Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Francisca De Los Apóstoles. the Inquisition of Francisca: A Sixteenth-Century Visionary on Trial

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Francisca De Los Apóstoles. the Inquisition of Francisca: A Sixteenth-Century Visionary on Trial

Article excerpt

Francisca de los Apóstoles. The Inquisition of Francisca: A Sixteenth-Century Visionary on Trial. Edited and translated by Gillian T. W. Ahlgren. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2005. Pp. xxviii, 195. $18.00 paperback.)

Beata. "A woman in religious dress, who, outside of a community, and in a private home, professes celibacy, and lives honestly and quietly ['con recogimiento'], occupying herself in prayer and charitable works."*

Beatas, the Spanish equivalent of the beguines of northern Europe, represent one of the most interesting spiritual phenomena of early modern Spain. Living solely or in groups, beatas hailed from diverse backgrounds, both noble and plebeian. Some were young women, who, lacking the wherewithal to enter a convent, struck out on their own. Others were wealthy widows like Maria of Austria, who, following the death of her husband, Emperor Ferdinand II, moved into a Madrid convent, dressed as a nun, and devoted herself to prayer and good works. The majority of beatas were wholly orthodox in their religious beliefs, living quiet, seemingly uneventful lives. Others were visionaries whose notoriety brought gifts and endowments to beatarios (communities of beatas) seeking to become a full-fledged convent. Still other beatas, starting early in the sixteenth century, embraced new spiritual movements that emphasized inner piety and mental prayer. Beatas consequently figured prominently among the alumbradas, or enlightened ones, prosecuted vigorously by the Spanish Inquisition during the 1520's and 1530's.

Among the more activist beatas was Francisca de Avila, also known as Francisca de los Apóstoles, a resident of Toledo who, starting around 1570, experienced certain visions that brought her to the attention of various clergymen connected to Bartolomé de Carranza, the Toledan archbishop whose own attempts at spiritual reform had led to his arrest on charges of heresy by the Inquisition in 1547 and subsequent imprisonment and trial in Rome. The exact nature of Francisca's connection with Carranza remains unknown, but the archbishop figured centrally in her visions as a kind of savior figure who would, upon his release from prison, rescue the Toledan church from depravity and corruption. …

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