Europa e America allo specchio: Studi per Francesca Cantù, edited by Paolo Broggio, Luigi Guarneri Calò Carducci, and Manfredi Merluzzi

In: Journal of Jesuit Studies
Emanuele Colombo DePaul University,

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(Rome: Viella, 2017). Pp. 395. Pb., € 34,00.

This volume is a collection of essays in honor of Francesca Cantù, to celebrate her scholarly contribution to the study of early modern colonial America, with particular attention to Peru. Digging in the European archives, especially in Italy and Spain, Francesca Cantù explored different subjects, including the works by Bartolomé de las Casas; the debate on “just war” in sixteenth-century Europe; the missions in the New World, especially from the perspective of native people; the representations of America in the European culture; and the relevance of baroque iconography in understanding the exchanges between Europe and the New World.

The title of the book, “Europe and America in the Mirror,” perfectly describes Francesca Cantu’s scholarly approach and the content of the book, which highlights the “osmotic movements”—to use an expression from the introduction—between the Old and New World.

The volume is divided into three sections, that correspond to three different areas of interest of Francesca Cantù. The first one, with essays by Gabriella Zarri, Andrea Vanni, Maria Rosa Di Simone, Paolo Broggio, and René Millar Carvacho, is entitled “Religion” and shows how European religious history in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries and beyond cannot be separated from the religious culture that developed in the Americas in the same period. The second section (“Spanish Monarchy”) includes essays by José Martínez Millán, Manuel Rivero Rodríguez, Francesco Benigno, Manfredi Merluzzi, Aurelio Musi, and Giovanni Muto, and describes the Spanish monarchy as a fascinating space of political balance and clashes and cultural debates. Finally, the third section entitled “New World, New Worlds,” concentrates on the consequences of the geographic discoveries both in Europe and in the New World through essays by Luigi Guarneri Calò Carducci, Luca Codignola, Annalisa d’Ascenzo, Maria Rosa Stabili, and Leonardo Mattos-Cárdenas.

Jesuits are a strong presence in this book, and four chapters are explicitly dedicated to Jesuit history. Paolo Broggio’s article on “Graduating in the New World,” describes the conflicts between Jesuits and Dominicans on the privileges they received from Rome for conferring academic degrees in their Latin American colleges. During the sixteenth century, religious orders such as Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, and later Jesuits, opened their colleges in Spanish America to external students. Slowly, some of these colleges—when they were distant from universities founded by the crown—were allowed to confer academic degrees. For more than a century (1580–1704), Jesuits and Dominicans fought to obtain privileges (facultates) for their institutions and lobbied to prevent each other from obtaining them. The debate also had a theological turn, which was connected with broader European theological debates. While Dominicans supported the distinction between moral theology and canon law and were oriented toward rigorism, Jesuits wanted to merge moral theology and canon law and were overall oriented toward probabilism (with some exceptions). The conflict ended with a compromise in 1704, when Clement xi, with the brief In apostolicae dignitatis, granted the same privileges to Dominicans and Jesuits, putting an end to an important and still understudied dispute, which constitutes a key chapter in the history of the Spanish patronage and displays the trilateral relationships between Rome, Madrid, and the New World.

The connections between Europe and the New World are also the object of René Millar Carvacho’s essay on Jesuit mysticism in the Peruvian province during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After discussing the Ignatian roots of Jesuit mysticism and the troubles it caused with the Spanish Inquisition, the author describes the exceptional vitality of Jesuit mysticism in early modern Peru and its spreading through the Jesuit spiritual direction of nuns, the teaching in Jesuit colleges, and a lively publishing activity by members of the Society of Jesus.

The distance from Rome, the presence of charismatic Jesuits in Peru, such as Diego Álvarez de Paz (1560–1620), and the local environment sympathetic to a mystical approach, allowed Jesuit mysticism to flourish in Peru between the end of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century, despite the prudence and skepticism of many European Jesuits, including Generals Mercurian and Vitelleschi.

An intriguing contribution by Annalisa D’Ascenzio brings the reader on the other side of the globe and discusses the influence of Jesuit letters and missionary reports on the evolution of the representation of Japan in early modern European cartography. In Italy, for instance, the different editions of Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s Navigationi e viaggi (1550, 1554, and 1556), that included many maps of the world, showed an improved knowledge of Japan thanks to Francis Xavier’s letters, which were published and translated in different languages. Later, Flemish cartographers made use of Jesuit sources to develop their representations of Asia and Japan; the Theatrum orbis terrarum, for instance, published for the first time in Antwerp in 1570, and the Speculum orbis terrae (Antwerp, 1578) included maps that reproduced places and cities of Japan described by Jesuit missionaries. The essay shows the contribution of the Society of Jesus in the development of cartography, not only thanks to the famous Jesuit cartographers, but also because of cartographers’ use of Jesuit letters, which were originally written for entirely different reasons.

The fourth contribution on Jesuit history by Leonardo Mattos-Cárdenas is devoted to the life and the works of the Jesuit brother Gonzalo Ruiz (1551–1618), member of the first generation of mestizo Jesuits in Peru. A still understudied figure, Ruiz was a preacher, famous for his perfect knowledge of Quechua, a missionary, and an artist, and had a critical role in the history of the Society of Jesus in Peru. He witnessed some of the crucial events of early modern Peru, such as the conversion and the execution of the last Inca monarch Tupac Amaru (1545–72), was and advocate of the claims of the mestizo Jesuits, and was vocal in criticizing the Spanish conquest and government in the viceroyalty of Peru.

These four essays represent four areas in which Jesuit studies can contribute to a better understanding of the relationships between Europe and the New World. The creation of universities run by religious orders in the New World became the battleground of broader political and religious debates in Europe; the controversies on mysticism within the Society of Jesus had an original development in the American provinces of the Society; the extraordinary progress of European cartography in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was supported by Jesuit letters and reports coming from the overseas missions; and the life of a Jesuit brother in Peru can reveal the slow but inexorable attempt of mestizo members of Catholic religious orders to enforce their identity, a combination of European and American influences.


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