She was accustomed to say that, in the inferior part, she was without sensuality and in the superior part was absorbed in contemplation and love of God.... That in his oratory after mass and her communion he had embraced her and told her that she received the light and that this was the love of God for his creatures.... That Jesus was in him and worked in him, because neither he nor the woman experienced sensuality in what they did nor did it from corrupt intention.... That he had had this belief for seven years prior to his episcopate, and had maintained it subsequently up to July 1708, but then, in confessing his sins, a worthy confessor enlightened{75} his blindness, and since then he had detested his errors and had followed the way of Catholic truth.

At length the pope designated July 27, 1719 for pronouncing sentence. Cabrejas had the records of Carranza’s condemnation looked up, and the same ceremonial was observed. Toro was brought from the castle of Sant’Angelo to one of the halls of the papal palace, and there the sentence was read. It deposed him from his bishopric and all other benefices, it incapacitated him from holding any preferment, and suspended him perpetually from sacerdotal functions; it required him to abjure his heresy and errors, it called upon him to pay for pious uses, as far as he could, all revenues accrued since his lapse into heresy, and it burdened his see with a pension for his support, to be determined by the pope; it condemned him to reclusion, in some convent outside of Spain, when he was to perform perpetual penance, on the bread of sorrow and water of grief, and it prescribed certain spiritual observances. After listening to his sentence, Toro made the required abjuration, accepted the penance and disappeared from view.[136]

Another prominent culprit was the priest, Don Francisco de Leon y Luna, a Knight of Santiago and member of the Council of Castile, who was tried by the tribunal of Madrid for Molinism and formal solicitation. As a negativo he was liable to relaxation but, on November 24, 1721, it was voted to give him nine audiences, in which the inquisitors, with some calificadores, should exhort him to confession and conversion, under threat of administering the full rigor of the law. He seems to have yielded and, on August 11, 1722, his sentence con méritos was read in the presence of twelve members of the Councils of Castile, Indies, Orders and Hacienda. He was required to abjure de vehementi, he was deprived perpetually of confessing men and women, of guiding souls and instructing them in prayer, and of the honors of the Order of Santiago; half of his property was confiscated, and he was recluded for three years with suspension of all sacerdotal functions, to be followed by five years of exile.[137]



Llorente gives, in great detail, an account of a Molinist movement which, soon after this, afforded ample occupation to the tribunals of Logroño and Valladolid. Juan de Causadas, a prebendary of Tudela, was an ardent disciple of Molinos and propagator of his doctrines. He was burnt at Logroño, but whether for pertinacity or denial we are not informed. His nephew, Fray Juan de Longas, of the Barefooted Carmelites, was also a dogmatizer and was sentenced, in 1729, to two hundred lashes and ten years of galleys, followed by perpetual prison. This severity seems not to have discouraged the proselytes who, apparently, were not betrayed by Longas. The principal among them was Doña Agueda de Luna, who had entered the Carmelite convent of Lerma in 1712, with the reputation of a saint. Her ecstasies and miracles were spread abroad by Juan de Longas, by the Prior of Lerma, by the Provincial of the Order, Juan de la Vega, and by the leading frailes, who found their account in the crowds of devotees seeking her intercession. Juan de la Vega himself acquired the name of el extático and was represented as the holiest mystic since the days of Juan de la Cruz. A convent was founded at Corella for Madre Agueda, of which she was made prioress, and the nuns were fully indoctrinated in the principles and practice of Molinism. By Madre Agueda, Juan de la Vega had five children who were strangled at birth and, with other untimely fruits of the prevailing licence, were buried in the vicinity. After a long course of iniquity and deception, Madre Agueda was denounced to the Logroño tribunal; her accomplices and disciples were arrested and their trials were pushed with unsparing severity. She perished under torture and, in 1743, the frailes were recluded in various houses and the nuns were distributed among convents of their Order.[138] Madre Agueda’s case had been decided some years previously for, in the Supplement to the Index of 1707, published in 1739, the first entry relates to her, “of whom the apocryphal life has been written, and of whom are circulated stones, cloths, medals and papers as relics,” all of which were to be surrendered as well as relations of her prodigies and virtues. The stones here alluded to are evidently those described by Llorente, made of brick-dust and stamped with a cross on one side and a star on the other, which were said to be voided by her with child-birth pains, and were universally treasured as amulets. It may be assumed that{77} this case led to the issue, in 1745, by the Inquisition of an edict directed against five Molinist errors.[139]

Cases still continued to occur, but infrequently and of minor importance. The inquisitors had begun to merge immoral mysticism with solicitation in the confessional, of which more hereafter, while the more harmless kinds were classified as embusteros (impostors) or ilusos (deluded). There is a Mexican case, however, which is so illustrative of the abuses to which inquisitorial methods were liable, that it deserves mention. The Franciscan, Fray Eusebio de Villaroja, was distinguished for learning, eloquence and blameless life. He was inclined to mysticism and had written a work entitled Oracion de Fe interior, which the Inquisition admitted to contain no reprobated doctrine but yet to be dangerous for popular use. The convent at Pachuca obtained his assignment there and in 1783, at the age of 38, he arrived in Mexico, where his kindly earnestness speedily won universal regard. After two or three years he happened to assume the spiritual direction of two girls, Gertrudis and Josefa Palacios, who were adepts in the mystic devices of ecstasies and revelations. Gertrudis died and Villaroja became completely engrossed in Josefa. He reduced to writing her visions and prophecies, until he had filled seventy-six books and, in his ardor, he committed freaks attracting undesirable attention. The convent physician suggested that undue austerity had engendered hypochondriac humors, and the Guardian interposed by ordering him to attend to other duties, to limit Josefa to an hour in the confessional, and never to go to her house. His obedience was implicit and prompt; he ceased to talk of her visions and prophecies, and she naturally ceased to have them. A year later, when questioned by Fray Juan Sánchez, the visitor of the Province, he said that, as soon as the Guardian reproved him, he recognized his error and would not relapse into it—so the affair seemed to have died a natural death.

Unluckily the Guardian, not anticipating such docility, had reported the matter to the Inquisition, which commenced to gather testimony, but when he was, some months later, in the city of Mexico and was summoned as a witness, he stated that Villaroja’s eccentricities had ceased, and he evidently regarded the matter as closed. Still the tribunal persisted and, in July 1789, it seized{78} Villaroja’s diaries, in which the latest entry was one humbly submitting to the judgement of the Church both himself and the authenticity of the visions.

After a formidable mass of testimony was accumulated, bearing witness to Villaroja’s eminent piety and virtue, he was summoned, in July 1790, to present himself. He was not informed that he was on trial for, in his profound humility, he would at once have submitted his opinions to the judgement of the tribunal, but he was drawn into a discussion as to whether God, for the greater perfection of the creature, would permit the demon to incite to foul and obscene actions—a position which he had taken to justify some filthy habits of Josefa. This was, as we have seen, one of the dangerous tenets of Quietism, and over this there was a prolonged and subtle disputation. He subsequently declared that he supposed the inquisitor to be only seeking to learn his opinions when in fact he was being cunningly led to pile up evidence against himself, at the same time arousing the controversial pride of Inquisitor Prado y Obejero, who pronounced futile his efforts to differentiate his doctrine from that of Molinos.

He was thrown into the secret prison, October 13, 1791, and his trial proceeded in regular form. Nothing could exceed his submissive humility. On every fitting occasion he protested that he had been miserably led into error by ignorance; he begged to be undeceived in whatever he had erred and he submitted himself to the correction of the Holy Office, for he desired above all things the discharge of his conscience and the salvation of his soul. It required uncommon perversity in his judges to make a pertinacious heretic out of so humble and contrite a spirit but, when his sentence was pronounced, April 26, 1793, it represented him as a hardened and obstinate Alumbrado and Molinist, condemning him to abjure de vehementi, to be forever deprived of the faculty of confessing, to be recluded for three years in the Franciscan convent of Mexico, and to be sent to Spain whenever the inquisitors should see fit. Had he been an habitual seducer of his spiritual daughters, the sentence would have been less severe.


The treatment of a fraile recluded in a convent of his brethren was usually harsh in the extreme, but Fray Eusebio’s kindliness and gentleness so won on his hosts that they declared his daily life to be an edification, while those of Pachuca, who had to bear the expenses of his trial, continued to regard him with undiminished affection. His punishment, however, was far more severe{79} than the mere provisions of his sentence. Incarceration for eighteen months in a humid cell had developed a former rheumatic tendency and he was crippled. His request to be transferred to Pachuca was refused and, in March, 1795, he appealed to Inquisitor-general Lorenzana. His sufferings, he said, were on the increase and, if he were kept in the city of Mexico or sent to Spain, he would surely die. The result of this was a command to transmit him to Spain, which was notified to him, in June 1796, when he protested, to no purpose, that it would kill him. His removal was postponed until October, when he was carried by easy stages to Vera Cruz and placed on board the good ship Aurora, November 9th, consigned to the commissioner at Seville. The Aurora sailed the next day, but his prophetic spirit proved true and, when nine days out, his gentle spirit passed to a judge more merciful than his earthly ones.[140]


Fray Eusebio would have fared better in Spain, where there was a growing tendency to regard the accused as subject to delusion, when there was no conscious imposture and no teaching of dangerous Mysticism. Delusion was recognized at an early period, but the first case which I have met in which it formed the basis of prosecution occurs in the Barcelona tribunal which, in 1666, reported that it had found a process brought, in 1659, against Sor María de la Cruz, nun of the convent of la Concepcion of Tortosa, por ilusa, which had never been concluded.[141] In 1694, Don Francisco de las Cuevas y Rojas, of Madrid, was sentenced by the Toledo tribunal, as an iluso pasivo, to reprimand, absolution ad cautelam, retractation of certain propositions, abstention from spiritual matters, and a year’s reclusion, during which a calificador would teach him the safest method of prayer, while all his writings were to be suppressed. The same year a beata named María de la Paz, as ilusa, was required merely to abjure de levi, to be severely reprimanded and to be handed over to a calificador for instruction. So, in 1716, Don Eugenio Aguado de Lara, cura of Algete, was sentenced, by the same tribunal, for suspicion of illusion in the direction of a beata, to abjure de levi, with reprimand and prohibition of further communication with her, while he was to abstain{80} from the direction of souls as far as was compatible with his priestly functions. The beata his accomplice, Agustina Salgado, was regarded as more reprehensible for, besides being ilusa, she was held guilty of false revelations; she abjured de levi, with perpetual exile from Algete and reclusion in a hospital for two years, for instruction.[142]

Even this moderation increased with time. In 1785, the Valencia tribunal suspended the case, and sent to an insane hospital, Esperanza Bueno of Puig, popularly known as la Santa, denounced for pretended revelations and asserting that she could absolve from sin.[143] The same tendency appears in the case of María Rivero, of Valladolid, in 1817, whom the Suprema characterized as erroneously and presumptuously believing herself to be adorned with revelations and special graces. She was ordered to place herself unreservedly under the guidance of a spiritual director, with the warning that otherwise she would be treated with judicial rigor, while the director was instructed to disillusion her, and to call in medical advice as to her sanity, which was doubtful.[144]

Although the Inquisition was thus growing rationalistic in its treatment of these cases, it was impossible to eradicate popular credulity with its accompanying temptation to exploitation. In the last case before the Córdova tribunal, it ordered, July 9, 1818, the incarceration in the secret prison, as an ilusa, of the beata Francisca de Paula Caballero y Garrida of Lucena, while her sister María Dominga Caballero was confined in the carceles medias, and the two curas of Lucena, Joaquin de Burgos and Josef Barranco, were recluded in a convent without communication with each other. The beata performed miracles and had revelations, which seem to have found credence among a circle of disciples for when, after full investigation, the Suprema, on July 5, 1819, ordered the prosecution of the four prisoners, it directed proceedings to be commenced against seven other parties, including clerics and laymen of both sexes. Fortunately for this group of ilusos, the revolution of 1820 came to put an end to all proceedings, and when the Córdova tribunal was suppressed, the only inmates found in its prison were the two beatas of Lucena.[145]


While the Inquisition was thus merciful towards those whom it{81} considered to be merely deluded in claiming spiritual graces, it grew to be severe with those who traded on popular credulity. That credulity was so universal and so boundless that the profession of beata revelandera was an easy and a profitable one. The people were eager to be deceived; no fiction was too gross to find ready credence, and the believers invented miracles which they ascribed to the objects of their reverence. The punishment of the impostor and the exposure of the fraud failed to repress either belief or imposition, and the land in time was overrun by a horde of these practitioners, mostly female. It was a spiritual pestilence of the most degrading character, shared by all classes, with the extenuating circumstances that some of the boldest cases of imposture enjoyed the approbation of the Holy See. The Inquisition did good work in its ceaseless efforts to repress this prostitution of Mysticism—a work which no other tribunal could venture to attempt. If it found suppression impossible, at least it checked the development which at one time threatened to render the popular religion of Spain a matter of hysterics.

In its inception, there was some hesitation as to the treatment of these speculators on the credulity of the people. When the Beata of Piedrahita was allowed to continue her career, she naturally had imitators. In 1525, Alonso de Mariana, a Toledan inquisitor, on a visitation of his district, had his attention called to Doña Juana Maldonado of Guadalajara, widow of the alcaide of la Vega de la Montaña. She was arrested and presented written statements or confessions of her dreams and visions of the Virgin and Christ, St. John the Evangelist and St. Bernard. The proceedings were informal and, in an audience, March 27th, at Alcalá de Henares, after publication of the evidence, she admitted its truth, stating that she had talked about her visions in order to obtain some aid in her poverty and she begged for mercy and penance. There was evidently no desire to treat her harshly or to regard her as an impostor, for she is spoken of as an ilusa or soñadera (dreamer) and she was required only to fast on five Fridays and Saturdays, in honor of Christ and the Virgin, with fifteen Paters and Aves each day, to keep her house as a prison until released by the tribunal, after which, on six Saturdays, she was to visit the church of the Virgin, outside of the town.[146] A century later she would have fared much worse.{82}

The exposure, in 1543, of a more accomplished practitioner, Magdalena de la Cruz, removed any further hesitation in dealing with such cases. She had long been the wonder of Spain and even of Christendom. Tempest-tossed mariners would invoke her intercession, when she would appear to them and the storm would subside. The noblest ladies, when nearing confinement, would send the layette to be blessed by her, as did the Empress Isabel before the birth of Philip II. When, in 1535, Charles V was starting from Barcelona for the expedition to Tunis, he sent his banner to Córdova that she might bestow on it her blessing. Cardinal Manrique, the inquisitor-general, and Giovanni di Reggio, the papal nuncio, made pilgrimages to her, and the pope sent to ask her prayers for the Christian Republic. It is true that Ignatius Loyola was incredulous and, in 1541, severely reproved Martin de la Santa Cruz, who endeavored to win him over, for accepting exterior signs without seeking for the true ones; the Venerable Juan de Avila was also sceptical and, when he was in Córdova, he was discreetly denied access to her.


When, in 1504, at the age of 17, she entered the Franciscan convent of Santa Isabel de los Angeles of Córdova, she was already regarded as a vessel overflowing with divine grace, a belief confirmed by a series of ecstasies, trances, visions, revelations and miracles. Space is lacking to recount the varied series of marvels, many of which do infinite credit to her imaginative invention, while some of them required confederates, who seem not to have been lacking, in view of the benefit to the convent accruing from its containing so saintly a person. Elected prioress in 1533, she retained the position until 1542, and during this time she devoted to it the large stream of offerings which poured in on her. Defeated for re-election in 1542, she no longer made this use of her funds and the successful faction denounced her to the Guardian and the Provincial as an impostor, but the credit of the Order was at stake and they were silenced. She was not destined however to adorn the calendar of mystic saints for, in 1543, she fell dangerously sick and was warned to prepare for death. Under this pressure she made a full confession, ascribing her deceits to demoniacal possession. She recovered and the Inquisition seized her. The trial lasted until May 3, 1546, an immense body of testimony being taken, corroborative of her confession, which was skilfully framed to throw the blame on her demons Balban and Patorrio. In short, she had commenced as a mystic, had been{83} unable to resist the temptation of accepting the miracles thrust upon her by popular superstition, she had stimulated this with her frauds, and finally sought extenuation by alleging demonic influence. An immense crowd attended the auto held May 3, 1546, when the reading of her sentence con méritos occupied from 6 A.M. to 4 P.M., while she sat on the staging with a gag in her mouth, a halter around her neck and a lighted candle in her hand. Her sentence was moderate—perpetual reclusion in a convent, without active or passive voice, and occupying the last place in choir, refectory and chapter, together with some spiritual penances. She was relegated to the convent of Santa Clara, at Andujar, where she lived an exemplary life and, at her death, in 1560, it was piously hoped that her sins were expiated.[147]

Had human reason any share in these beliefs, such an exposure would have put an end to the industry of the beatas revelanderas, but the popular appetite for the marvellous was insatiable, and there were abundant practitioners ready to dare the attendant risks for the accompanying glory and profit. Everywhere there were women accomplished in these arts and skilled in impressing their neighbors with their revelations and prophecies; every town and almost every hamlet had its local saint, who was regarded with intense veneration and assured of an abundant livelihood.[148] All branches of the supernatural were exploited: some could predict the future; others had prophetic dreams or could expound those of their devotees; others could release souls from purgatory; others could perform curative miracles; popular faith in these gifted spirits was boundless and innumerable sharpers of both sexes fattened upon it.

The people might well be credulous when they but followed the example of those highest in Church and State. Magdalena de la Cruz had a worthy imitator in the Dominican Madre María de la Visitacion, of the convent of the Annunciada of Lisbon, whose{84} intimate relations with Christ began at the age of 16, in 1572. About 1580 Christ crucified appeared to her, when a ray of fire from his breast pierced her left side, leaving a wound which on Fridays distilled drops of blood with intense pain. In 1583 she was elected prioress and, in 1584, in another vision of Christ crucified, rays of fire from his hands and feet pierced hers and thus completed the Stigmata. No time was lost by the Dominican Provincial, Antonio de la Cerda, in spreading the news of this, in a statement dated March 14, 1584, and sent to Rome to be submitted to Gregory XIII. It was corroborated by the signatures of several frailes, among which is the honored name of the great mystic, Luis de Granada.[149] The Provincial followed this, March 30th, with another letter to Rome stating that the impression produced had been so great that many gentlemen had been induced to abandon the world and enter the Order, and even that three Moors had come to look upon Sor María, whose appearance had so impressed them that they sought baptism on the spot—to which he added two miraculous cures effected through articles touched by her.[150]

Sor María’s fame penetrated through Christendom and even, we are told, to the Indies. Gregory XIII was duly impressed and wrote to her urging to persevere without faltering in the path which she had entered. She might have continued to do so, with the reputation of a saint, if she had abstained from politics. Unluckily she allowed herself to be drawn into a movement to throw off the Spanish yoke, and the authorities, who had been content to allow her to acquire influence, found it necessary to expose her, when that influence threatened to be potent on the side of rebellion.


The Annunciada was not without internal jealousies which facilitated the obtaining of information justifying investigation. A commission was appointed consisting of the Archbishops of Lisbon and Braga, the Bishop of Guarda, the Dominican Provincial, the{85} Inquisitors of Lisbon and Doctor Pablo Alfonso of the Royal Council. Assembling in the convent they took the testimony of many of the nuns that Sor María’s sanctity was feigned and her stigmata were painted. She was then brought before them and sworn, when she persisted, in spite of threats and adjurations, in the story of the stigmata and of her communications with Christ. The next day, hot water and soap were called for; she protested and pretended to suffer extreme agony, but a vigorous application of the detergents to the palms of her hands caused the wounds to disappear, when she threw herself at the feet of her judges and begged for mercy. At a subsequent audience she gave a detailed explanation of the devices by which she had deceived the faithful—how she had managed the apparent elevation from the ground and the divine light suffused around her and the cloths stained with blood from her side. The severity of the sentence, rendered December 6, 1588, shows how much greater than mere sacrilegious imposture was the offence of her meddling with politics. She was recluded for life in a convent of a different Order from her own; for a year she was to be whipped every Monday and Friday for the space of a Miserere; in the refectory she was to take her meals on the floor, what she left was to be cast out and, at the end of the meal, she was to lie in the door-way and be trampled on by the sisters in their exit; she was to observe a perpetual fast; she was incapacitated from holding office; she was always to be last and was to hold converse with none without permission of the abbess; she was not to wear a veil; on Wednesdays and Fridays she was to have only bread and water, and whenever the nuns assembled in the refectory she was to recite her crimes in an audible voice. In this living death she is said to have performed her cruel penance with such patience and humility that she became saintly in reality.[151] It is not improbable that she may have been from the beginning a tool in designing hands. A contemporary relates that, before the exposure, he wrote to Fray Alberto de Aguajo in Lisbon, asking whether he should go thither to consult her on a case of conscience, and was told in reply that there was nothing wonderful about her except the goodness of God in granting her such graces, for she was as simple as a child of six. She was, however, a rich source{86} of income, for the Portuguese in the Indies used to send her gold and diamonds and pearls to purchase her intercession with God.[152] Even her condemnation did not wholly disabuse her dupes. Four years later, a certain Martin de Ayala, prosecuted in 1592 for revelations and impostures, claimed to have spiritual communication with her and foretold direful things about the conquest of Spain by foreigners, when a cave in Toledo would be the only place where the few elect could find safety. He had a colleague, Don Guillen de Casans, who was likewise prosecuted.[153]

One would have supposed that a case like that of Sor María, to which the utmost publicity must have been given, would have discredited the stigmata as a special mark of divine favor, but it seems rather to have stimulated the ambitious to possess them by showing how easily they could be imitated. They became a matter of almost daily occurrence. In 1634 a Jesuit casually alludes in a letter to two new cases just reported—one of a nun of la Concepcion in Salamanca and the other in Burgos—adding that they had become so common that no woman esteems herself a servant of God unless she can exhibit them.[154]


When uncomplicated with politics, imposture continued to be leniently treated and it was an exception when, in 1591, the Toledo tribunal visited with two hundred lashes María de Morales for trances and revelations and other deceits to acquire the reputation of a saint.[155] Thus at the Seville auto of 1624, when Pacheco was intent on suppressing the errors of Mysticism, there were eight impostors guilty of every device to exploit superstition, six of whom escaped with a year or two of reclusion. Only two were more severely dealt with. Mariana de Jesus, a barefooted Carmelite, was a Maestra de Espiritu, who taught Illuminism and had a record of endless visions, prophetic inspiration and conflicts with Satan. She maintained herself in luxury by selling her spiritual gifts, and it was in evidence that poor people had pledged their household gear to purchase her intercession for the souls of their kindred, but she was only paraded in vergüenza with four year’s reclusion in a convent and perpetual exile from Seville. The heaviest punishment was that visited on Juan de Jesus, known as el Hermito, who professed to be insensible to carnal temptation,{87} for God had deprived him of all free-will and he was governed only by the spirit. Religious observances for him were superfluous, for he was always in the presence of God, and so fervent was his love for God that water hissed when he drank it. He not only claimed that he healed the sick but that once he had prayed eight thousand souls out of purgatory, thirty thousand at another time, then twenty-two thousand and finally all that were left. In general his relations with women are unfit for description, and he shrewdly had a revelation that all who gave him alms would be saved. His devotees were not confined to the ignorant, for he was received in the houses of the principal ladies of Seville and men of high distinction admitted him to their tables. He received less than his deserts when he was sentenced to a hundred lashes and life confinement in a convent or hospital, where he was to work for his board and to pray daily a third of the rosary.[156]

In its persistent and fruitless efforts to stamp out this pestilence, the Inquisition was beginning to adopt severer treatment, as in the case of Sor Lorenza Murga of Simancas, a Franciscan tertiary, who for sixteen years enjoyed great reputation in Valladolid. She had ecstasies and revelations whenever wanted, and her little house was an object of pilgrimage, when she would throw herself into a trance at the request of any one. It was a profitable pursuit, for she rose from abject poverty to comfortable affluence. Her arrest, April 29, 1634, caused no little excitement, and it was whispered that she had been detected in keeping two lovers besides her confessor. In her audiences she persistently maintained the truth of her revelations, constantly adding fresh marvels, till the inquisitors tortured her smartly, when she confessed it to be all an imposture. Her career was cut short with two hundred lashes and exile for six years from all the places where she had lived.[157]

The experienced inquisitor whom I have so often quoted tells us, about this time, that these impostors were very common; that there were rules for teaching them their trade and, as it was so prejudicial and so discreditable, they must be punished with all rigor. He mentions a case at Llerena, where the woman persisted in asserting the truth of her revelations and miracles, until she was tortured, when she confessed the fraud and was condemned{88} to scourging and reclusion, at the discretion of the tribunal, with fasting on bread and water.[158] Yet one cannot help feeling sympathy for María Cotanilla, a poor blind crone, sentenced in 1676, by the Toledo tribunal, to a hundred lashes and to pass four years in a designated place, where she could support herself by beggary, reporting herself monthly to the commissioner.[159]

Severity might check, but could not suppress, a profession which was the inevitable outcome of popular demand. How it was stimulated is well exemplified in the case of María Manuela de Tho—, a young woman of 23, arrested by the Madrid tribunal, in April, 1673. She confessed unreservedly a vast variety of impostures, pretended diabolical possession, visits from the angels Gabriel and Raphael and numerous others. She told how she was venerated as a saint; her signature written on scraps of blank paper was distributed by her confessor and was treasured as though it were that of Santa Teresa; he had crosses made of olive wood which she blessed and they were valued as relics and amulets; she cured the sick and performed many other miracles. The origin of all this, as she related it, is highly illuminating. She chanced to tell certain persons that in a dream she saw a soul in purgatory; they shook their heads wisely and said it was more than a dream and contained great mysteries. Then they began to admire her and she, finding that she was esteemed and admired and regaled with presents, and that money came to her without labor, went on from one step to another with her visions and miracles. She knew that it was wrong but, as there were learned and distinguished persons cognizant of it, who could have undeceived her and did not and, as there was no pact with the demon, she continued for, though she had been a miserable sinner, she had always been firm in the faith of Christ as a true Catholic Christian.[160] When the appetite for marvels was so universal and unreasoning, the supply could not be lacking, no matter what might be the efforts of the Inquisition.


These practitioners naturally continued to give occupation to the tribunals, but their cases can teach us little except to note the severity with which they were occasionally treated. In the Madrid auto of 1680 there were four impostors, of whom a carpenter named{89} Alfonso de Arenas was visited with abjuration, two hundred lashes, and five years of galleys followed by five more of exile.[161] In the little conventicle arrested, in 1708, by the Toledo tribunal (p. 71), four women and a man were punished, in 1711, as impostors, the man, Pablo Díez, an apothecary of Yepes, with reconciliation, confiscation and perpetual prison, while one of the women, María Fernández, had two hundred lashes and exile.[162] In 1725, the Murcia tribunal inflicted the same scourging and eight years of exile on Mariana Matozes, who added to her other impostures a claim to the stigmata, and in 1726, in Valencia, Juan Vives of Castillon de la Plana had the same allowance of stripes, with a year’s reclusion and eight years’ exile from Valencia and Catalonia.[163] It is therefore not easy to understand the clemency shown by the Toledo tribunal, in 1729, to Ana Rodríguez of Madridejos, who is described as a scandalous impostor, deluded and deluding, audacious, sacrilegious, boasting of her exemption from the sixth commandment, heretically blasphemous, vehemently suspect and formally guilty of the heresy of Molinos and the Alumbrados, insulting to the Blessed Virgin and St. Bernard and contumacious in all her errors. Her contumacy gave way, thus saving her from relaxation and she escaped with formal abjuration, reconciliation and confinement for instruction in the Jesuit college of Navalcarnero, during such time as the tribunal might deem necessary for her soul.[164]

Further enumeration of these obscure cases is scarce worth while and we may pass to one which excited lively interest. María de los Dolores López, known as the Beata Dolores, had a successful and scandalous career for fifteen or twenty years, commencing at the age of twelve, when she left her father’s house to live as a concubine with her confessor. Her fame spread far and wide and, for ten years, the Inquisition received occasional denunciation of her misdeeds without taking action until, in 1779, one of her confessors, to relieve his conscience, denounced both himself and her to the Seville tribunal. On her trial she resolutely maintained the truth of the special graces which she had enjoyed since the age of four. She had continued and familiar intercourse with{90} the Virgin, she had been married in heaven to the child Jesus, with St. Joseph and St. Augustin as witnesses, she had liberated millions of souls from purgatory, with much more of the kind so familiar to us, to which she added one of the errors of Molinism by maintaining that evil actions cease to be sinful when God so wills it. She was thus not merely an impostor but a formal and impenitent heretic, for whom relaxation was the only penalty known to the Inquisition. Burning, however, had well-nigh gone out of fashion, and the tribunal honestly spared no effort to save her from the stake. Eminent theologians wasted on her their learning and eloquence. Fray Diego de Cádiz, the foremost preacher of his time, labored with her for two months, and finally reported that there was nothing to do but to burn her. It was all in vain. God, she said, had revealed to her that she should die a martyr, after which, in three days, he would prove her innocence. The law had to take its course and, on August 22, 1781, she was formally sentenced to relaxation. As this left her unmoved the execution was postponed for three days to try the effect of fresh exhortations. This failed and, during the sermon and ceremonies of the auto, she had to be gagged to suppress her blasphemy. As so frequently happened however, her nerves gave way on the road to the brasero; she burst into tears and asked for a confessor, thus gaining the privilege of strangulation before the faggots were fired.[165]


Imposture continued to flourish. In 1800 the Valladolid tribunal was occupied with an extensive “complicidad,” resulting in the prosecution of Madre María Ignacia de la Presentacion, a Mercenarian of the convent of Toro, for pretended miracles, along with nine frailes of the same Order as accomplices.[166] Contemporary with this was a case at Cuenca, which almost transcends belief. The wife of a peasant of Villar del Aguila, Isabel María Herraiz, known as the Beata de Cuenca, who had a reputation for sanctity, announced that Christ had revealed to her that, in order to be more completely united to her in love, he had transfused his body and blood into hers. The theology of the period is illustrated by the learned disputation which arose, some doctors arguing this to be impossible because it would render her more{91} holy than the Blessed Virgin and would deprive the sacrament of the exclusive distinction of being the body and blood of the Lord; others held it to be possible but that the proofs in the present case were insufficient; others, again, accepted it and urged the virtues of the beata and the absence of motive for deception. The people felt no scruple, and were encouraged in their credulity by two Franciscan frailes, Joaquin de Alustante and Domingo de Cañizares, and a Carmelite, Sebastian de los Dolores. Her believers worshipped her, carrying her through the streets in procession, lighting candles before her and prostrating themselves in adoration. The scandal attained proportions calling for repression, and the Inquisition arrested her, June 25, 1801, together with her accomplices. It is possible that she was severely handled, for she died in the secret prison without confession, and was consequently burnt in effigy. The cura of Villar and two of the frailes were banished to the Philippines; two laymen received two hundred lashes each, with service for life in a presidio, and her hand-maid, Manuela Pérez, was consigned for ten years to the Recojidas or house of correction for women.[167]

While this comedy was in progress in Cuenca, a similar one was performing in Madrid, in the highest social ranks. Sor María Clara Rosa de Jesus, known as the Beata Clara, had acquired great reputation by her visions and miracles. She was, or pretended to be, paralyzed and unable to leave her bed and, when she announced that a special command of the Holy Ghost required her to join the Capuchin Order, Pius VI granted her a dispensation to take the vows without residence. Atanasio de Puyal, subsequently Bishop of Calahorra, obtained licence to erect a private altar in her chamber, where mass was celebrated daily, and she received communion, pretending to take no other nourishment. All the great ladies of the court were accustomed to implore her intercession in their troubles and gave her large sums to be expended in charity. It is to the credit of the Inquisition that it broke up this speculative imposture by arresting her, in 1801, together with her mother and confessor as accomplices. It was{92} not difficult to prove their guilt and, in 1803, they were mercifully sentenced to reclusion.[168]

For three hundred years, up to the time of its suppression, the Inquisition, thus vainly labored to put an end to these speculations on the credulity of the faithful. It did its best, but the popular craving for the marvellous, for concrete evidence of divine interposition in human affairs, was too universal and too strong to be controlled, even by its supreme authority. After its downfall, the career of the notorious Sor Patrocinio proves how ineradicable was this and serves to bring medievalism down to our own time.


María Rafaela Quiroga, known in religion as Sor María Cipriana del Patrocinio de San José, in 1829 took the veil in the convent of San José, and soon commenced to have visions and revelations, followed by the development of the stigmata. Her reputation spread and cloths stained with the blood of her wounds were in request as curative amulets. When the death of Fernando VII, September 29, 1833 was followed by the Carlist war, the clericals, who favored Don Carlos, saw in her a useful instrument. She was made to prophesy the success of the Pretender and to furnish proof of the illegitimacy of the young Queen Isabel. As in the case of the Portuguese María de la Visitacion, this dangerous factor in the political situation called for governmental intervention and, after some resistance, in November 1835, the Sor was removed from the convent to a private house, where she was kept under the care of her mother and of a priest, while three physicians were summoned to examine the stigmata. They pronounced them artificial and promised a speedy cure if interference was prevented. This was verified and, in spite of a scab being torn off from one of them, they were healed by December 17th. On January 21, 1836, an official inspection by a number of dignitaries confirmed the fact, which was assented to by the Sor and, on February 7th, she made a full confession, stating that a Capuchin, Padre Firmin de Alcaraz, had given her a caustic with directions to use it on hands, feet, side and head, telling her that the resultant pain would be a salutary penance. Prosecution was duly commenced against her and the Vicar, Prioress and Vicaress of the convent, Padre Firmin having prudently disappeared. Sentence was rendered, November 25, 1836, from which an appeal was taken, resulting in a slight increase of rigor. The convent was suppressed; the{93} vicar, Andrés Rivas, was banished from Madrid for eight years, and the three women were sent to convents of their Order, Sor Patrocinio being conveyed, on April 27, 1837, to the nunnery at Talavera.[169]

Years passed away and she seemed to be forgotten when the reaction of 1844 suggested that she might again be utilized. In 1845 the convent of Jesus was built for her; she returned with the stigmata freshened and her saintly reputation enhanced. Imposing ceremonies rendered her entrance impressive, and she was conveyed to her convent under a canopy, like a royal personage. In conjunction with Padre Fulgencio, confessor to Don Francisco de Asis the king-consort, and with her brother Manuel Quiroga, whom she made gentleman of the royal bed-chamber, she became the power behind the throne. Dr. Argumosa, who had cured her stigmata, was persecuted and Fray Firmin Alcaraz, who had emerged from his hiding-place, was made Bishop of Cuenca. In 1849 she was held to have forced Isabel to dismiss the Duke of Valencia (Narvaez) and his cabinet. This was followed by what was known as the Ministerio Relámpago, or Lightning Ministry, which held office for three hours on October 19, 1849, and was forced to retire by the threatening aspect of the people. Narvaez was recalled and forthwith relegated to a distance Sor Patrocinio, her brother, Padre Fulgencio and some of their confederates.

She was soon recalled, however, and wielded an influence which Narvaez could not resist. His successor, Bravo Murillo, sought to get a respite by persuading the Nuncio Brunelli to send her to Rome, but this availed little, for she soon returned, more powerful than ever, with the blessing of Pius IX. Under her guidance, during the remainder of the reign of Isabel II, the camarilla practically ruled the kingdom and precipitated the revolution of 1868, which, for a time, supplanted the monarchy with a republic. With the fall of Isabel she disappeared from public view, in the retirement of the convent of Guadalajara, of which she was the abbess. There she lingered in seclusion, until January 27, 1891, when she died serenely, comforted in her last moments with a telegraphic blessing from Leo XIII.[170]


The Inquisition could suppress Judaism, it could destroy Protestantism, it could render necessary the expulsion of the Moriscos, but it failed when it sought to eradicate the abuses of Mysticism, which not only signalized the ardor of Spanish faith, but were so difficult of differentiation from beliefs long recognized and encouraged by the Church. There seems to be, in the average human mind, an insatiable craving for manifestations of the supernatural. Modern science, with its materialism, may weaken or even eradicate this in the majority, and may explain psychologically much of what seems to be marvellous, but the success in our own land of the curious superstition known as Christian Science shows us how superficial is latter-day enlightenment, and should teach us sympathy rather than disdain for the fantastic exhibitions of credulity which we have passed in review.

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