Spreading Brotherly Love: Juan de Valdés and Hospital Confraternities in Cuenca and Naples

Friday, January 4, 2013: 2:30 PM
Evergreen Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Daniel A. Crews, University of Central Missouri
Juan’s father, Fernando de Valdés, was a third generation converso and a dominant member on the Cuenca City Council. With the explosion in the number of beggars throughout Europe, Charles V quickly endorsed the centralization and secularization of public health and welfare that had begun in Italy and spread to the Netherlands, but he left local civil authorities throughout his realms flexibility to implement the reforms.  Charles appointed Fernando and later Juan to the stewardship of the Hospital of San Lázaro in Cuenca.  The deserving poor, those legitimately unable to work due to illness, were to be confined and treated in large Royal Hospitals like San Lázaro.  However, the epidemic of syphilis, a new disease, strained hospital resources.  From the reformist perspective of Fernando and Juan, the traditional right of the hospital’s confraternity to use alms for drunken feasts had to stop.  As conversos, Juan and his father came from a textual tradition that made them skeptical of the powers of the dubious San Lázaro.  Further, the strict limitation of begging interfered with the traditional view that an individual could obtain direct and immediate divine grace by giving to the poor. Five years of litigation ensued ending only after Fernando’s death in 1530 and Juan’s departure for Italy.  In Naples Juan resumed his support of Charles’s welfare reform by serving the model Hospital for Incurables. Its Capuchin confraternity selflessly assisted treatment of syphilitics, and other deserving poor. Valdés’s career in health reform parallels the reform of welfare in Catholic Europe whereby the corporate greed of confraternities slowly gave way to the selfless pietism of reform orders like the Capuchins.
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