Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro. José Gómez de la Parra, late 17th c.
Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro.
Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro.
Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro.
Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro.
Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro.
Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro.

Vida de la Venerable Madre Antonia de San Jacinto: Monja Professa de Velo Negro.

Mexico: Herederos de la Viuda de Bernardo Calderón, 1689.


Quarto: 20 x 14.6 cm. [14], 62 ff. Collation: *6, §4, ¶4, A-P4, Q2


Contemporary limp parchment, silk loop closures braided in colored thread and red glass bead catches (one loop broken, both beads present), remnants of a Dutch gilt embossed paper cover pasted under a later plain end-leaf inside both boards, pattern No. 61 by Munck; Overall a pleasing copy, some worming to a few signatures (the first, L, and M), a few signatures with foxing, generally crisp, worm damage to title neatly repaired on verso, a few leaves working loose. Title page printed within a border of typographical ornaments, engraved arms of dedicatee, Juan Cavallero y Ocio, printed on the second leaf. Rare. Held in 6 institutions in North America: Stony Brook Univ., Berkeley, Tulane, Penn, Brown, Austin.

The life of Antonia de San Jacinto (d. 1682), written by the Peruvian-born criollo theologian, José Gómez de la Parra, Antonia’s confessor, who preached in the Cathedral Church of Puebla and the city’s convents. Antonia, who professed as a black-veiled nun in the Santa Clara convent of Querétaro, was famous in her lifetime for her poverty, self-starvation, mortification of the flesh, and devotion to Christ.

“On 20 November 1682, Antonia de San Jacinto died a 'heavenly death'. Famed during her lifetime for her visionary powers, the nun's cult grew rapidly among the Querétaro population and bits of her old habits were found to possess miraculous healing powers. The first anniversary of her death, celebrated in a solemn mass at the Santa Clara church, attracted the city's most important families as well as its humbler elements; the crowd eventually filled the entrances, forcing many devotees to turn away. The anniversary sermon extolled her virtues, poverty, and constant battle against the devil and moved churchgoers to tears, many of whom besieged the nuns for her relics. Its success was so great that the town's wealthy cleric Juan Cavallero y Ocio had the sermon printed at his own expense for public edification. With such encouragement the cult of Sor Antonia de San Jacinto grew over the years and in 1686 her remains were exhumed and moved to a more prominent and distinguished place in the church.”(Gunnarsdóttir, “The Convent of Santa Clara, the Elite and Social Change in Eighteenth Century Querétaro”)

“In 1686, three years after her death, the body of Madre Antonia de San Jacinto of the convent Santa Clara de Jesús in Querétaro was exhumed, at which point some of her remains were wrapped in cloth and placed in a box-shaped reliquary. The nuns of the convent also kept small pieces of paper that held some of her bodily relics in order to harness some of Madre Antonia’s purported saintliness.  José Gómez de la Parra, the nun’s biographer, notes that shortly after her death, her relics and brandia were even used to cure the physical ailments of several people inside and outside the convent, which he explicitly takes as a demonstration of her holiness. He goes on to attest that these relics not only certified Madre Antonia’s holy life, but were a sacred means through which the living might imitate her in order to achieve a holy death (ff. 49–58v.)”(Córdova, “Images beyond the veil: Funeral portraits and sacred materialities in New Spain’s nunneries”)

“By the latter half of the seventeenth century, cultural life in Querétaro presented a broad spectrum of female spirituality, from the rich nuns of the convent of Santa Clara de Jesús to a curious mixture of pious beatas, curanderas, witches, and heretics. It included women of all stations and ethnic mixtures, many of whom acquired a local reputation. At the apogee of this little world was the splendid example of female monastic life in Queretaro, the rich, elite convent of Santa Clara de Jesús…

“The new foundation took the rule of the urbanist Clares. They were allowed to possess property, a necessity for a convent founded in order to shelter elite women. Santa Clara slowly expanded to accommodate its ever growing population. During the colonial period it occupied over four modern city blocks so its walls contained a bustling town of streets, gardens, public fountains, over sixty individual cells, large enough to house the nuns and their company, and ten chapels. While the founding nun had been Indian, no other Indian noblewomen professed in the convent. Its administration was taken over by Spanish nuns who came from the leading families of the town. During the seventeenth century the convent came to house a large religious and secular population. In 1639 there were already 60 nuns and 130 laywomen, mostly servants but also girls and women, residing in the convent. By the end of the seventeenth century that number had grown to a little under 100 nuns and 600 servants.

“Santa Clara rapidly produced icons of female religiosity to serve as role models for the pious and yet worldly population. When Antonia de San Jacinto, a poor nun in Santa Clara, died in 1682, a cult instantly formed around her saintly memory. On November 20, 1683, the one-year anniversary of her death, the Santa Clara convent in Querétaro called its faithful flock to mass with mourning bells. The city’s elite, clad in black, emerged from its residences, in the streets surrounding the convent and made its way to the church where a multitude had gathered rapidly. The crowd eventually filled the church and its entrances, forcing many devotees to turn away.

“Famed throughout Querétaro in her lifetime for her virtue, Antonia had been a poor nun whose saintly ways and hermetic nature had so distinguished her from the other nuns that many had tried to persuade her not to profess… Her biographer, Fray Jose Gómez de la Parra, enthusiastically spread the word of her holiness. According to his biography of the nun, Antonia ‘was always in the presence of her husband, working to please him as much as possible in her mortifications of discipline, cilices, fasts and vigils, with the practice of silence, withdrawal, humility, and prayer.’ Conscientious and obedient, she attended all masses conducted in the church, prayed in the lower choir from nine to three every night, and humbly adored and obeyed her confessor. Intensely mystical, her energies focused on constant fasting and self-mortification. The Eucharist effected mystical union with God, and according to a witness her face glowed like ‘polished silver’ whenever she received it. At times her hunger for the host could only be satiated by taking communion on two consecutive days. In the nun's struggle for saintliness she fought the classic battle with the devil, who had persecuted her since childhood, staged accidents in which she hurt herself, and haunted her so persistently in her daily conventual activities that it became common knowledge among its inhabitants. The nun's life, in Gómez de la Parra's version of it, thus contained all the hagiographic elements necessary for the creation of a proper Tridentine icon of holiness.

“Nevertheless, a more careful reading of Antonia's biography reveals assertive aspects of her piety… Antonia evaded the authority of the church, refusing -although diplomatically- to partake in the communal office of oral prayer, saw prophetic visions, cast herself as God's messenger to men, and reversed her role as a nun and disciple to become the spiritual teacher of her confessor and other clerics. This saintly nun then flirted with ‘alumbradismo’ as it had been defined by the Holy Office. According to Gómez, Antonia was so enraptured in ‘continued contemplation that she could not recite the Holy Office vocally.’ In an age when a direct communication with God lifted a person to a level above his or her peers, such experience offered a perfect excuse to evade a communal ritual. During her raptures Antonia saw visions of souls ascending from purgatory, and on one occasion she saw a vision of Christ falling to his knees under the burden of the cross, which told her that he could no longer support the sins of priests, nuns, and monks. By virtue of her undisputed and privileged communication with the divine, Antonia was thus able to formulate criticisms of the church. Her critical eye could also be turned toward the townspeople. On repeated occasions, for example, she saw a vision of a recently deceased prominent Querétaro citizen wearing rich attire and sitting in a carriage consumed by flames.

“In the security of her orthodox reputation, Antonia could take further, independent steps by counseling male ecclesiastics. It is clear from Gómez's account that he was enraptured by the spirit of his protégée; he found that ‘her lips were instruments through which God announced [his sentences].’ On many occasions, he confessed, ‘by reason of impulses that I could not resist, I found myself going to the Church of Santa Clara, to find there Mother Antonia by the rails of the lower choir and she would say to me, here I am, waiting for you because I asked God to bring you to me.’

“Gómez was not the only one to enjoy the fruits of Antonia's special relations with God. She commonly gave advice to the younger nuns in the convent and, on one occasion, taught the mistress of novices the techniques of mental prayer by accompanying her in prayer until two in the morning every night for many days. We know from Gómez's account that Antonia was revered by Querétaro's priests and friars. One comment of his is particularly revealing: ‘a priest, attempting to perfect himself, communicated with Mother Antonia for some days and then ceased seeing her, and entering carelessly into the Church of Santa Clara, and not realizing that he would see her, the first thing offered to his eyes was Mother Antonia by the grilles of the choir and she asked him how he was? Words did not come to him immediately to tell her of his state of affairs and then Mother Antonia said laughingly: If you don't do what I tell you, how are you going to take advantage of it? [her teachings].’

“Antonia finally died a heavenly death" in her closed cell into which she allowed only her confessor and the town's most illustrious friars and priests. The Franciscan commissary general, visiting Querétaro at the time, had questioned the nun on her religious spirit, declared her ‘endiosada’ (possessed by God), and asked to be with her at the hour of her death.”(Gunnarsdóttir, “Mexican Karismata”, Ch. 2. Women in Baroque Querétaro, p. 30 ff.)

About the printer:

Paula de Benavides and her husband Bernardo Calderón began printing books and pamphlets in Mexico City in 1631; widowed with six children, she took over the business in 1641 and died in 1684. This book was printed by her heirs. During her forty-three-year career as a printer, Benavides printed at least 448 titles in Mexico City and ran an expansive book store. She created a printing and bookselling dynasty that persisted for three generations after her death. Daughters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters continued printing using the Benavides name. (cf. Montiel Ontiveros, Ana Cecilia y Beltrán Cabrera, Luz del Carmen y (2006), "Paula de Benavides: impresora del siglo XVII. El inicio de un linaje." Contribuciones desde Coatepec, Vol. , núm.10, pp.103-115 [Consultado: 4 de Mayo de 2021]. ISSN: 1870-0365.

Medina, Mexico 1443; Palau 103582; Sabin 27761.