Show Summary Details

Page of

 PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY (latinamericanhistory.oxfordre.com). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 24 April 2017

Sacrilege, Profanation, and the Appropriation of Sacred Power in New Spain

Summary and Keywords

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Inquisition in New Spain tried individuals for a broad range of sacrilegious acts against religious objects, including spitting, trampling, stabbing, and breaking them to pieces. Men and women also desecrated images through verbal insults, irreverent gestures, and even sexual acts. In most of these cases, the term sacrilege does not adequately reflect the often-complex motivations behind such actions. The Protestant iconoclastic violence of the 16th century unleashed on Catholic sacred images has made us think of acts of sacrilege as primarily directed at denying the power of images and their ability to represent divinity. Yet even seemingly obvious cases of iconoclasm in New Spain challenge this assumption. In many and possibly most cases, such actions betrayed the longing of men and women for spiritual closeness with divinity. The anger, desperation, and desolation sacrilegists sometimes expressed were not always unlike the ardent emotions that sacred images could elicit from devout Catholics. At other times, men and women sought to appropriate the power of sacred images and relics for reasons that challenge an easy distinction between religious and superstitious intentions. Taken together, cases of sacrilege, blasphemy, desecration, irreverence, profanation, and superstition can therefore reveal the variety and creativity of authorized and unauthorized religious practices in colonial Spanish America.

Keywords: Inquisition, Mexico, Catholic Church, theology, devotion, lived religion, veneration of sacred images, iconoclasm, heresy

Religion in New Spain: Historical Approaches and Methodological Challenges

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Inquisition in New Spain tried individuals for a wide variety of sacrilegious acts against religious objects. The Protestant iconoclastic violence of the 16th century has made us think of acts of sacrilege as primarily directed at denying the power of images and their ability to represent divinity. Yet most iconoclasts in New Spain did not express such opinions. To understand the beliefs that motivated sacrilegists, it is essential to begin by taking their word at face value before concluding that they signified something else.

Accused sacrilegists usually explained their actions in relation to personal circumstances involving their relationship to a higher power. Tellingly, such self-explanations were not simply a strategy by the accused to downplay the gravity of their purported wrongs, for ecclesiastical and lay authorities understood that most perpetrators of iconoclasm and related acts of sacrilege dealt in “emotions and not ideology.”1 That most cases of blasphemy and sacrilege were in fact petty affairs related to gambling, drinking, and personal and family quarrels does not mean they lacked greater transcendence for sacrilegists and authorities alike.2 Disrespect towards Christ and the saints, through their holy images, reveals a blurring between the sacred, the material, and the mundane. Sacrilege lurked within, a part and possibility of everyday religious practice.

This approach contrasts with a history of religion in New Spain as a battleground, beginning in 1519 with the arrival of Hernán Cortés and what Robert Ricard termed “the spiritual conquest” of Mexico and ending with the abolition of the Inquisition in 1820.3 When told from a top-down perspective, this narrative emphasizes the methods of conversion of indigenous populations and the mechanisms for the enforcement of orthodoxy in colonial society.4 From the bottom up, it casts religion as the site of what Serge Gruzinski has described as “the tensions, frustrations, and other kinds of conflict an individual might have to struggle with in colonial society.”5 Yet religious beliefs and practices did not conform to frontlines in a battlefield pitting Christianity versus indigenous beliefs or orthodoxy against heterodoxy and heresy. Nancy Farriss found that Spanish and Maya magical beliefs “blended.”6 Laura Lewis compared the tangle of indigenous, Spanish, mestizo, and mulatto religious identities in cases of witchcraft to reflections in a hall of mirrors.7 Indigenous devotions included those that prompted ecclesiastical authorities to undertake campaigns of extirpation but also many others that, for a variety of reasons, did not elicit similar responses. Conflict and resistance coexisted with adaptation and innovation in a more muddled religious landscape, which in the words of David Tavárez, consisted of “a colonial archipelago of faith composed by hundreds of local cosmologies that incorporated insights and theories drawn from Mesoamerican and European beliefs.”8 Likewise, this article will argue that when considered alongside “lived religion,” acts of sacrilege point to similar creativity, vitality, and variety of forms of devotion among the nonindigenous population.9

That our knowledge of sacrilege relies primarily on documents produced by the Inquisition requires addressing two methodological issues. The first issue touches on the reliability of this evidence. Established in 1569–1570, the Mexican Inquisition left a vast record of religious activities across Mexico, Central America, and the Philippines in thousands of documents primarily located at the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City and in libraries and museums across the United States. When approaching this record, it is essential to remember that the inquisitorial process assumed the guilt of the accused and that confession required coercion, with or without recourse to torture.10 Even when trials sought to establish the facts of the case, inquisitors, denouncers, and witnesses were inclined to interpret the offending actions and words according to preconceived notions of what bad Christians and heretics did—what John Arnold has called “categories of transgression.”11 Yet it is no less important to remember that inquisitorial trials were no mere charades. The tribunal and its officials were bound by its own rules and standards, as shown in recent studies on censorship, on the careers of inquisitors, and on inquisitorial practice.12

The second methodological issue is the extent to which marginal cases such as those before the Inquisition were representative of broader religious trends. A cursory search of inquisitorial cases at the Archivo General de la Nación from the mid-16th century to the early 1800s involving breaking, cutting, burning, spitting, trampling, whipping, and verbally insulting images finds nearly one case a year for the vast territories under the jurisdiction of the Mexican tribunal. A statistically small sampling can nonetheless be significant for shedding light upon the infinite number of religious experiences that, in the words of William Christian, fell “below the radar” because they did not conform to certain expectations of what was noteworthy.13 What is commonplace is more often than not effectively invisible, because everyone knows it or because it is too ordinary or vulgar to record. Theological treatises typically focus on what believers should and should not do, rather than on what they actually did. Sometimes theologians and clergymen purposely turned a blind eye to practices that were “in between, neither good nor bad in themselves.”14 In contrast, denouncers, religious authorities, and witnesses of sacrilegious acts were compelled to articulate how specific sacrilegious actions and words transgressed acceptable practice. The accused might also defend their innocence by comparing what they said or did to what others did. For these reasons, Carlo Ginzburg and Carlo Poni have argued that exceptional cases can offer “clues to or traces of a hidden reality.”15

With these issues in mind, the present discussion of sacrilege in New Spain is divided into three sections. The first section examines inquisitorial cases from the Mexican tribunal between the second half of the 16th and the early 18th century to argue that many forms of sacrilege shared important features in common with everyday forms of devotion. Most sacrilegists portrayed themselves as good Christians who denied any heretical intent behind their desecration of images, and authorities did not always find such claims unimaginable. “Faithful iconoclasm” might be a better way to describe their actions. The second section turns to theological treatises and works on the cult of sacred images to show how clergymen recognized the contradictory impulses that drove devout men and women to disrespect sacred images. What theologians labeled “excess of devotion” led otherwise faithful Christians to commit sacrilegious acts not in order to deny the power of sacred images but to appropriate it. The conclusion explores the connections between religious images and the physical dimension of religion in colonial Spanish America and what such connections may imply.

Faithful Iconoclasm

Compilers of the 13th-century Spanish legal code the Siete Partidas stated: “The name sacrilege is derived from the word sacrum, which means something holy, and from laesio, which means an injury; wherefore sacrilege means to take some holy thing unlawfully, or to injure it, or to commit injury inside of it.”16 Moreover, “spitting on the [image of the divine] majesty or the cross, or wounding it with a stone, a knife, or anything else whatsoever” constituted blasphemy.17 If blasphemy proper was to offend the saints, the Virgin Mary, or God in writing or in speech, sometimes accompanied by irreverent gestures, sacrilege was in effect the “materialization of blasphemy.”18 Thomas Aquinas (1224/5–1274) argued that sacrilege constituted the vice of irreligion and that blasphemy was “the most grievous sin” because it was a failure to acknowledge the respect and obedience owed to God.19 In choosing to “wound” a holy image with their hands and tongue, sacrilegists betrayed God. Blasphemy and sacrilege were therefore laesa religio, a form of treason (laesa maiestatis).20 Someone capable of betraying God by attacking sacred images would not refrain from other forms of heresy and treachery.

For the next half millennium, this understanding of sacrilege changed little, although a number of developments changed its significance across the Spanish world.21 In the course of the 15th century, devotion to religious images became one of the key differences between Christians and their Muslim and Jewish neighbors in the Iberian Peninsula, making sacrilege a potential threat to Christian identity.22 Missionizing activity in the Americas and Protestant iconoclasm further reinforced the conflation of sacrilege with other perceived threats to the church, the monarchy, and social order. Sacrilegious acts committed by Amerindians, Africans, and mixed-race descendants raised suspicions that their actions responded to idolatry, sorcery, or witchcraft.23 Sacrilegious conversos, or the descendants of converted Jews, and later Portuguese residents were commonly portrayed as “Judaizers” bent on showing irreverence toward Christian holy images with the same disregard with which they plotted with Spain’s enemies for control of the empire’s riches.24 Foreigners from northern Europe who profaned or simply failed to show sufficient respect toward religious images or symbols were acting in league with heretical iconoclasts against the Catholic cult of sacred images.25 In the late 18th century, cases of conculcación, or trampling of images, were associated with libertine and anti-Catholic ideas of enlightened philosophes.26

In reality, the connection between individual acts and larger plots described with such inflammatory rhetoric was more often than not tenuous or nonexistent. William Taylor has even argued that spikes in cases of desacato de imágenes, or irreverence toward images, in Mexico between the 1550s and 1810s ultimately reflect less trends in religious practice than the shifting preoccupations of lay and religious officials in response to local conditions and events abroad.27

In sharp contrast, the actions of accused sacrilegists, who were mostly men, assumed a pronounced intimacy, sometimes to the point of seeking revenge against God or a particular saint by wounding and insulting their image. Sacred images pointed to “a source of power to be tapped” for their own personal needs.28 Even the innocent desire for the physical immediacy of sacred images might lead to unsuspected forms of sacrilege. The Inquisition threatened with excommunication anyone who painted images of the Virgin Mary or Christ on tables, seats, tablecloths, napkins, and cushions made of upholstery.29 Clearly, sitting on a sacred image or wiping one’s nose with a cloth featuring a sacred image did not show the respect owed to sacred images, even if the motivation for purchasing those goods was a sincere desire for proximity to the divine. Yet it was tempting to appropriate the power of sacred images for all kinds of reasons.

Despondency over exclusion from that sacred power summoned violent expressions of devotion. One can hear these sentiments expressed in the case of Francisco Tejera (or Tijera), a Portuguese resident of Toluca. In 1564, after losing a cape, a doublet, and a shirt at a game of cards, he spat at a painting of a crucifix, saying: “Since God does not help me, may the Devil take me.” In a sense, this was an ordinary case of sacrilege in which anger, possibly worsened by drinking, led to verbal blasphemy and physical profanation. None of the testimonies accused Tejera of “Judaizing” or of committing other heresies. His actions nonetheless required punishment in accordance with the magnitude of the crime outlined in formal definitions of sacrilege. Tejera paid for his blasphemy by receiving three hundred lashes and having his tongue cut.30

In a more dramatic case, in 1640 several witnesses denounced Juan de Solís for sacrilege and blasphemy. A criollo soldier from Guatemala, the son of Spanish parents, he lit a candle to the Virgin Mary every time he was going to play a game of cards. Instead of winning, he lost every game. Finally, he had had enough. Solís admitted to inquisitorial authorities that, in frustration, he had blurted before the image of the Virgin: “It looks like the Devil wants to take me here.” One eyewitness claimed that Solís had even seen fit to add: “In that case, the Devil should stick to buggery.” What is said to have followed recalls a classic scene of heretical iconoclasm: Solís drew his sword and sliced the lit candles, broke the wooden candleholder, hit the painting of the Virgin Mary, knocked down a bronze crucifix, and trampled a rosary and a bag containing relics—all on Good Friday.31

Solís, Tejera, and many other accused sacrilegists committed their acts of sacrilege after losing games of cards, which was also typical of alleged blasphemers. Yet there is more to the fact that anger made individuals do and say things they would later regret. Losing players interpreted their losses as more than financial in nature. As Maureen Flynn has noted in the contemporary peninsular Spanish context, games of fortune offered opportunities “for the disheartened to face their transcendental hosts squarely and question their goodwill.” Players interpreted their good or bad fortune as a divine sign. In the words of Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, “When a player joins a game he freely takes on the initiative, as if he intended to confront the invisible forces and interrogate them about their feelings towards him . . . if he wins, he surely stands in their favor; if he loses, they have turned against him.”32 Hopelessness over losing divine favor could push faithful men and women to disregard the boundary of acceptable religious practice and become reluctant iconoclasts.

A later extreme example further illustrates how professions of deep devotion could find expression in words and acts deemed sacrilege. In 1717, the nun Sor Margarita de San José voluntarily confessed a series of desecrations in Mexico City. She claimed to have taken communion in a state of mortal sin with the specific purpose of offending God; another time she took the wafer out of her mouth and threw it in a tomb in disdain; a third time she trampled over it and spat on it. In addition, she tore a print of the Virgin Mary to pieces and threw it in an “indecent place” after spitting on it and treading on it for good measure. She also slapped and spat on an image of the child Jesus and scourged a holy crucifix furiously. Sor Margarita explained that the Devil forced her sacrilegious rampage on her, a motivation that Fernando Cervantes, investigating related novohispano contexts, has argued were “extreme developments of tendencies that were not just accepted but recommended.”33

One of the most striking examples of sacrilege in colonial Mexico is that of the Oaxacan María Felipa de Alcaraz. In 1739, she confessed to copulating with an image of Christ “as if she were doing it with a man, and for this she placed on the said image the sexual flesh [carnes venéreas] of dead men acquired through demonic art.” She did the same with an image of the Virgin, “as if she were having intercourse with a woman.” She also confessed to having taken part in the burial of an image of the Nazarene Christ under the sill of a doorway, “with the depraved intent of having it trampled underfoot by those who entered and exited the house.”34

Her confessed acts of sacrilege were part of a fantastic array of activities purportedly carried out by a group of Spaniards, Indians, and foreigners. Alcaraz’s own activities were only the beginning. She reported seeing or hearing about the defilement of consecrated hosts with urine, excrement, and semen; witches taking fetuses from unsuspecting pregnant women; and orgiastic rituals with demons. The inquisitorial document reflects doubts about whether such actions really took place, not because of skepticism or any sense that she was merely superstitious. Instead, as in the case of Sor Margarita de San José, Alcaraz was the victim of the “Devil’s illusions.”35 The presence of Indian witches linked purportedly sacrilegious acts to the greater complex of error, namely to idolatry, sorcery, and even human sacrifices. Even further, Spaniards and foreigners caught in this interrogatory web became Judaizers—even when Alcaraz’s descriptions of their activities appear to have borne no resemblance to Jewish rituals. The elaborate defilement of the Eucharist was reason enough and reflected a “Judaic ire.”36 The extent of the activities, which Alcaraz claimed had taken place over the course of eleven years and which even included communication with Jewish communities in Amsterdam and Bayonne, France, also bore a startling resemblance to accusations made a century earlier about grand international conspiracies involving Judaizers in the American colonies and foreign enemies of Spain.

Taken together, these examples show the limits of the applicability of larger narratives and patterns of sacrilege to study individual cases. The physical and verbal belligerence of the irreverent actions carried out by Felipa de Alcaraz and Sor Margarita de San José, as well as by the cursing Francisco Tejera and the losing player Juan de Solís, do not easily fit into the grand conflicts that preoccupied authorities. Neither do they really qualify as examples of resistance to cultural hegemony. Describing such violence as fetishism and sadism avant la lettre distracts us from the compelling religious logic of these faithful iconoclasts.37 Solís, Sor Margarita de San José, and Alcaraz presented themselves as wounded lovers, whose anger was born out of unrequited love. Sor Margarita de San José insisted on her sincere devotion and how “terrible” she felt as she committed sacrilegious acts she could not stop. Similarly, Solís insisted he was devoted to the Virgin Mary, lighting candles in her honor and trusting that she would intercede in his favor. In response to the charge that he had trampled on a rosary and relics, Solís protested “no puede caver en su juicio tal acción”: he could not imagine committing such an action in his right mind.38 Neither one of the two sacrilegists could help themselves from insulting the very object of their devotion. Even in the case of Felipa de Alcaraz, the sacrileges and other “indecencies” committed by her and her accomplices allegedly responded to their relationship to a higher power.39 They sought to demonstrate by their actions loyalty to the Devil, expecting that in return he would shower his followers with extraordinary powers.

Acts of sacrilege remind us that the longing for spiritual closeness with divinity had a physical dimension. Zeb Tortorci has argued that blasphemous acts by devout Christians can reflect a “simultaneous sacralization and vulgarization of devotion.” Though at times it could appear contrary to familiar forms of piety, this combination of heavenly love with intense physical and spiritual joy recalls descriptions of bridal mysticism and mystical union by Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, and Rose of Lima, for whom “highly erotic language” described “the ineffable nature of ecstasy and the mystical experience.”40 The physical dimension of spirituality was not limited to authorized, renowned mystics.

Taking seriously the stories told by sacrilegists suggests how acts of sacrilege could be closer to everyday religious practice than may at first seem possible. Insults accompanying acts of disrespect recall the conversations men and women had with sacred images, whether in the form of prayers or silent pleading. Occasionally, the images miraculously talked back, reaffirming that believers could indeed converse with the divine; still others went mute or became (frustratingly) inattentive to their devotees’ desires.41 Irreverent Christians held their own conversations with the divine by shouting and threatening sacred images. Besides talking, the panoply of actions carried out before sacred images included genuflections, offerings, kissing, touching, and other forms of reverence but also actions that could express intense frustration and unintentional as well as deliberate sacrilege and irreverence. Sacrilegious acts also encompassed a wide range of actions involving different kinds of motivations and intentions.

Excess of Devotion

That thoughts and actions deemed sacrilegious were part of everyday religious experience for men and women in colonial Spanish America may seem less contradictory if we remember that material objects provided a means through which individuals might experience and express a relationship to the divine. As Thomas Aquinas explained, “in the Divine worship it is necessary to make use of corporeal things, that man’s mind may be aroused thereby, as by signs, to the spiritual acts by means of which he is united to God.”42 By making the sacred more accessible, images also exposed the sacred to the mundane—or worse. This means that a fuller understanding of sacrilege requires examining it within the larger context of how men and women used, and misused, sacred images every day.

In response to reformed criticism from Catholic and Protestant reformers, advocates of the cult of images discussed common errors in everyday practice in ways that offer us a more subtle interpretation of sacrilege. The German theologian Hieronymus Emser (1478–1527) answered Lutheran criticism that religious images led ignorant people to idolatry by affirming that no Christian was so “crude and stupid” as to believe that the statue of a saint was the saint. “And even if one should find such a simple person,” he explained, “the good mother Christian Church takes these and similar errors of the simple, which cannot do great damage, into her maternal lap.”43 Serious errors, such as idolatry and certain egregious superstitious practices, deserved condemnation, but not the cult of sacred images.

It has been argued with good reason that the materiality of sacred objects allowed the Catholic Church greater control over the sacred and made it easier for the Inquisition to enforce compliance with orthodoxy. In the 16th century, the Catholic Church in the peninsular Spanish and transatlantic kingdoms sought to rein in religious activities in the countryside, where it had limited control, by promoting instead the cult of sacred images inside urban shrines and churches under ecclesiastical control.44 At a time when the Protestant Reformation had challenged the validity of Catholic sacraments, Elena del Río Parra has argued, the church responded by “prioritizing the material value of objects and things”: “To the beat of the relic and the scapular, Catholic ritual asserts its dependence on matter.” She adds: “The prevalence of matter over symbol approximates [Catholic] ritual to its most positivist aspect.”45 Yet the church’s control was always incomplete. It could limit access to famous miraculous images but not to countless other religious images in homes and private altars. Those sacred images remained susceptible to irreverence, as so many cases of sacrilege demonstrate. If the church promoted the cult of sacred images to exert its control, the spectacular spread and extent of the popular embrace of many of these saints’ cults undermined that control.

The Italian theologian Gabriele Paleotti, who played a leading role in the Council of Trent (1545–1563), identified some of these errors in his Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images (1582). He provided examples of the misuse of sacred images, some of which he condemned outright as “especially blameworthy,” whereas others he seemed to tolerate. As an example of the superstitious use of sacred images, he describes a tradition where “if it is rainy or stormy on the day of the conversion of Saint Paul, they throw an image of him into the local stream.” Another example described actions aimed at compounding the punishment of persons prohibited from receiving sacraments by throwing down their holy images and covering them with nettles and thorns. In these and other examples, believers following local custom inadvertently committed acts of irreverence. Their error, however, was not that of truly impious and irreverent persons who neglect to give “due cult to God.” Rather, the error of these believers was the result of eccesso del troppo, or excess and superabundance, in their cult. This was the mistake laborers in the countryside made when they carried images through their fields “with loud cries and tumultuous wailing,” in the belief that “the greater the booming of their voices and cries, the more abundant the harvest will be that year.”46 Similarly, in his History of the Adoration and Use of Holy Images (1596), the Spanish theologian Jaime Prades warned that Christians are allowed images “not to adore them thinking there is some deity in them, as the Gentiles” believed. Still, even if their practices were contrary to Church orthodoxy, the ignorant “do not err by adoring images because they worship them with the faith of the Church, which encourages such worship to honor God.”47

The excess of devotion described by Paleotti and Prades betrays the nearly irresistible attraction Catholics felt toward sacred images for their power to provide access to the divine. In colonial Latin America, this created a demand that fostered a “population explosion” of religious images for local customs and private devotion, which might become the target of irreverence if saints or God did not seem to respond favorably.48 Mundane emotions of anger, desperation, and desolation expressed by sacrilegists were not far removed from the pious, though no less ardent emotions sacred images could elicit. In his 1622 book Ancient Veneration and Benefits of Sacred Images and Relics, the Spanish Jesuit Martín de Roa discussed the reasons for the invention of images. Sacred images had the power “to awaken a force and ignite love” for God and the saints. Despertar fuerza y encender el amor: Physical objects were catalysts of a spiritual jolt capable of alighting the fire of love. To adore, Roa explained, meant to bring something to the mouth, kissing it as a sign of love and reverence.49 Images made the divine apprehensible and familiar “and gave license to autonomous devotional practices of the greatest intimacy and individuality.”50 Just as religious images allowed the expression of the reverence owed to God, they also provided the means to express a whole range of other emotions by reaching out and cutting, trampling, and spitting on them. Even violent anger toward a sacred image reflected, as much as more pious emotions, the perpetrator’s understanding of his or her relationship with the divine.

Studying what was considered sacrilege in colonial Spanish America reveals it to be at once commonplace and exceptional. For many, if not most, Catholics, the significance of sacred images ultimately rested in their power to render the divine accessible, even comprehensible. Often motivated by mundane concerns, the sacrilegious act nonetheless provoked strong responses both from lay people who came to testify before the tribunals of the Holy Office and from inquisitors because of the importance of the cult of images in Catholic Christianity. That importance derived in part from these images’ mediation between the earthly and celestial realms but also from individual people’s use of religious images in all kinds of contexts. Revering or destroying those images became aggression of the highest order as well as declarations of the power of one god over another.

Conclusion

Considering sacrilege in the context of everyday religious practice leads to three conclusions about religion in New Spain. First, the possibility of superabundant devotion in colonial Mexico, as throughout the early modern Spanish world, reveals the centrality of the relationship between men, women, and divinity. Early modern Spanish Catholic religious practices often reflected a give and take between believer and divinity. Whether seeking a cure for an illness or rain during a drought, people turned to their patron saints for intercession before God. Men and women made vows of all kinds: from fasting, through acts of pilgrimage to fulfill a vow, to becoming a devotee or even patron of a new shrine. As William Christian has famously shown for late-16th-century Castile, if people felt repeatedly unsuccessful in meeting their needs and in reaching their myriad goals in life, they might turn away from one saint to another who proved more efficacious. Rather than prompt an angry outburst born out of frustration, images of less efficacious saints might simply get old and eventually be put away.51 Such lived religiosity proved highly mobile, and what might be characterized as an emotionally contractual understanding of the relationship between humans and divinity shaped religious life in colonial Spanish America. Moreover, “the capacity for novelty and innovation” in religious practice that Kenneth Mills has described among indigenous Andean people in colonial Peru was not limited to them.52

Second, religion in New Spain involved a broad range of sensory responses that were highly significant for men and women. As the ecclesiastical and lay authorities tried to establish the intention and the potentially heretical nature of the actions committed, they recorded, sometimes in minute detail, what men and women did with sacred objects. Trials involving sacrilege and other misuses of religious images can thus reveal in reverse the sensory dimension of everyday spirituality not otherwise recorded and oftentimes forgotten because it was deemed too vulgar or without significance.

A broader approach to sacrilege, studying it as part of acceptable expressions of religion, suggests a further conclusion: authorities often saw sacrilegious actions as an excess of devotion that turned acceptable veneration into superstition and idolatry. The scope of the problem for painstaking ecclesiastical authorities became increasingly clear. Faithful iconoclasts treated religious images as if they were idols; if you attacked them, the authorities assumed you attacked the divine person or saint the images represented. This was, of course, contrary to Catholic dogma, which insisted that respect was owed strictly to the saintly person represented, not to the material object, which was a mere accident, that is to say, a nonessential form. Yet for centuries, Catholic authorities worried over what reforming Protestants in the 16th century would caricature: that simpleminded people who knew little or nothing of such distinctions might fall back into the errors of the pagans. As Carolyn Bynum has argued, Christian understanding of materiality challenges the supposed opposition between an “external religion” drawn to material objects and the kind of internalized spirituality associated with mystics and Catholic and Protestant reformers. If anything, the increased emphasis on interiority was, in fact, an “uneasy complement to a new enthusiasm for matter that disclosed the divine.” From this perspective, we may also see the gestures and words expressed in acts of “faithful iconoclasm” as “an assertion of personal religious agency by individual Christians that was facilitated by the multiplication of devotional objects.”53

In the miracle stories and lives of the saints that emanated from and came into print in this period, one is struck by the number of times the sacred object as protagonist defied the rules of nature, not to mention the very theory of images underpinning Catholic Tridentine theology. It is often easy to forget that no deity lived in sacred images when they were said to do the most extraordinary things: they cried, perspired, and worked miracles. Their devotees talked with them but also embraced, offered presents to, and literally nurtured the very saints who might, in turn, also be accused of neglect, shunned, and even profaned. Not surprisingly, in daily life devout Catholics wanted to partake of this direct and unmediated contact with the sacred. In lieu of the real thing, an image became a close approximation. To touch, to kiss, and to hold the image became a straightforward expression of their longing, their love, and their faith. Catholic authorities trusted that simple devotion would more than make up for any errors. If the error went beyond what was acceptable, the Inquisition found it necessary to intervene. By their very excess and abundance of devotion, abuses of images can therefore offer us a more palpable and rounded understanding of the power of sacred images in the religious cultures of colonial Spanish America and beyond.

Discussion of the Literature

The study of sacrilege in the Iberian world has not received as much attention as it deserves, given the wealth of inquisitorial documentation. Part of the difficulty lies in the concept of sacrilege, which was a general category often subsumed within several terms, including desacato de imágenes (irreverence against images) and other heresies, particularly blasphemy. This poses a challenge to anyone attempting to identify instances of sacrilege, because doing so would potentially require examining hundreds of inquisitorial cases that are not exclusively about irreverence against images. There are few published primary sources to investigate the subject beyond theological treatises and works promoting the cult of specific images.

For sacrilege in colonial Mexico, Serge Gruzinski’s Images at War is an essential starting point, in large part because of the large number of cases of sacrilege and other actions involving religious images he identified and provocatively analyzed. His approach is often more tantalizing than convincing. The work of William B. Taylor, although it is not as comprehensive on the subject of sacrilege, provides a necessary corrective to Gruzinski’s work by grounding its discussion of images in broader trends in the history of religion in Mexico. Studies by anthropologists, art historians, and scholars of religion (see examples under “Further Readings”) offer a necessary complement to research that invites an interdisciplinary approach.

Primary Sources

The Archivo General de la Nación (Mexico) has an exceptional collection of inquisitorial documentation from the mid-16th century to the end of the colonial period. There is online access to many but not all of the thousands of inquisitorial documents (unfortunately, not always legible or easy to locate) through the Guía general de los fondos, available at the archive’s website.

Solange B. de Alberro and Serge Gruzinski, “Sobre la historia de las mentalidades,” Boletín del Archivo General de la Nación (Mexico) 3d ser., 2.4 (6) (October–December 1978): 32–39. Selections from fascinating inquisitorial documents, some of which deal with heterodox uses of religious images, including the case of María Felipa de Alcaraz.

Las Siete Partidas, ed. Robert I. Burns, trans. Samuel Parsons Scott, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). Essential source of Spanish law.

Jaime Prades, Historia de la adoración y uso de las santas imágenes y de la imagen de la Fuente de la Salud, 2d ed. (Valencia, Spain: Gabriel Ramos Vejarano, 1597).

Martín de Roa, Antigüedad veneración i fruto de las sagradas imágenes, i reliquias, 2d ed. (Seville, Spain, 1623).

A Reformation Debate: Karlstadt, Emser and Eck on Sacred Images: Three Treatises in Translation, trans. Bryan D. Mangrum and Giuseppe Scavizzi (Ottawa, ON: Dovehouse Editions, 1991). Important theological treatise.

Gabriele Paleotti, Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images, trans. William McCuaig (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2012). Another essential theological treatise.

Further Reading

Bynum, Carolyn Walker. Christian Materiality: An Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe. New York: Zone Books, 2011. Provides a valuable historical perspective that is often missing in studies on medieval and early modern images.Find this resource:

Christian, William A., Jr. Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981. Remains an essential work on early modern religious history by a renowned anthropologist.Find this resource:

Gruzinski, Serge. Images at War: Mexico from Columbus to Blade Runner (1492–2019). Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001. Probably the most comprehensive study dealing with the place of images in Mexican society, although its analysis is controversial.Find this resource:

Hughes, Jennifer Scheper. Biography of a Mexican Crucifix: Lived Religion and Local Faith from the Conquest to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Recent study showing the possibilities of using the concept of lived religion for historical research.Find this resource:

Kasl, Ronda, ed. Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009. Collection of essays, primarily from the perspective of art history.Find this resource:

Mills, Kenneth. Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640–1750. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997. Although its focus is on the Viceroyalty of Peru, it is a stimulating model for the study of religion in colonial Spanish America that emphasizes the multifariousness of lived religion.Find this resource:

Nesvig, Martin Austin, ed. Local Religion in Colonial Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006. Collection of essays that considers the implications of William Christian’s classic Local Religion for colonial Mexico.Find this resource:

Nesvig, Martin Austin. Ideology and Inquisition: The World of the Censors in Early Mexico. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. Important study reflecting new approaches to the study of the Inquisition.Find this resource:

Tavárez, David. The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. Another recent work that provides alternative interpretations to Gruzinski’s work.Find this resource:

Taylor, William B. Shrines and Miraculous Images: Religious Life in Mexico before the Reforma. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010. Important study by a renowned historian of Mexico, which provides essential qualifications to Gruzinski’s work.Find this resource:

Villa-Flores, Javier. Dangerous Speech: A Social History of Blasphemy in Colonial Mexico. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2006. Valuable examination of an important dimension of religious history that has previously received little attention.Find this resource:

Bibliography

Aquinas, Thomas. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. 2d rev. ed. London: Burns, Oates & Washburne, 1920–1925.Find this resource:

Arnold, John H. Inquisition and Power: Catharism and the Confessing Subject in Medieval Languedoc. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Block, Kristen. Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean: Religion, Colonial Competition, and the Politics of Profit. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Bynum, Carolyn Walker. Christian Materiality: An Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe. New York: Zone Books, 2011.Find this resource:

Cameron, Euan. Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, and Religion 1250–1750. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Cervantes, Fernando. The Devil in the New World: The Impact of Diabolism in New Spain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Christian, William A., Jr. Apparitions in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.Find this resource:

Christian, William A., Jr. Divine Presence in Spain and Western Europe, 1500–1960. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Christian, William A., Jr. “Islands in the Sea: The Public and Private Distribution of Knowledge of Religious Visions.” In “Visualizing the Invisible: Visionary Technologies in Religions and Cultural Context,” edited by Lisa Bitel. Special issue, Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 25.1–2 (March–June 2009): 153–165.Find this resource:

Christian, William A., Jr. Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.Find this resource:

Connell, William J., and Giles Constable. Sacrilege and Redemption in Renaissance Florence: The Case of Antonio Rinaldeschi. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2005.Find this resource:

Corteguera, Luis R. “Talking Images in the Spanish Empire: Vision and Action.” In “Visualizing the Invisible: Visionary Technologies in Religions and Cultural Context,” edited by Lisa Bitel. Special issue, Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 25.1–2 (March–June 2009): 55–71.Find this resource:

Corteguera, Luis R. Death by Effigy: A Case from the Mexican Inquisition. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Covarrubias Orozco, Sebastián de. Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española. Rev. ed. Edited by Felipe C. R. Maldonado. Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1995.Find this resource:

Duffy, Eamon. The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400–c. 1580. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Eire, Carlos M. N. “The Concept of Popular Religion.” In Local Religion in Colonial Mexico, edited by Martin Austin Nesvig, 1–35. Albuquerque: University of Mexico Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Emser, Hieronymus. That One Should Not Remove Images of the Saints from the Churches. In A Reformation Debate: Karlstadt, Emser and Eck on Sacred Images: Three Treatises in Translation, translated by Bryan D. Mangrum and Giuseppe Scavizzi. Ottawa, ON: Dovehouse Editions, 1991.Find this resource:

Farriss, Nancy M. Maya Society under Colonial Rule. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.Find this resource:

Flynn, Maureen. “Blasphemy and the Play of Anger in Sixteenth-Century Spain.” Past and Present 149 (November 1995): 29–56.Find this resource:

García-Molina Riquelme, Antonio. El régimen de penas y penitencias en el Tribunal de la Inquisición de México. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1999.Find this resource:

Ginzburg, Carlo, and Carlo Poni. “The Name and the Game: Unequal Exchange and the Historiographic Marketplace.” In Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe, edited by Edward Muir and Guido Ruggiero, 1–10. Translated by Eren Branch. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Greenleaf, Richard E. The Mexican Inquisition of the Sixteenth Century. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969.Find this resource:

Gruzinski, Serge. Images at War: Mexico from Columbus to Blade Runner (1492–2019). Translated by Heather MacLean. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Hughes, Jennifer Scheper. Biography of a Mexican Crucifix: Lived Religion and Local Faith from the Conquest to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Kamen, Henry. The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Kasl, Ronda. “Delightful Adornments and Pious Recreation: Living with Images in the Seventeenth Century.” In Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World. Edited by Ronda Kasl. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009.Find this resource:

Lewis, Laura A. Hall of Mirrors: Power, Witchcraft and Caste in Colonial Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Lynn, Kimberly. Between Court and Confessional: The Politics of Spanish Inquisitors. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Medina, José Toribio. Historia del Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición de México. 2d ed. Mexico City: Ediciones Fuente Cultural, 1952.Find this resource:

Mills, Kenneth. Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640–1750. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Mills, Kenneth. “The Naturalization of Andean Christianities.” In Cambridge History of Christianity. Vol. 6, Reform and Expansion 1500–1660, edited by R. Po-chia Hsia, 503–535. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Nesvig, Martin Austin. Ideology and Inquisition: The World of the Censors in Early Mexico. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Orsi, Robert A. Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Paleotti, Gabriele. Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images. Translated by William McCuaig. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2012.Find this resource:

Pereda, Felipe. Las imágenes de la discordia: política y poética de la imagen sagrada en la España del cuatrocientos. Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2007.Find this resource:

Phelan, John Leddy. The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.Find this resource:

Poole, Stafford. Pedro Moya de Contreras: Catholic Reform and Royal Power in New Spain, 1571–1591. 2d ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Prades, Jaime. Historia de la adoración y uso de las santas imágenes y de la imagen de la Fuente de la Salud. 2d ed. Valencia, Spain: Felipe Mey, 1597.Find this resource:

“Proceso contra María Phelipa de Alcaraz, bruja española de Oaxaca, Oaxaca (extracto).” Boletín del Archivo General de la Nación (Mexico) 3d ser., 2.4(6) (October–December 1978): 32–39.Find this resource:

Ricard, Robert. The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico: An Essay on the Apostolate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain, 1523–1572. Translated by Lesley Byrd Simpson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.Find this resource:

Río Parra, Elena del. Cartografías de la conciencia española en la Edad de Oro. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2008.Find this resource:

Roa, Martín de. Antigüedad veneración i fruto de las sagradas imágenes i reliquias. 2d ed. Seville, Spain: Gabriel Ramos Vejarano, 1623.Find this resource:

Las Siete Partidas. Edited by Robert I. Burns. Translated by Samuel Parsons Scott. 5 vols. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Silverblatt, Irene. Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Tavárez, David. The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Taylor, William B. Shrines and Miraculous Images: Religious Life in Mexico before the Reforma. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Tortorici, Zeb. “Masturbation, Salvation, and Desire: Connecting Sexuality and Religiosity in Colonial Mexico.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16.3 (September 2007): 355–372.Find this resource:

Villa-Flores, Javier. Dangerous Speech: A Social History of Blasphemy in Colonial Mexico. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Serge Gruzinski, Images at War: Mexico from Columbus to Blade Runner (1492–2019), trans. Heather MacLean (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 169.

(2.) Javier Villa-Flores, Dangerous Speech: A Social History of Blasphemy in Colonial Mexico (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2006), 77–103.

(3.) Robert Ricard, Laconquête spirituelledu Mexique (Paris, 1933), translated as The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico: An Essay on the Apostolate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain, 1523–1572, trans. Lesley Byrd Simpson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).

(4.) Gruzinski, Images at War, 168.

(5.) See for example, John Leddy Phelan, The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World, 2d ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970); Richard E. Greenleaf, The Mexican Inquisition of the Sixteenth Century (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969); and Stafford Poole, Pedro Moya de Contreras: Catholic Reform and Royal Power in New Spain, 1571–1591, 2d ed. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011).

(6.) Nancy M. Farriss, Maya Society under Colonial Rule (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), esp. 297.

(7.) Laura A. Lewis, Hall of Mirrors: Power, Witchcraft and Caste in Colonial Mexico (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).

(8.) David Tavárez, The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), 271. See also Kenneth Mills, “The Naturalization of Andean Christianities,” in Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 6, Reform and Expansion 1500–1660, ed. R. Po-chia Hsia (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 503–535, esp. 520–521; and Kenneth Mills, Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640–1750 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), esp. 247–257.

(9.) On the methodological merits of the concept of lived religion, see Robert A. Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), esp. 2; and Carlos M. N. Eire, “The Concept of Popular Religion,” in Local Religion in Colonial Mexico, ed. Martin Austin Nesvig (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006), 1–35, esp. 14.

(10.) Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 193–197.

(11.) John H. Arnold, Inquisition and Power: Catharism and the Confessing Subject in Medieval Languedoc (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), esp. 9.

(12.) Martin Austin Nesvig, Ideology and Inquisition: The World of the Censors in Early Mexico (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009); Kimberly Lynn, Between Court and Confessional: The Politics of Spanish Inquisitors (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Luis R. Corteguera, Death by Effigy: A Case from the Mexican Inquisition (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).

(13.) William A. Christian, Jr., “Islands in the Sea: The Public and Private Distribution of Knowledge of Religious Visions,” in “Visualizing the Invisible: Visionary Technologies in Religions and Cultural Context,” ed. Lisa Bitel, special issue, Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 25.1–2 (March–June 2009): 153–165, esp. 156.

(14.) Jean Gerson, De Directione Cordis, quoted in Euan Cameron, Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, and Religion 1250–1750 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 50–51.

(15.) Carlo Ginzburg and Carlo Poni, “The Name and the Game: Unequal Exchange and the Historiographic Marketplace,” in Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe, eds. Edward Muir and Guido Ruggiero, trans. Eren Branch (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 8.

(16.) Las Siete Partidas, ed. Robert I. Burns, trans. Samuel Parsons Scott, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 1:220 (Part. 1, Tit. 18, L. 1).

(17.) Las Siete Partidas, 5:1449 (Part. 7, Tit. 28, L. 5), which translates firiendo as “striking.”

(18.) Antonio García-Molina Riquelme, El régimen de penas y penitencias en el Tribunal de la Inquisición de México (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1999), 255.

(19.) The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, 2d rev. ed. (London: Burns, Oates & Washburne, 1920–1925), Secunda Secundæ Partis, question 99, article 2; question 13, articles 2–3; available online.

(20.) William J. Connell and Giles Constable, Sacrilege and Redemption in Renaissance Florence: The Case of Antonio Rinaldeschi (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2005), 43–44.

(21.) See the definition of sacrilegio in Sebastián de Covarrubias Orozco, Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (1611), rev. ed., ed. Felipe C. R. Maldonado (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1995), 876.

(22.) Felipe Pereda, Las imágenes de la discordia: Política y poética de la imagen sagrada en la España del cuatrocientos (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2007).

(23.) See examples in Gruzinski, Images at War, 168–201.

(24.) Irene Silverblatt, Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 68–69, 143 ff.

(25.) Kristen Block, Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean: Religion, Colonial Competition, and the Politics of Profit (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 65–80.

(26.) See examples in José Toribio, Historia del Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición de México (1905), 2d ed. (Mexico City: Ediciones Fuente Cultural, 1952), 288–294.

(27.) William B. Taylor, Shrines and Miraculous Images: Religious Life in Mexico before the Reforma (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010), 33–36.

(28.) Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400–c. 1580 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 175.

(29.) Archivo General de la Nación (Mexico), Indiferente Virreinal, caja 1568 (previously caja 163)/24, fo. 2, no date (16th century?).

(30.) Archivo General de la Nación, Inquisición [henceforth AGN Inq.], vol. 18/6 [document indicates expediente 8] (1564), fos. 45–72, esp. fo. 54. See also Villa-Flores, Dangerous Speech, 95–96.

(31.) AGN Inq. vol. 416/8 (1643), fos. 188–202; AGN Inq. vol. 413/14 (1642), fos. 459–484.

(32.) Maureen Flynn, “Blasphemy and the Play of Anger in Sixteenth-Century Spain,” Past and Present 149 (November 1995): 29–56, p. 52, quoting Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, L’expérience mystique et les symboles chez les primitifs (Paris, 1938), 58.

(33.) AGN Inq. 1029/6, fos. 185r–90v; Fernando Cervantes, The Devil in the New World: The Impact of Diabolism in New Spain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), 104.

(34.) “Proceso contra María Phelipa de Alcaraz, bruja española de Oaxaca, Oaxaca (extracto),” Boletín del Archivo General de la Nación (Mexico) 3rd ser., 2.4 (6) (October–December 1978): 32–39. The online reproduction of the original file (AGN Inq. vol. 876 exp. 41, fos. 225–277) is illegible, and the original document is currently unavailable for consultation.

(35.) Ibid., 33.

(36.) Ibid., 34

(37.) Gruzinski discusses Alcaraz’s case in Images at War, 172–173.

(38.) AGN Inq. vol. 416/8 (1643), fo. 199.

(39.) “Proceso contra María Phelipa de Alcaraz,” 33.

(40.) Zeb Tortorici, “Masturbation, Salvation, and Desire: Connecting Sexuality and Religiosity in Colonial Mexico,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16.3 (September 2007): 367–368.

(41.) Luis R. Corteguera, “Talking Images in the Spanish Empire: Vision and Action,” in Bitel, ed., “Visualizing the Invisible,” 55–71.

(42.) Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundæ Partis, question 81, article 7; see also question 84, article 2.

(43.) Hieronymus Emser, That One Should Not Remove Images of the Saints from the Churches, in A Reformation Debate: Karlstadt, Emser and Eck on Sacred Images: Three Treatises in Translation, trans. Bryan D. Mangrum and Giuseppe Scavizzi (Ottawa, ON: Dovehouse Editions, 1991), 62.

(44.) William A. Christian, Jr., Apparitions in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981), 150–151.

(45.) Elena del Río Parra, Cartografías de la conciencia española en la Edad de Oro (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultural Económica, 2008), 17, 116–117.

(46.) Gabriele Paleotti, Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images, trans. William McCuaig (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2012), 168–170.

(47.) Jaime Prades, Historia de la adoración y uso de las santas imágenes y de la imagen de la Fuente de la Salud, 2d ed. (Valencia, Spain: Felipe Mey, 1597), 49, 107.

(48.) Jennifer Scheper Hughes, Biography of a Mexican Crucifix: Lived Religion and Local Faith from the Conquest to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 25.

(49.) Martín de Roa, Antigüedad veneración i fruto de las sagradas imágenes i reliquias, 2d ed. (Seville, Spain: Gabriel Ramos Vejarano, 1623), fols. 41v ff., 67v.

(50.) Ronda Kasl, “Delightful Adornments and Pious Recreation: Living with Images in the Seventeenth Century,” in Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World (Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009), 162.

(51.) William A. Christian, Jr., Divine Presence in Spain and Western Europe, 1500–1960 (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2012), 48, and his Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981), 59–63.

(52.) Mills, “The Naturalization of Andean Christianities,” 505.

(53.) Carolyn Walker Bynum, Christian Materiality: An Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe (New York: Zone Books, 2011), 269–270.