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The Franciscan Province of the Holy Cross of Española, 1505–1559

  • Antonine S. Tibesar (a1)

The Franciscan Province of the Holy Cross was the first major administrative unit organized by the Franciscans, or by any religious, in the Americas. Begun at the relatively early date of 1505, this province faced the task of aiding in the establishment of the Church in a new world inhabited by only several thousand Europeans and hundreds of thousands of other people so completely unknown that the Europeans could not even call them by their proper name.

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1 The account of the reception of the news of the discovery of America by the friars is taken from Chronica Fratris Nicolai Glassberger (Analecta Franciscana, vol. II; Quaracchi, 1887), pp. 523–526. Oliger Livarius O.F.M., has republished the pages dealing with America from the original manuscript in “The Earliest Record on the Franciscan Missions in America,” The Catholic Historical Review, VI (1920), 5965 , together with an evaluation of the report. My quotations will be from the Oliger article.

2 Hainaut at the time was governed by the Duke of Burgundy; it bordered on the Province of Picardy, and the friary of Ath pertained to the Franciscan Observant Province of France. Hence Deule is sometimes called the Burgundian, the Picardian, the Frenchman. He was also called “el bermejo” (the red), because he was. His companion, Juan de Cosin, possibly came from the same friary at Ath. See Lippens Hugolinus O.F.M., “De Fr. Joanne de la Deule Missionario Americae, 1493–1510,” Archivum franciscanum historicum, XXVII (1934), 66 ff.

3 Ortega Angel O.F.M., La Rábida. Historia documental crítica (4 vols.; Sevilla, 1925–1926), II, 265 f., seems to feel that Fr. Juan Pérez did’ accompany Columbus on the second voyage, but the proof he offers is very weak. He also states that Fr. Rodrigo Pérez went on the second voyage (ibid., II, 262). That is certainly wrong. If the document which he quotes is not misread, at the most it would mean that a Fr. Rodrigo accompanied Bobadilla in 1500.

4 Carlo Agustín Millares (ed.), Historia de las Indias por Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (3 vols.; México, 1951), I, 344.

5 Oliger, op. cit., p. 62.

6 Ibid., p. 63.

7 Iglesia Ramón (ed.), Vida del Almirante Don Cristóbal Colón escrita por su hijo Hernando Colón (México, 1947), pp. 203 f. This volume prints the famous “Relación de Fray Ramón [Pané] acerca de las antiguedades de los indios,” pp. 186–206.

8 Oliger, op. cit., p. 63. Some priests had come with Columbus on his second voyage, among them Fr. Bernal Buil, the first Vicar General, a Minim, but they apparently returned to Spain early in 1494.

9 When Columbus returned to Spain on September 21, 1496, he wrote to their majesties that he was sending a Padre Fray Juan to inform them concerning those things which were needed to cure the sick. Who this Padre Fray Juan was is not known at this time. It may just possibly have been Juan de Tisin. Deule certainly was still on Española at that time. It was not unusual at this time, and for some centuries thereafter, for a lay brother to be called “padre.” See Ortega, op. cit., II, 266, for the reference to the Columbus recommendation.

10 Oliger, op. cit., p. 63.

11 Lippens, op. cit., pp. 71 f. Maillard had been re-elected Vicar General in the General Chapter of Malines in Pentecost week of 1499. Immediately thereafter he had set out for Spain and arrived there in about August of that same year. Hence, the arrival of the two brothers must be dated between August, 1499, and July, 1500, when they again set out for Española.

12 Oliger, loc. cit.

13 Herrera Antonio de, Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las islas, y tierra firme de el Mar Océano (10 vols.; Asunción del Paraguay-Buenos Aires, 1944–1947), I, 374 . See also Ortega, op. cit., I, 299 ff.

14 Glassberger reprints in full a letter which Maillard had received while in Niirnberg from one of the friars on Española, dated October 12, 1500. Unfortunately, the signature is not printed. However, the phrases used in the letter would with difficulty have been used by any one else than a religious superior and by one at the same time fairly well acquainted with Maillard. See Oliger, op. cit., pp. 64 f. Also, in the records of the passengers who sailed with Bobadilla preserved in Sevilla (AGI, Contratación 3249, lib. II, fol. 242 r and v), there is listed a “Fray Juan Frances y Fray Juan su compañero” (fol. 242 r) and “Fray Juan Frances el bermejo e fray Juan Frances su compañero” (fol. 242 v). The “Fray Juan el bermejo “was Deule and his companion, Fray Juan, would normally have been Tisin. Who was the other Frenchman called John? It could have been Baudin.

15 Oliger, loc. cit.

16 Deule, Trasierra, and Robles. Ortega, op. cit., II, 303–309.

17 Oliger, loc. cit. This letter states that Ruiz is returning at once. All of the letters were written on the same day, October 12, 1500. Perhaps Ruiz brought them back to Spain.

18 Ruiz was to become bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo (1509) and later of Avila (1514), where he died in 1528. Ruiz wrote a rather lengthy informe, perhaps the first protest against the cruelty shown to the Indians.

19 The priests were Fr. Alonso de Espinar, Bartolomé de Turuegano, Antonio de Carrion, Francisco de Portugal, Antonio de los Mártires, Maseo de Zafra, Pedro de Hornachuelos, Bartolomé de Sevilla, Juan de Hinojosa, Alonso de Hornachuelos, Juan de Escalante, Juan Frances, and Pierre Frances. The lay brothers were Fray Martin, Lucas Sánchez, Pedro Martinez, and Geronimo Bernal. New York Public Library [N.Y.P.L.], Rich 2, fol. 60 and 61. This seems to be the only source to give the names of the lay brothers.

20 Juan Mosquera, alcalde of Santo Domingo, testified in 1544 that he had been a fellow passenger of Espinar in 1502 and that he had come “as provincial of the monastery of St. Francis of this city and of this entire island.” See “Interrogatorio sobre el monasterio de señor San Francisco desta ciudad. Santo Domingo, 24 Marzo, 1544,” AGI, Santo Domingo 10, cuaderno 34, in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 272. These transcripts comprise about 6,000 pages made within recent years by Fr. Lázaro Lamadrid of this Academy. They deal almost exclusively with the records of the Franciscans who came to the Americas and the supplies they brought with them.

21 Herrera, op. cit., II, 5.

22 A detailed list of all the supplies is given in Ortega, op. cit., II, 313–317.

23 Utrera Cipriano de F.M. Cap., Isabel la Católica, fundadora de la ciudad de Santo Domingo (Ciudad Trujillo, 1952), pp. 8 ff. Utrera believes that the city had first been founded not in 1496 but in 1498.

24 Las Casas, op. cit., II, 235.

25 Cf. “Interrogatorio “referred to in note 20. Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 267–278.

26 Las Casas, op. cit., II, 400, states that these three were in existence by 1510. From other sources it is known that the famous cacique Enriquillo had lived with the friars at Vera Paz and had there learned the faith, how to read and write, and also gramática.

27 Real cédula to Francisco de Vargas, treasurer of Santo Domingo, Seville, April 14, 1526, in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 191 f.

28 In the “Relatio vera de novis insulis,” written in 1532 by the vicar general, Nicolas Herborn, as found in Tibesar Antonine O.F.M., Franciscan Beginnings in Colonial Peru (Washington, 1953), p. 101 , it is stated that there were then five residences on Española. Mejorada was the location of one of them, as seen from a payment on behalf of this friary of December 30, 1538, of seventy-five pesos to help rebuild it after a disastrous fire. AGI, Contaduría 1051.

29 Herrera, op. cit., II, 84.

30 Utrera Cipriano de O.F.M., Cap., La Inmaculada Concepción (Trujillo Ciuda, 1946), pp. 23 ff.

31 Las Casas speaks of a friar who did this; op. cit., III, 344.

32 Herrera, op. cit., II, 35.

33 Torrubia Joseph, Chronica de la Seraphica Religion (Rome, 1756), p. 67. Torrubia had the original Latin decree. This is a literal translation.

34 Nothing at all is said concerning the identity of the first provincial. This is also unusual, since normally he would have been appointed by the General Chapter. As already mentioned Espinar had come from Spain to be the provincial and hence perhaps it was not necessary for the Chapter to name him. There is no list of the provincials of this province available. Since it would be helpful to have one, an attempt is made to supply the deficiency by listing those names with the corresponding year or years as found in the documents. It should be made clear that the title of provincial is given only if this is found in the documents, generally in the documents of Contaduría and Contratación of AGI. The one exception is Espinar. His name is entered because no other friar is the acknowledged leader of the Franciscans during the period we have assigned to him.

  • 1. Alonso de Espinar, 1505–1511

  • 2. Pablo de Solis, 1511–1512

  • 3. Pedro Mexia (graduate of Alcalá; says he came in 1507), 1513–1514

  • 4. Diego de Torres—elected July 14, 1515; died on trip to Spain

  • 5. Tomas Infantes (a Scotchman), 1516(?)-1519

  • 6. Pedro Mexia, 1520–1521, 1523–1528 (died)

  • 7. Francisco de la Cruz (present at the foundation of Lima) 1528

  • 8. Antonio de Bilbao, 1531

  • 9. Geronimo de Vergara, 1533

  • 10. Francisco Barciense, 1537

  • 11. Rodrigo de Vega, 1538

  • 12. Antonio de Cortegana (also Corterina), 1541.

35 Real cédula to Fr. Antonio de Jahen, Córdoba, September 15, 1508; AGI, Indiferente General 1961, fol. 76, in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 11.

36 Aspurz Lázaro O.F.M. Cap., La Aportación extranjera a las misiones españolas (Madrid, 1946), p. 53 f.

37 AGI, Contratación 4674, lib. II, fol. 5v.

38 AGI, Contratación 4674, lib. IV, fol. 138v ff., in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 12–20, gives the complete list of the articles furnished.

39 Herrera, op. cit., II, 96, 126.

40 Tibesar, op. cit., p. 4.

41 Lippens, op. cit., p. 74. In 1514, Pablo de Rentería, the business partner of Las Casas, spent some time in quiet prayer in the Franciscan monastery of Jamaica. Las Casas, op. cit., III, 96.

42 Letter of Velasquez to His Highness, Cuba, April 1, 1514, N.Y.P.L., Rich 2, fol. 83. This is the last known mention of Fray Juan de Cosin.

43 Herrera, op. cit., I, 169.

44 AGI, Contaduría 1071.

45 Tibesar, op. cit., p. 100.

46 The story is well known. Las Casas gives it in detail, op. cit., II, 165.

47 Las Casas, op. cit., II, 457; Herrera, op. cit., II, 165.

48 Las Casas, op. cit., II, 439.

49 Ibid., p. 439.

50 Ibid., p. 447.

51 Ibid., p. 447.

52 Ibid., p. 448.

53 Ibid., p. 453.

54 AGI, Contratación 4674, lib. II, fol. 128v and fol. 138v. The bricks arrived in two shipments, one of 2,500 and the second of 7,000, sufficient for a fair house.

55 Pacheco Joaquín et al., Colección de documentos inéditos (42 vols.; Madrid, 1864–1884), I, 140. The Franciscans in Santo Domingo and in Jaraguá are not mentioned among those receiving Indians. The Franciscans of Concepción de la Vega received seven.

56 Herrera, op. cit., II, 221.

57 Ibid., p. 222.

58 Herrera, op. cit., II, 223.

59 The King to the Audiencia of Española, Medina del Campo, February 24, 1513, AGI, Indiferente General 419, lib. IV, fol. 107v, in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 67 f.

60 The King to Fray Pedro Mexia, Mojados, April 19, 1513, AGI, Indiferente General 419, lib. IV, fol. 110, in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 68.

61 The list of articles supplied by the crown to Fr. Alonso de Espinar can be found in AGI, Contratación 4674, lib. II, fol. 83–85v and in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 47–55.

62 Ortega, op. cit., III, 216.

63 Ibid., p. 217. This is the famous Fray Remigio who was later active in Tierra Firme and even in Panuco. He is also the friar who met the rebellious followers of Enriquillo and was mishandled by them.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid., pp. 218ff.

66 Ibid.

67 AGI, Contratación, lib. II, fol. 117.

68 Letter to Cardinal Cisneros, Santo Domingo, February 15, 1516, N.Y.P.L., Rich 2, fol. 107v.

69 The King to the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, Toledo, July 8, 1525. Ibid., fol. 275.

70 AGI, Santo Domingo 77. The list forms a separate cuaderno.

71 Perhaps the large number of friars who were leaving Española may have been one of the reasons why Cardinal Quiñones in 1524 expressly excluded Mexico and Tierra Firme from the jurisdiction of Santo Domingo.

72 Cabildo of Concepción de la Vega to the Crown, May, 1528, N.Y.P.L., Rich 2, fol. 285v.

73 The King to the royal officials of Española, Seville, May 11, 1526, AGI, Indiferente General 420, lib. X, fol. 332, in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 193.

74 Lie. Francisco Barnuevo to the Emperor, Santo Domingo, August 25, 1533, N.Y.P.L., Rich 2, fol. 445v reports on the mestizos of Santo Domingo: “Son naturalmente bellicosos, mentirosos i amigos de toda maldad. Convendría llevarlos a España muy niños i no dejar volver sino al que saliese bueno: de otra suerte, puede temerse algun alzamiento alterados los negros i naturales por ellos.”

75 Torrubia, op. cit., pp. 71 ff.

76 AGI, Indiferente General 421, lib. XII, fol. 298v in Lamadrid Transcripts, I, 213 f.

77 Torrubia, op. cit., p. 79.

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The Americas
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