Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

LUCRETIA DE LEÓN
(1569-ca. 1596)

Spain
Prophet

Born the daughter of Alonso Franco de León and Ana Ordonez, Lucretia de León was raised in the city of Madrid, royal capital of the Spanish Empire. During her brief life, she became well known in Madrid as a prophet whose dreams forecast a number of difficulties for Spain in general and for the king, Philip II, in particular. Lucretia's father was a legal agent or solicitor who represented the Italian Genoese banking community in Madrid. There were a total of five children in the middle-class urban household, and while her stern father disparaged Lucretia's early dreams on political subjects, fearing that any public recounting of these might place his family under suspicion of disloyalty to the Crown, her mother encouraged her in hopes that her daughter's notoriety might improve the family fortunes. Lucretia most likely could read Spanish, although she would later represent herself during her trial as a "simple woman" and "without letters." Her rather extensive knowledge of contemporary and historical events was assisted by members of the clergy.

In 1587 two prominent Catholic churchmen sought Lucretia's permission to transcribe her dreams. Alonso de Mendoza, a theologian from an aristocratic family who was attached to the cathedral of Toledo, and Fray Lucas de Allende, head of Madrid's Franciscan convent, sought to coach the young woman in the art of dream interpretation, divination, apocalyptic thought, and other aspects of the occult. While initially reluctant to have her dreams transcribed, the young girl's mother encouraged this undertaking. Mendoza assisted the family with financial support and schooled Lucretia in the politics of the day until her arrest in 1590. Today virtually everything we know about Lucretia de León comes to us from trial records produced by the Spanish Inquisition over a five-year period beginning in 1590. Included in this source material are the transcriptions of over

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