Saint and Nation
Santiago, Teresa of Avila, and Plural Identities in Early Modern Spain
Erin Kathleen Rowe
Saint and Nation
Santiago, Teresa of Avila, and Plural Identities in Early Modern Spain
Erin Kathleen Rowe
“This is a significant book that will change the way historians think about the intersection of politics, religion, and national identity in early modern Spain.”
- Table of Contents
- Sample Chapters
“This is a significant book that will change the way historians think about the intersection of politics, religion, and national identity in early modern Spain.”
“Saint and Nation is a learned and lively investigation of the seventeenth-century battle to make Saint Teresa a co-patron of the Spanish nation. Erin Rowe has uncovered the larger intellectual and political concerns that bolstered loyalties to specific saints—and in the process has revealed unexpected nuances in the imaginations of Spanish religious elites. It is a compelling piece of scholarship.”
“Saint and Nation breaks new ground in the religious and political history of Spain by shifting from the recent focus on local holy figures and institutions to the importance of patron saints on the national level. The early seventeenth-century effort to promote Teresa of Avila as co-patron saint of Spain alongside Santiago (Saint James) gave rise to a wide-ranging debate in pamphlets and pulpits over the character of the Spanish nación. Erin Rowe’s work reveals how advocates for co-patronage portrayed Teresa as a native daughter who would protect the Spanish people from Protestant heretics, whereas defenders of the sole patronage of Saint James argued that the ‘lived experience’ of the patron saint of the reconquest continued into modern times through devotion, miracles, and victories, and insisted that the election of Teresa would lead to ruin on a national scale. Resisting the temptation to characterize the failure of the co-patronage campaign as a simple victory of reactionaries over the forces of progress, Rowe’s work uses this controversy as a means to examine how patron saints encompassed competing understandings of Spain’s origins, sacred geography, and political aspirations. Saint and Nation makes a strong case for the key role of religion in nation-building at a time of crisis and transition from medieval kingdom to modern politicized nation. This work promises to be of great interest to scholars of early modern Europe, history of religion, and political science.”
“Should Spaniards elevate the recently canonized Teresa of Avila to the status of patron saint, along with their traditional protector, Santiago? This seemingly simple question riveted Spanish society in the early seventeenth century. Erin Rowe’s sensitive examination of the dozens of pamphlets and sermons produced by advocates and opponents of each saint, as well as legal and diplomatic sources and visual imagery, sheds light on court politics, religious institutions, gender norms, and the persistence of local and regional imperatives in the face of centralizing monarchical power. Rowe’s compelling study challenges us to think in new ways about national identity, church-state relations, the uses of the holy, and the construction of memory in a conflictive age.”
“In the early seventeenth century, Spain was riven by a bitter polemic over whether the recently canonized Teresa of Avila should become its co-patron saint, sharing this honor with Santiago, ‘the Moor Slayer.’ Despite the support of the royal family, the co-patronage proposal provoked a fierce backlash. Opponents argued that a female saint would impugn Spain’s collective masculinity, give credence to the reformist agenda of the king’s unpopular minister, and lend support to a less belligerent foreign policy. Erin Rowe’s absorbing study illuminates how the search for a symbol of national identity ironically exacerbated economic, political, and ideological divisions in a nation that was unified only by the awareness of its own decline.”
“The book in its entirety, meticulously researched and highly readable, sheds new light on the inseparability of religion, politics, and nation building in Early Modern Spain.”
“Rowe handles very well the complexity of her subject and her sources, and in doing so sheds valuable insight on the evolution of the Spanish national identity during the early-modern period.”
“In this nicely written volume, the author offers a lively, multifaceted account of the campaign in early-seventeenth-century Spain to make St. Teresa of Avila national copatron with Santiago (St. James) and the debate that it produced.”
“Erin Rowe's study, Saint and Nation, provides an important new context to understand the tensions inherent in the development of Spain as a national entity during the early modern period.
Overall, Saint and Nation is a good, sturdy study of intersection between religion and politics at the beginning of the seventeenth century and makes an important contribution to our understanding of the role of ecclesiastical politics in the evolution of the nation state.”
“Most impressive is Rowe’s ability to weave together into a coherent, engaging story the distinct strands of the political, religious, social and intellectual concerns voiced by parties invested in the debate. Not since Lucrecia’s Dreams and The Avila of Saint Teresa have I felt so compelled to attempt to introduce students to the complex intersection of early modern religion, politics and identity. Rowe’s well-written, engaging, and thoroughly researched work offers a new angle from which to approach the matter and will be of significant interest to scholars and students alike.”
“Rowe successfully illustrates how the co-patronage debate reflected the diversity of cultural, religious, and political identities in early modern Spain. . . . This is a work of sound scholarship and far-reaching insights that deserves wide dissemination among students of religion and politics.”
Erin Kathleen Rowe is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
List of Maps
List of Abbreviations
1. Santiago and the Shadow of Decline
2. Saint Teresa and the Lived Experience of the Holy
3. The Politics of Patron Sainthood
4. The Gender of Foreign Policy
5. Mapping Sacred Geography
6. King, Nation, and Church in the Habsburg Monarchy
7. Endgame in Rome
In the autumn of 1627, the capital city of Madrid hosted eight days of lavish festivities, including religious processions, sumptuous decorations, sermons, games, and fireworks. The king, who was convalescing from a life-threatening illness, observed the main procession from a high window with full views of the streets. Crowds of people pushed into local churches to view the richly decorated images of the saint being honored, Teresa of Avila, and to listen to the royal musicians accompanying the celebration of mass. This festival marked the first official celebration of Teresa in her newly elected position as patron saint of Spain. Yet, in spite of the joyous events unfolding in Madrid, not everyone approved of this new spiritual representative. In fact, the cathedral chapters of Castile, headed by the powerful archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, had begun a campaign in the preceding weeks to prevent other cities of the kingdom from following Madrid’s example, in defiance of royal orders. The cathedral chapter’s efforts marked the beginning of a bitter three-year battle between those advocating Teresa’s patron sainthood and those who felt that her elevation alongside Spain’s existing patron, Santiago (Saint James the Greater), represented a grave insult both to the apostle and to Spain’s spiritual traditions.
This book focuses on the period from 1617 to 1630, when the issue of who was or could be the patron saint of Spain burst onto the political and religious scene. Teresa and Santiago are two of the most iconic figures in Spanish cultural life; even today, they have maintained persistent and explicit associations with españolidad (which can best be translated as “Spanishness”). While both saints (Teresa especially) have received a great deal of scholarly attention, few studies have assessed their vital roles in historical-cultural imaginings of Spain. The conflict over their patron sainthood signified a seminal moment in Spanish history because Teresa’s ascendancy marks the first substantial challenge to Santiago since the High Middle Ages, and suggests a shift in Spanish political, spiritual, and ideological culture. Teresa’s elevation to co-patron saint proved alarming to many Castilians because it challenged not just Santiago’s cult but traditional understandings of the Spanish nation. It interrupted the accepted historical narrative touted by Santiago’s devotees to create what was, for the most part, a new historical-spiritual narrative, with new foundations. This new narrative was bound to recent events and current problems facing the nation—spiritual, political, and cultural. The largest of such events was a gradual geopolitical shift from perennial conflict with Muslims (reconquest) to a more multifaceted and spiritual conflict within Christianity (European religious wars). At the same time, the Spanish monarchy began to lose ground in its struggle to maintain hegemony in Europe. What on the surface may seem to be a simple devotional decision to name Teresa the national patron took on extraordinary importance to contemporary Castilians, who viewed the results of this decision as potentially cataclysmic. This book investigates the cultural, social, and spiritual stakes for participants.
At the heart of the controversy lay the idea of Spain itself, as national patron sainthood presented Castilians with an opportunity to imagine and contest their relationship to the larger national community, in much the same way that local saints had supplied a way to express local identities. As Simon Ditchfield has recently argued, “when early modern Catholics wanted to express their collective identity or articulate their collective memory, more often than not they did so in terms of their devotion to their local churches whose holy custodians were the saints.” Early modern historians have been quick to assess such expressions of collective identity and sanctity in the context of civic identities, yet the national level has been largely overlooked.
During the Middle Ages, saints tended to fall into one of two main categories: universal (saints venerated throughout Christendom, like the Virgin Mary and the apostles) and local (saints venerated only in specific regions or towns). Both types of saints played a variety of important roles in the spiritual and cultural lives of medieval people. They could act as intercessors between human beings and God on behalf of a petitioner, whether individual or corporate. They could serve as patrons entrusted with the protection of lands under their patronage: Patrons stopped floods, drove away locusts, and brought generous harvests. Some were associated with particular problems—Saint Roch, for example, was often called upon in times of plague. Saints could also serve as examples, either as inspiration or as models for ideal Christian behavior. But not all hagiographers expected their readers to pattern their lives after the saints—for some it was enough to present the saint’s life as a demonstration of God’s power and the wonder of his miracles. Finally, saints fulfilled a central theological role in the Catholic Church: The incorruption of their bodies offered tangible proof of the ultimate triumph over death promised to all Christians through the resurrection of the body as part of the Last Judgment. Thus saints played multiple roles within Christian society, which fluctuated depending on the specific historical, political, religious, or cultural contexts.
National patron sainthood began to develop slowly during the Middle Ages, when we begin to see the emergence of such figures as Santiago in Castile, Saint George in England and Catalonia, and Saint Denis in France. I should say here that the word “nation,” as it was understood throughout this period, derived its meaning from its Latin origins—natio, a vague term loosely connecting people from the same region who shared customs, history, and possibly language. Such national patrons acted much as local patrons did, though they reached out beyond a limited geographic range. Both national and civic patrons interceded on behalf of a specific space while simultaneously being tied deeply to a sense of place, embedded in shared histories and memories. The saints’ relationship to place constituted a key factor in their mutability into symbols of civic and national identity. National patron saints took on new meaning in the early modern period, as monarchies drew more closely together through literacy and the printing press, mobility of people, centralized bureaucracy, and, increasingly, the fixing of territorial boundaries. National patrons thus became embedded in the histories of the peoples they came to represent, often playing pivotal roles in the preservation or defense of the nation at moments of crisis. They also became associated with values and characteristics that those in the national community held as fundamental to their identities during a given period of time.
The use of saints for expressing collective identity or memory connected liturgical time with historical time. The liturgy brings the past into the present through an ongoing celebration of a cycle of events. Key to this process is the belief that the sacred is made present through such celebrations; for example, the liturgy for a saint’s feast day commemorates the deeds and miracles of the holy person who lived in the past, while simultaneously appealing to the saint’s power and presence for protection in the immediate present or future. Thus the celebration of specific saints’ feast days renders the distant past deeply relevant and immediately present, while providing hope for the future. Communities eagerly adopted such understandings of time and place in the celebration of their patron saints. As William Christian contends, shrines and relics, establishing sacred geography and “outlasting individuals as they do, come to stand not only for the pueblo of the moment, but also for the eternal pueblo.” Through its sacred geography, a community could obtain permanence and immortality, which mirrored the immortality promised to all Christians.
Saints thus became part of larger discussions about the future and direction of the nation, which included a diverse variety of economic and political policies from a range of both regional and national perspectives. The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries marked a period of profound shift in the Spanish zeitgeist—the fiscal burdens and moral complications of empire, along with the changing political situation in Europe, created a sense of unstable identity and general crisis among contemporary Castilians. Such instability led in turn to a search for new ways of representing the national community and its future. Co-patronage participants engaged in a sophisticated negotiation of plural identities through the dynamic interplay between traditional binaries: local and extralocal, royal authority and nation, tradition and modernity, church and state, and masculine and feminine. The idea of plurality in early modern Spain has become an important new area for study. James Amelang has recently noted that while plurality characterized the monarchy, it existed alongside unity. The two forces worked together, not in opposition. My work offers an in-depth case study that exposes the multilayered nature of early modern ideas, structures, and identities.
Co-patronage affords an ideal vantage point from which to examine plurality, because the conflict was not just about rhetoric or ideals but also about power, since a patron saint could act as a vehicle through which individuals or institutions could acquire or augment power. As Xavier Gil Pujol astutely observes, one of the main sources of power in early modern Iberia was jurisdiction. Since privilege and jurisdiction provided the main channels through which people demarcated and defended their individual or communal power, they often became sites of fierce contestation. Thus what we see in the co-patronage debate is a struggle over ideals and values, but also over jurisdiction—specifically, over who had the right to name and to celebrate a patron—and therefore power. In addition, disputes over local privilege, royal authority, and ecclesiastical rights in the co-patronage debate reveal plural discussions about the nation, its meaning and values, in early modern Castile. Nevertheless, while co-patronage touched off explosive disagreements about power, politics, spiritual values, and authority, supporters of both Santiago and Teresa constructed narratives of the Spanish nation that had the power to unify through the invention of a shared past and shared values. Hence, even when the nation was a contested category, it could still cohere.
Beginning in the last decades of the sixteenth century, Castile was beset by a series of misfortunes. While not without interludes of calm and prosperity, the Spanish monarchy faced an onslaught of crises and disasters for which its members scrambled to find solutions. These solutions could be, and often were, simultaneously pragmatic and ideological, ranging from resisting the devaluation of coinage to preventing Spanish men from becoming too “effeminate.” Economic, political, social, and religious remedies to the problems facing Spain consumed the minds of the educated class. Many of these men—like Pedro de Ribadeneira, Juan de Mariana, and Sancho de Moncada, to name a few—produced printed treatises that were sent to the court as advice for the king and circulated among officials and courtiers. The proliferation of such treatises and their widespread dissemination demonstrate the variety of ways in which the country’s elite attempted to strengthen the monarchy or to stave off what some referred to as its decline. This outpouring of political writing has not escaped the attention of historians, many of whom have studied in great detail both the individual men involved in the production of such works and the rhetoric they deployed to describe their country, its problems, and potential remedies.
The movement to have Teresa elevated to co-patron must be understood in the context of this larger attempt to discover potential remedies for the ills of the monarchy and of Castile in particular. Since patron saints played critical roles in the protection of the places they represented, anxieties over the choice of national patron attended larger anxieties about the state of the monarchy. Seventeenth-century writers advocating both for and against co-patronage invoked the existing language of economic and political reform by framing the debate explicitly within the context of what would be best for the monarchy. They argued fiercely over how Teresa’s elevation might add to or detract from the ultimate goal of keeping Spain strong. At first glance, the spiritual choice of an additional patron might seem to have little in common with the more serious and practical economic advice being produced at the same time. A closer examination of such treatises reveals that they often discussed the problems of the monarchy in terms of divine punishment and debated supernatural as well as practical remedies. The significance of choosing a new patron saint would have been immediately recognizable to contemporaries as integral to the monarchy’s future and well-being.
We see, therefore, that polemics on the choice of a new patron saint grabbed the attention of many leading political and spiritual figures of the day. Both Philip III and Philip IV took an active interest in promoting Teresa’s co-patronage, as well as Philip IV’s powerful minister, the count-duke of Olivares. Some of the greatest literary figures of Golden Age Spain leapt into the fray, including Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, the humanist and painter Francisco de Pacheco (Velázquez’s father-in-law), Lope de Vega, and the royal chronicler Tomás Tamayo y Vargas, as well as a host of other prominent political and economic writers. Teresa’s elevation was voted on twice by the representative assembly of Castile (the Cortes), and twice more by the kingdom’s ecclesiastical representative assembly. In addition, the most powerful prelates in Castile weighed in on the issue, including the archbishops of Santiago, Toledo, and Seville—most notably among these the influential archbishop of Seville, Pedro de Castro. Participants both famous and obscure wrote prolifically on the controversy: Almost one hundred treatises and sermons printed and circulated by both sides of the issue survive, most produced between 1627 and 1629. These treatises were also disseminated widely, enabling participants to respond directly to their adversaries and creating a written debate. Such broad circulation was aided by the widespread practice of printing cheap pamphlets, which allowed materials to be circulated quickly across a wide geographic span. For example, one co-patronage author, Francisco Morovelli de Puebla, claimed that he had fired off his pro-Teresa treatise in seven days after reading no fewer than nine pamphlets debating her elevation. Writers maintained a direct dialogue with one another, at times quoting their opponents verbatim.
While a variety of printed material proliferated in this period, the co-patronage debate marked an important moment in early modern Spanish print culture—it provided the opportunity for writers from all corners of Castile to participate in a large-scale, kingdom-wide, print-based movement. The majority of participants came from the gentry, which was at the time (as in other European kingdoms) the rising class of university-trained “new men” who held prominent positions in local and royal bureaucracies. This group of educated and socially mobile Castilians wrote prolifically on the major issues confronting their monarchy. Scholars have often located the origins of nationalism and the nation-state in the works of such men; Liah Greenfeld, for example, finds English nationalism developing in the sixteenth century as the direct result of this specific group of socially mobile men redefining nobility in terms of service. While I do not wish to make such a broad claim for these Castilians, it is noteworthy that nearly all the participants in the co-patronage debate came from families associated with lower branches of the nobility and local elites, rather than from the artisan class, the peasantry, or the highest aristocracy, who remained largely absent from the debate.
The failure of historians to understand the broad appeal and political significance of the co-patronage debate explains its virtual absence from modern historiography. One tends to find brief discussions of the debate in works on key figures—most prominently, Francisco de Quevedo, Teresa, and Santiago. Such treatments of the debate hinder our comprehensive understanding of its wider significance. For example, Isaías Rodríguez’s study of Teresian spirituality provides an excellent basic chronology of the debate as well as references to some of the primary material, but it does so almost solely from a teresiano perspective; the viewpoint of Santiago’s supporters is consequently eclipsed. The lack of attention to the co-patronage debate within the vibrant historiography on Saint Teresa is largely a by-product of scholars’ emphasis on the life and writings of the saint and her followers rather than on her cult or iconography. Until now, the most fully contextualized treatment of the debate can be found in Ofelia Rey Castelao’s study of the Santiago cathedral’s voto tax and its effects on Santiago’s cult, which places the co-patronage debate within the broader context of the cathedral’s struggle to uphold Santiago’s traditional prerogatives as a way of protecting its prestige and economic interests.
Political and intellectual historians—most prominently John H. Elliott, I. A. A. Thompson, and M. J. Rodríguez-Salgado—have made important contributions to the co-patronage debate by assessing it as a sign of an identity crisis in Castile, although they have not explored the topic in detail. Such discussions tend to be embedded in works on political culture in Castile, since, in spite of the rhetoric about “Spain” in the debate, co-patronage remains a staunchly Castilian problem, reflecting Castilian concerns in pamphlets written by Castilians. But even within Castile, the various regions and individual cities expressed multilayered attitudes about their own rights and privileges and those of the Crown; neither unstintingly loyal to the monarchy and royal policies nor unable to see over their town walls, Castilian cities and their leaders played an important role in imagining and developing a national community.
The Castilian focus raises a vital question: Did the national community the writers discuss refer to Castile or to Spain? What did the title “patron saint of Spain” mean to them? The title is not a modern imposition on the past but reflects the language employed by participants in the debate. Seventeenth-century Castilians had a wide variety of terms with which to describe both Castile and the wider monarchy. Throughout treatises on both sides of the debate, for example, the terms “Spanish monarchy” (monarquía española), “Spains” (las Españas), “Spain” (España), “Hispania” (Hispania), “the Crown(s) of Castile” (la[s] Corona[s] de Castilla), and the kingdom(s) of Castile (el reino/los reinos de Castilla) are used in ways that at first glance seem almost interchangeable to modern eyes. But these terms are not interchangeable, and early modern authors often used them with great precision. We can divide these terms roughly into two categories: The first category refers to concrete juridical-political or territorial units, while the second invokes what may be called an idealized or imagined community.
In the first category one may place the terms “Spanish monarchy,” “the Spains,” and “the Crown and kingdoms of Castile,” since all refer to existing divisions of Spanish territories. The Spanish monarchy, naturally, refers to the entirety of Spanish holdings, including the entire Iberian Peninsula, the Low Countries, the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, and the American colonies. “The Spains,” while an awkward term in English, was frequently used in early modern Spain to denote the Iberian kingdoms, which comprise modern-day Spain (Castile, Aragón, and Navarre); it also occasionally included Portugal (part of the Spanish monarchy from 1580 to 1640). At the time of the debate, these kingdoms were loosely connected by a common monarch but had separate governments, laws, and customs. The Crown(s) of Castile, whether singular or plural, included Old and New Castile, León, Andalusia, Asturias, and Galicia. Each of these Castilian Crowns represented distinct regions with differing histories and customs, though they were unified by one law.
In the second category of community—the idealized or imagined—one finds both “Spain,” and “Hispania,” neither of which reflected a political entity but rather what is better understood as an imagined site full of cultural and historical resonance. Hispania, the Latin name for the Spanish province (“España” was the term rendered in the vernacular), hearkened back to the unified kingdom of Spain and an idealized time before the Moorish invasions of 711, which fragmented and destroyed the Visigothic Kingdom. For the next seven centuries, the political leaders of Christian Spain worked (in a piecemeal fashion) to take territory from their Islamic neighbors. As they did so, new political states began to emerge, eventually resulting in the disparate kingdoms of Portugal, Castile-Leon, and Aragón-Catalonia. The “Spain” of the ancient world no longer existed, though it endured in the memories of Christian leaders of these Iberian kingdoms, several of whom attempted to resurrect the imperial title assumed by the Visigoths—emperor of all Spain. One can trace throughout Spanish history a tension between the political reality of distinct kingdoms and the historical memory of “Spain.”
Another way to describe Spain during the early modern period was with the term nación. This term retained much of its medieval resonance in the early modern period; since the word referred to a community of people from a general region, it possessed a certain plasticity that did not necessarily connote alignment with a political state. For Castilians, nación referred to the Spanish nation (nación española); it is clear from their usage that the nation comprised more than just Castile. For example, one author referred to the veneration of Santiago “throughout our entire nation” in a sentence that referred explicitly to the pilgrimage site of the Virgin of the Pillar in Aragón. Another santiaguista author denounced a sermon by an opponent who spoke in favor of displacing Santiago with Teresa; he declared that this opponent “deserved to lose his Spanish nationality [la naturaleza de España], not only for publishing this idea, but for thinking it, which is an insult to the whole nation!” The union of the terms “nation” and “Spain” indicates that references to Spain connoted nationhood. In addition, authors using the term “nation” frequently modified it with the pronoun “our” (nuestra), emphasizing the nation’s communicentric rather than its political function.
In addition to the term nación, early modern intellectuals also described both particular towns and the Spanish nation as republics (repúblicas), a term that explicitly evoked Roman political ideals as well as contemporary concerns about governance and Christian reason of state. Another humanist term in common use was patria. At the dawn of the seventeenth century, patria largely retained its sixteenth-century meaning of “hometown” or region of one’s birth. Yet Xavier Gil Pujol has demonstrated that by the close of the century writers employed the same term to refer to the nation—to Spain, a place that united people with a common history and to which people owed their primary loyalty. Although early seventeenth-century Castilians did not conceive of Spain as a nation in the modern sense of a sovereign political entity, the common use of the terms nación, patria, and república reflected a growing sense of political and cultural loyalty to a specific territory. Thus the battle over the patron saint of Spain remains embedded in a larger process through which early modern Castilians began to conceptualize the nation in a way that permitted the development of national consciousness.
The complexities involved in discussing the “nation” in medieval and early modern Europe have given rise to vigorous debate among historians. Some early modernists have taken exception to arguments by modern historians that posit the origins of nationalism (and the nation) in the late eighteenth century, asserting instead that early modern states did in fact demonstrate an incipient nationalism. Others have eschewed the nationalism debate by focusing on the broader, and more vague, category of “national identity” in premodern Europe. Yet many such historians assume, rather than investigate, the conceptual and geographic parameters of the nation as it existed prior to the formation of the nation-state. The larger question of exactly how early modern peoples imagined and understood the nation remains understudied. The nation during the early modern period was a messy concept, straddling both the older, medieval understanding of a natio and a newer, more politicized meaning encompassing sovereignty. I argue that it is necessary to explore precisely what early modern writers intended when they used the word “nation.”
Historians and political scientists, most famously Anthony Smith, have also noted the centrality of religious symbols and rhetoric in the development of national identities before the eighteenth century. Eric Olsen presents a provocative reworking of nationalism and nationalist movements in early modern Europe, which he connects to strands of medieval millenarianism, including messianism. One of the most important aspects of messianism in the context of nationalism is its emphasis on the monarchy’s unique role in God’s plan. This type of particularism countered the more universalizing tendencies of Catholicism and permitted the Spanish monarchy to see itself as the only true defender of the faith in Europe; we can see from a transnational perspective that the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English all represented themselves as chosen peoples in the early modern era. The application of the Old Testament depiction of the Hebrew people to early modern national discourses served the key purpose of permitting a transition between the loose medieval understanding of a nation into a more rigidly fixed and politicized geographical and cultural entity. Central to such a transition was the distinctive destiny of the chosen people, a specific group not only imbued with superior virtue and ability but also granted God’s special grace and a promise of territorial domination over neighbors. It is not surprising that a messianic ideology that could be easily linked to territorial domination would prove popular during an era when monarchies were consolidating their authority and forming global empires. Thus the sacred played a key role in the development and augmentation of the concept of the nation during this period.
It is not my intention, however, to argue that discussions of the nation in the seventeenth century proceeded uniformly and progressively to the eighteenth-century development of nationalism. In fact, I reject the notion of the development of the nation-state as a linear process. Identities and experiences remain fluid and plastic throughout history; in the early modern era, fluidity was encouraged by the easy movement of peoples, ideas, culture, and identities. In contrast, proponents of the concept of nationalism (and nationalist ideologies) generally portray national identities as fixed and stable. Historians must struggle to read behind and beyond discourses of national identities, both past and present, in order to view the more complicated reality. For example, in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Castile, one ideological goal of many historians was to erase or “conquer” the Moorish past, which they viewed as a disruption or aberration in Spain’s glorious Christian tradition; while such efforts were most obvious in Andalusia, they echoed throughout the kingdom. Yet, in recent work, Andrew Schulz demonstrates that eighteenth-century Spain saw an upsurge in reclaiming and celebrating its Moorish heritage. Rather than understand the Moorish presence as an interruption of Spain’s grand national narrative, some eighteenth-century artists and writers saw it as part of Spanish history and identity. Thus Spain’s national story could and did change over time.
Spain provides a particularly intriguing and complex perspective on issues of national community. The attempt to create a patron saint of “Spain” at a time when Spain did not exist politically fostered a sense of connection among Spaniards, performed through the celebration of patron sainthood. Every major city was ordered to celebrate Teresa as patron with public processions and festivals; no matter how the viewing public may have reacted to these processions, people were exposed through them to a variety of images and types of rhetoric about royal power, Spain, and what it meant to be Spanish. At the same time, the very language of patron sainthood (especially when connected to Santiago) reaffirmed the sense of a historical Spain that preceded the Habsburg dynasty. Since nationhood in early modern Europe relied on the experience of a shared past, both sides of the debate eagerly promoted narratives of the Spanish past in which their saint played an integral role. But it is important to emphasize that even though the king had a large stake in such narratives, the nation did not necessarily support royal aims and was not inevitably controlled by the monarch. The Spanish nation was not synonymous with the Spanish monarchy, and it could even be used as a method of resisting royal policies.
The phrase “patron saint of Spain” raises many questions that are not easily answered. Of what exactly had Teresa been made patron saint? Castile? Spain? The Spanish monarchy? Participants disagreed bitterly over the geographic jurisdiction of Teresa’s patron sainthood. These questions reflect even greater uncertainty over whom exactly Teresa represented in her spiritual advocacy. The Spanish people? The king? The interests of the monarchy? All of these? A close reading of the debate reveals a variety of attempts to answer these questions, directly or indirectly; we see a wealth of possible interpretations from Castilians about how they viewed themselves in relationship to town, nation, and monarchy. Teresa’s patron sainthood could be tied to the person of Philip IV and the Habsburg dynasty exclusively, to the idea of a Spanish nation utterly distinct from the monarchy, to a new civic communal identity that militated against an older medieval understanding of universal Christianitas, or to an offense against local pride or the privilege of a specific class or group (specifically, the privilege of the clergy). The coexistence of such disparate understandings of the nation demonstrates the elasticity of nation and identity in early modern Europe. At the same time, elasticity does not necessarily entail fragmentation or incoherence. This study examines the key elements of the Spanish nation and identity that were assumed and shared by both sides of the controversy over patron sainthood.
The book begins by tracing two developments in Castilian history that were fundamental to the shaping of the Castilian past: the origins and growth of devotion to the apostle Santiago in medieval Castile, and sixteenth-century Castilian accounts of national foundations. I investigate how Santiago’s slow evolution as the patron saint of Spain created a crucial place for the apostle in the burgeoning understanding of the Spanish nation as it developed throughout the sixteenth century. Through this process, ideological, spiritual, and political conceptions of the nation of “Spain” deepened into an increasingly salient national consciousness in early modern Iberia. I further assess the controversy that unfolded when, by the end of the sixteenth century, Santiago and his foundational place in Spanish history became open to question and doubt.
Chapter 2 addresses how international scandal and domestic doubts concerning Santiago’s continued efficacy as patron saint created a space that permitted a growing movement centered around another seminal Castilian saint: Teresa of Avila. This chapter briefly traces Teresa’s life, career, and monumental popularity after her death in 1582. It discusses the first Carmelite efforts to have Teresa made co-patron saint of Spain in 1617–18 and the heated controversy that followed. The intensity of devotion to Teresa during this period stemmed largely from the lived experience of her holiness by contemporary Castilian people who met, saw, spoke with, or were miraculously cured by her—she was, as they described it, “modern.” In addition, Teresa’s supporters expounded the belief that, as a native of Spain, she would intercede more powerfully for her nation than would a foreign saint. Her supporters quickly found new and inventive ways of fashioning Teresa, no less than Santiago, as a crucial part of Spain’s mythic past and messianic destiny, while reshaping the older historical narrative in favor of a modern one.
In the third chapter I investigate the issue of political and royal involvement in the co-patronage controversy, which became important in the second phase of the debate (1627–30). The new king, Philip IV, and his powerful chief minister, the count-duke of Olivares, seized the opportunities provided by Teresa’s election to promote royal propaganda. Yet their support for this controversial election allowed those hostile to royal policies generally, and to Olivares more specifically, to transform the co-patronage debate into a platform for political attack. I argue that early modern political writers could invoke the nation as a method of protecting traditional rights and providing a check to royal authority. Thus, while the king could (and did) use patron sainthood to consolidate authority with new symbolic propaganda, other groups could also mobilize their patron for the purposes of resistance and criticism. The inchoate nature of the nation during the early modern period allowed it to be employed simultaneously for multiple, and opposing, purposes.
Chapter 4 turns to the symbolic role that patron saints played in representing their kingdom on an international stage as embodiments of the monarch’s foreign policy. Specifically, I analyze how foreign policy and gender collided in the co-patronage debate as Teresa’s femininity provoked anxiety over her ability to fulfill her new role as guardian of Spain’s international reputation. Reason-of-state theorists privileged international reputation as vital for the efficacy of foreign policy and the maintenance of Spain’s hegemony in Europe; patron sainthood thus became central to representing and maintaining Spain’s reputation, as well as embodying concrete policies. Opponents of Teresa’s election insisted that representation by a woman would lead to international ridicule. In response, some of her supporters constructed a powerful argument that a new saint was necessary to combat contemporary problems facing the monarchy. They viewed the Moorslayer as an increasingly obsolete cultural symbol and instead advocated in favor of Teresa as a warrior against heresy and a promoter of internal reform.
In chapter 5 the discussion turns to the question of who exactly might have embraced such a vision of Teresa. The focus turns from external to internal here, as I “map” support for Teresa’s co-patronage along regional lines within Castile. The vital symbolic function of patron saints in early modern civic and religious culture led to powerful local connections to local patrons. Local elites in the early modern period were busily constructing local narratives and identities based on local cults. Attempts to introduce a national patron into a city or town could (and did) result in outrage and rejection. Yet it would be a misreading of seventeenth-century Castile to see such outrage as a triumph of localism over centralized authority. Cities and towns often integrated themselves into a larger national context, even as they fought to protect local interests. I present Andalusia as an extended case study in this chapter, as both regional identities and the clash over co-patronage were particularly fierce in this region.
In addition to increasing tensions between local and national cults, the co-patronage debate shed light on the growing uses of saints for civic rather than ecclesiastical purposes. Chapter 6 addresses the tension between beliefs that national patron sainthood remained solely the prerogative of the church and new understandings of it as primarily communicentric in nature. This chapter develops the clashes between Castilian churches and royal and secular authority, as many churches sought to advance their own unique interests, occasionally at the expense of royal authority. Yet churches did not necessarily invoke the ancient privileges of the ecclesiastical estate in order to promote papal power or a vision of the universal church. Rather, local churches more often than not advanced local (and sometimes national) issues. To complicate the ecclesiastical picture, prelates (in contrast to cathedral chapters) inhabited a middle ground, sometimes backing their chapter and sometimes throwing their support behind the king. This chapter argues that expanded state power in the early modern period led to increasingly national churches, whether they promoted local, royal, or national interests.
Bitter division over who should control patron sainthood—the nation or the church—proved controversial not only on the national but on the international level as well. In the final chapter the debate relocates to Rome, where a group of ambassadors representing the cathedral chapter of Santiago de Compostela began to campaign for the repeal of the 1627 papal brief, following a stalemate back in Spain. The resolution of a national dispute in an international context highlights the fundamental but understudied way in which the papacy used its ecclesiastical authority to bolster its position in international affairs. Chapter 7 also draws on multiple case studies of conflicts over patron saints and cultic devotion outside Spain in order to demonstrate that increasing nationalization of patron sainthood was occurring throughout early modern Europe, in spite of the papacy’s efforts to maintain control.
The picture that emerges from the diverse and complex issues put forth in these chapters is of national consciousness surfacing during a time of turbulence and change. What is fascinating about the co-patronage debate is that it signals a process more complex than the substitution of one set of cultural values for another. The bitter wrangling over Teresa’s elevation reveals the depth of the crisis that had developed in early seventeenth-century Castilian political and spiritual life over the future of the nation and its goals and values. Those supporting the new patron saint viewed the role of mythic origins as increasingly obsolete in the world of the Renaissance and Reformation, a world fraught with religious conflict and a changing political landscape. Teresa’s supporters shifted the location of Spain’s salvation from the distant past to the recent present; in doing so, they fashioned a new vision of the Spanish nation in which faith was preserved not by protection in battle but by internal piety and reform. The opponents of Teresa’s elevation, by contrast, argued forcefully that any changes to the national narrative would lead to disastrous results—the apostle would turn his back on them, their policies would fail, and Spain would lose its place of primacy in the world. Yet failure and disaster came for the monarchy, with or without Santiago’s singular patron sainthood, and new national narratives were crafted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But the enduring presence of both Santiago and Teresa in the Spanish cultural and historical imagination demonstrates their centrality to expressions and understandings of the Spanish nation.
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