On June 11, 1485, in the pilgrimage town of Guadalupe, the Holy Office of the Inquisition executed Alonso de Paredes--a converted Jew who posed an economic and political threat to the town's powerful friars--as a heretic. Wedding engrossing narratives of Paredes and other figures with astute historical analysis, this finely wrought study reconsiders the relationship between religious identity and political authority in late-Medieval and early-modern Spain.
Gretchen Starr-LeBeau concentrates on the Inquisition's handling of conversos (converted Jews and their descendants) in Guadalupe, taking religious identity to be a complex phenomenon that was constantly re-imagined and reconstructed in light of changing personal circumstances and larger events. She demonstrates that the Inquisition reified the ambiguous religious identities of conversos by defining them as devout or (more often) heretical. And she argues that political figures used this definitional power of the Inquisition to control local populations and to increase their own authority.
In the Shadow of the Virgin is unique in pointing out that the power of the Inquisition came from the collective participation of witnesses, accusers, and even sometimes its victims. For the first time, it draws the connection between the malleability of religious identity and the increase in early modern political authority. It shows that, from the earliest days of the modern Spanish Inquisition, the Inquisition reflected the political struggles and collective religious and cultural anxieties of those who were drawn into participating in it.
"Because only a handful of documents for the earliest years of the Inquisition survive anywhere in Spain, these . . . cases are exceptionally valuable, and Starr-LeBeau makes a masterful use of them to address the questions that have preoccupied scholars. . . . [She] provides a much more detailed analysis than previously available of the incremental steps in the process by which the Inquisition established boundaries and orthodox practice, its major impact on Spanish society."--Helen Nader, American Historical Review
"[T]his comparative study in church discipline is recommended to all scholars in the field. It may be hoped that some of them will imitate its approach in their own research."--Avshalom Laniado, Mediterranean Historical Review
"This book presents an impressive amount of archival research as well as an original interpretation of the development of the Inquisition's power. The author explores Guadalupe as a microcosm of the restructuring of political authority based on religious identity that became a crucial element in the emerging Spanish state. No other study of the Inquisition presents the same kind of political and social analysis as does this book."--Mary Elizabeth Perry, Occidental College
"The strengths of this book include Starr-LeBeau's masterful and exhaustive use of primary sources, her intelligent and even-handed deployment of a vast literature, and her skillful weaving of dramatic stories and narratives of individual lives into her text. This is an original and gripping book that will have an impact and a reading public well beyond those interested in the history of Spain or of religion."--Teofilo Ruiz, University of California, Los Angeles
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