[CONVENTO DE SAN JUAN DE LOS REYES] Renuncia que hizo la Religion de nuestro Padre S. Francisco… en la Nueva España é Islas Filipinas

Toledo?, ?, 1645?


FIRST and ONLY EDITION. Folio. 4 pp., added blanks. Roman letter, a little Italic. A clean, crisp and well-margined copy in half red morocco C1900, gilt title and decorative motifs to banded spine in compartments, rubbed.

A very rare copy of this important document on the Franciscan missions in the New World and Asia when the order was the largest in Europe and Spain the driving force of Catholic expansion. Following the military campaigns of conquest in the sixteenth century, the order of Friars Minor Observant assumed the task of controlling the indigenous people overseas by cultural conversion. Not only was the Franciscan order involved in the evangelisation of Mexico, Yucatan and Florida, but it also played an important role in the establishment of a trans-Pacific commercial and religious network connecting the Spanish Americas with the Philippines and Japan.

The Renuncia was written by the General of the Franciscan order in Toledo (Convent of San Juan de Los Reyes) on the 9th of June 1645 and addressed to the King of Spain. The first part highlights the historical importance of the Franciscan order in the evangelisation of the Indians of America, describing the first expeditions to Mexico (1524) under Fernand Cortez, the martyrdoms and foundation of the early Mexican Church – blessed by the Spanish Crown – which set the strategies for conversion, particularly the pivotal roles of education and building. The language is allegorical with symbols and metaphors from Scripture and the Gospels. For instance, the New Spain is represented as the “vineyard” to which God has summoned the friars to labour among new plants.

There follows the declaration of the General of the order surrendering – for himself and the order (after 124 years) – all their tasks, rights and properties in New Spain (New Mexico, Florida, Guatemala and Yucatan) and in the Philippines, according to an apostolic bull of 1622, though allegedly issued against the Pope’s will and obtained by “sinister means”, to the great trouble of the order and disturbance of the Indians. Claiming recognition for the Franciscans’ labours and honour for their martyrs, the General asks the King of Spain to send ships to return the Franciscans to the motherland and to prepare an inventory of goods and properties belonging to their convents built thanks to the munificence of the Crown and of believers. Interesting is the reference to Japan, the kingdom of an infidel ruler and a land of tribulation, where Catholics were always persecuted and the evangelisation cost many lives.

Only the Huntington copy recorded in the US. Not in USTC. Not in Goldsmith. Alden 646/67; Medina (BHA), 6807; Sabin 69643.
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