Inquisition and Sacred Historiography in the Dominican Province of Aragon

Friday, January 7, 2011: 9:50 AM
Wellesley Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Robin J. E. Vose , St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB, Canada
In the sixteenth century, Dominican scholars began for the first time to deliberately and methodically examine written records of their Order in an effort to translate fading memory and disputed legacies into edifying historical narrative.  This work was not without significance in an age of religious conflict, when claims to spiritual authority were liable to be contested on a number of fronts.  In the Crown of Aragon debates over programs of reform, suspicions of Protestant or other heretical influence, and fears that descendants of recently-converted Jews and Muslims might retain allegiance to their ancestral faiths proved especially divisive.  Local friars stood at something of a crossroads, with an uncertain institutional past and multiple avenues to sanctity available for the future.  The present essay explores regional Dominican commitment to and self-identification with what was perhaps the most controversial of these: inquisitorial persecution.

Influential friar-historians such as Baltasar Sorió, Vicente Justiniano Antist and Francisco Diago unequivocally presented inquisition as one of the central aspects of their Order’s legitimate sacred vocation.  Their accounts of exemplary forebears seamlessly weave inquisition history with the history of the Dominican Order itself, so that inquisition appears as a laudable and fully normative ongoing task from medieval to contemporary times.  Far from being simplistic works of zealotry, these productions consist for the most part of sophisticated, magisterial, and therefore authoritative narratives supported by copious references to archival documents.  Such writings reveal both their authors’ views on the true nature of sanctity, and the value they saw in archivally-based historiography as a means of communicating those views for the spiritual benefit of the wider community.