Challenging the 1623 Edict of Grace in the Spanish Inquisition

The Inquisition Tribunal, by Francisco Goya, c.1815 / Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Wikimedia Commons

The 1623 Edict of Grace released by the Spanish Inquisition in Seville to address the heresy of alumbradismo was a contested affair.

By Dr. Jessica J. Fowler
Postdoctoral International Teaching Fellow”
IE School of International Relations
IE University


The 1623 Edict of Grace released by the Spanish Inquisition in Seville to address the heresy of alumbradismo was a contested affair. Among the voices raised against this condemnation and equation of interior religious practice as heretical alumbradismo was that of Juan Dionisio Fernández Portocarrero. This essay examines how the heresy of alumbradismo came to delineate the bounds of orthodox interiority and demonstrate how this boundary remained contested even a century after the construction of the heresy as an inquisitorial category.


“… and in many parts of [the 1623 Edict] it mentions the sect of alumbrados or dexados: I do not know what sect this is and I have never before heard of that of dexados. It should be explained what it is and what evil it contains to be ‘enlightened [alumbrado] by God’ or ‘abandoned [dexado] in Him. ‘” (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994).[1]

Luis Fernández de Portocarrero / Creative Commons

When the canon lawyer Juan Dionisio Fernández Portocarrero penned his critique of the Spanish Inquisition’s 1623 Edict of Grace against the heretical “sect of alumbrados or dexados,” he claimed to understand neither the terminology nor the errors ascribed to these suspects.[2] While hyperbolic, the claim nonetheless alluded to his broader contention that the Spanish Inquisition, in its efforts to root out the heresy of alumbradismo, had overstepped its authority to define the bounds of interior religious practice. Since its inception as a heretical category, alumbradismo had acted as an index dictating the very fine, and occasionally malleable line – based on the changing anxieties and concerns of the Inquisition – delineating heterodox from orthodox interior religious practice. By contesting the 1623 Edict of Grace, Fernández Portocarrero was questioning the beliefs and practices ascribed to alumbrados and thus helping to define the bounds of acceptable Catholic interiority.

The 1623 Edict of Grace was by far the most expansive definition of alumbradismo authorized by the Supreme Council of the Spanish Inquisition (Consejo or Suprema) and many historians have seen this Edict as the moment alumbradismo truly became an all-inclusive category.[3] However, this framework fails to seriously consider the dissenting voices raised in defense of the interior religiosity undertaken by these supposed heretics. This article highlights one such dissenting voice, that of Fernández Portocarrero, as he addressed and sought to redress what he saw as the Inquisition’s overreach in dictating the bounds of alumbradismo specifically, and interior Catholic religiosity generally, in the 1623 Edict of Grace.[4]

Failing to acknowledge debate within the Inquisition paints the inquisitorial corps, and those who aspired to it, as a uniform and undifferentiated elite. While sharing an intellectual, religious, and legal culture, these men were no more monolithic than the religious orders or academic traditions from which they sprang. The idea of a unitary uncontested Catholic doctrine, even or perhaps especially among the religious and intellectual elite, was a myth both before and after the Council of Trent. (Manning, 2009: 120, 188). Debates and disagreements about the appropriate boundaries of Catholic orthodoxy were ever present and ultimately decided through a process of deliberation as the Church and its circumstances evolved over time. To ignore these disputes over theology and doctrine—including over heresy—assumes a consistent and fixed orthodoxy that never existed.[5]

While the 1623 Edict represented the Consejo-sanctioned definition of alumbradismo at that moment, it is imperative to remember that how such norms were utilized in case law would ultimately be mediated by local tribunals and inquisitors. Despite the potential for distortion between Consejo-sanctioned use and local deployment, without a clear understanding of how the Holy Office intended to define the heresy of alumbradismo it is impossible to accurately discern the appropriate, or perhaps inappropriate, use of this category when mapped onto specific subjects. The traditional approach to studying this heresy has begun from the experience of defendants (as transcribed by the inquisitorial court) and then working from these case files to try and understand inquisitorial norms. However, this method has allowed alumbradismo to remain a particularly convoluted and perplexing category, especially in instances such as those accused in Seville when original procesos are absent from the archive. Such lacunas make it imperative to assess inquisitorial categories and standards dictated by the Suprema, for which there is documentation, and then when possible, study their utilization in case law. Rather than offering new documents for consideration, this article invites a re-reading of known materials to demonstrate how deliberations over the meaning of alumbradismo in 1623 encompassed debates about acceptable interior religious practice in that moment and how voices speaking out against the Inquisition were not necessarily silenced, but could actually be incorporated into the institution’s practice and personnel.

Alumbradismo as Heretical Interiority

Hermes Trismegistus / Wikimedia Commons

The heretical category of alumbradismo, first outlined by the Spanish Inquisition in the early sixteenth century, mapped various anxieties related to interior religious practice onto specific heretical subjects. Alumbradismo, since its classification as heresy, had acted as an index for distinguishing between licit and illicit religious interiority. In Catholicism, like all hierarchical religions, authority rested on the privileged access to the divine afforded to a select few who, through their mediation, could work towards the salvation of the many (Sluhovsky, 2007: 135-136). The belief that an individual could not only reach but maintain a personal and unmediated relationship to God posed a fundamental threat to the entire structure of the Catholic Church. By ultimately devaluing or completely dismissing the need for priests and rituals, such antinomian beliefs brought into question the very raison d’être of the entire institution. Such a menace could not go unchecked by the Spanish Inquisition.

Preoccupations about the growing population of conversos (converts from Judaism to Catholicism) and the veracity of their faith had spurred the founding of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. Questions about the reliability of exterior rituals or even praxis to indicate true belief, a decidedly interior concept, relegated converts to perpetual suspicion of Judaizing, returning to the faith of the fathers. The expansion of this population following the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain ensured that this group fully occupied the Inquisition’s attention during its first decades. Although the most egregious judaizers had been prosecuted by the 1520s, it was not coincidental that the Inquisition’s first alumbrado suspects were nearly all conversos nor that the prosecutor attempted, although failed, to charge them with Judaizing (Giordano, 2004: 143; Hamilton, 1992: 69-71). Historians have debated whether conversos demonstrated a proclivity for the kind of interiorized religious practices which characterized these early alumbrado suspects.[6] However, it is clear that for the Inquisition at this time, conversos presented ready suspects in general, but for illicit interior religious practice specifically.

If genealogical anxieties painted the new Christians as suspect, the various calls for religious reform, including the growing interest in interior religious practice, from inside and eventually outside of the Church, only further complicated this situation. The success and popularity of the Reformed Franciscan movement in Spain brought with it an emphasis on a more interiorized piety. The orthodox recogimiento advocated by this reform movement was barely distinguishable from what came to be understood as the heterodox dejamiento of the alleged alumbrados. Authors and advocates of the former went to great lengths to distinguish themselves from the latter, but through their efforts actually demonstrated just how difficult it was to draw such a distinction.[7]

Another voice of reform from within the Church, Erasmus of Rotterdam, would use satire to critique what he saw as the flaws and weaknesses of Catholicism. The humanist’s wide support in Spain during the early sixteenth century included the highest-ranking ecclesiastics of the time.[8] However, the gravity of Erasmus’ parodies was radically transformed by the appearance of Martin Luther. While Erasmus sought reform within the Catholic Church, Luther found such a reconciliation impossible. The formalization of this break at the Diet of Worms in 1521, including over issues of authority and an individual’s access to God, spurred renewed inquisitorial interest in allegations previously received in and around Toledo against suspects advocating similar antinomian ideas, many of whom would eventually be identified as alumbrados. Indeed, among these individuals were readers and supporters of Erasmus, but the Inquisition’s confusion of these defendants’ beliefs with Luther’s propositions ignored their more obvious origins within the Reformed Franciscans. The Inquisition had difficulties differentiating between the various religious movements that advocated for increasing interiority in the early sixteenth century. Unfortunately, such a conflation was particularly dangerous for defendants considering the options ranged across a spectrum reaching from approved Catholic orthodoxy all the way to apostasy.

Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1523) by Hans Holbein the Younger / National Gallery, Wikimedia Commons

The birth certificate of alumbradismo as a juridical category appeared in 1525 with the release of a specialized Edict of Faith which represented the final Consejo-sanctioned definition of this new heretical charge.[9] However, to gather information about the suspects and their beliefs in order to judge and classify them, the Inquisition had previously released an Edict of Grace. The intent was to encourage the laity with assurances that they would not be tried or punished if they came forward during this period of “grace” to testify –against themselves or others— relating to the charges outlined.[10] The testimony collected through this Edict of Grace was then used to formulate the final definition of the heresy as it would appear in the Edict of Faith. While overlapping in content the Edict of Grace had been a more targeted pronouncement, addressed to a specific place in an effort to gather information about specific suspects that would then be disseminated more broadly through an Edict of Faith.

The 1525 definition provided in the Edict of Faith included alumbrados’ alleged disparagement of exterior manifestations of piety, belittling of the sacraments, criticizing the veneration of the saints, and rejecting vocal prayer in favor of mental prayer. Fundamentally, these individuals advocated an interior religiosity unmediated by the Catholic Church, its rituals, or personnel.[11] The initial defendants demonstrated an amalgam of suspicious characteristics: many were conversos, the leaders were often beatas (unenclosed religious laywomen who sometimes, although not always, had taken certain religious vows), some openly praised the works of Erasmus, and their teachings echoed concerns expressed by the heresiarch Martin Luther. These traits provided a potent impetus for suspicion if not persecution in early sixteenth-century Spain, although these would not remain static characteristics of the heresy in the future.

Despite the 1525 Edict of Faith providing a definition of alumbradismo, debate remained about how to appropriately deploy this new heretical category. As Hamilton has pointed out, “from the outset, the Holy Office was divided about the heresy” (Hamilton, 1996: 125-128; Ortega Costa, 1977). Sentencing one of the most egregious alumbrado defendants of the period, Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz, would split the court. Of the thirteen judges that voted on his fate, seven demanded he be “relaxed to the secular arm” and burned. The other six argued for leniency, suggesting the defendant abjure his crimes de vehementi, face confinement, and never again speak of his beliefs. Among those advocating for mercy was the inquisitor Antón González Francés, whom the inquisitorial prosecutor had previously tried to have recused from the case, believing him overly sympathetic to the alleged heretics. Francés argued that the defendant and his companions had undertaken the spiritual path of interiority motivated by the love of God and under the advice of members of the clergy (including members of the Reformed Franciscans). Only later did they fall into prideful ways but this was not surprising, Francés pointed out, considering the praise they continued to receive including from members of the Church. He also pointed out that while it could be dangerous for the uneducated laity to reject external acts of faith, Catholic thinkers from St. Paul to doctors of the Church had made similar arguments which were available in both Latin and the vernacular by this time. Therefore, Francés stated, “the defendants had never thought they were acting contrary to the Catholic Church, but in their ignorance had simply misunderstood the finer points of approved doctrine” (Hamilton, 1996: 125-128). Even with the recent codification of alumbradismo as heresy and when judging the most egregious of the early defendants, the Inquisition as an institution continued to negotiate, debate, and disagree on how to handle this group’s interior religious practices.

Extramadura / Creative Commons

With the discovery of new alumbrado suspects in Extremadura in the 1570s the Inquisition felt the need to redefine this brand of interiority to adhere more closely to post-Tridentine norms. General concerns relating to the reform of the clergy, the increasing participation of the laity in the sacraments and rituals of the Church, the formalization of saint-making, and the enclosure of beatas all found expression in this redefinition of alumbradismo. However, more specifically this Edict addressed the potential somatic manifestations—including tremors and fainting or shaking spells—that could result from interior religious practice. Such exterior signs of election by the Holy Spirit would have horrified those accused as alumbrados at the beginning of the century, but were considered increasingly characteristics of these heretics by 1574. Rather than releasing a distinct Edict of Faith outlining this novel version of alumbradismo, this definition would simply be incorporated as an addendum into the General Edicts of Faith. Unlike the specific Edict of Faith released solely against alumbradismo in 1525, the General Edict of Faith provided a catalog of offenses of inquisitorial interest ranging from believing in the Law of Moses to participating in the “Sect of Mohoma” or the Sect of Luther, but also included more mundane crimes such as superstition or magic. The inclusion of alumbradismo into the General Edicts of Faith indicated that it was believed to pose a recurring threat of which the Inquisition must continue to remain vigilant. This new understanding served to corral and punish alleged alumbrados in Extremadura and later in Cordoba at the end of the century (Fowler, 2016: 259-260).

Dissention over how to employ the charge of alumbradismo remained even after its 1574 incorporation into the General Edicts of Faith. If in the early sixteenth century it was Francés who exposed the split in understandings about this heresy, it was the Dominican Alonso de la Fuente who would take up that role later in that century. While Francés had sought to highlight the orthodox motivations that inspired those accused as alumbrados, De la Fuente went to pains to point out what he saw as the dangerous potential of their brand of interiority. His “erotodemonic theory of heresy” (Weber, 2000) embodied the two greatest threats to any, but especially female, practitioners of interiority: that their interior practice would lead them to believe in their own impeccability and that the devil would lead them astray under the guise of divinity. The Consejo would eventually incorporate De la Fuente into the local tribunal’s efforts to root out these heretics. While the Holy Office initially mediated De la Fuente’s most extreme claims, there was an increasing acceptance of at least some of his opinions as the trials in Extremadura continued. However, De la Fuente’s continued obsession and righteous indignation about the handling of the heresy generally, specifically his ill-advised mission to Portugal to rally that Inquisition against alumbradismo, resulted in his personal fall from favor by the beginning of the trials in Cordoba. Nonetheless, these cases would serve to at least partially justify De la Fuente’s preoccupations about demonic influence, even if it were only that the defendants feigned such.[12] Although not always successful in convincing the Holy Office of all his positions, De la Fuente nonetheless influenced the way the Inquisition understood the heresy of alumbradismo both before and after the 1574 incorporation of this heresy into the General Edicts of Faith.

Allegations of alumbradismo would reappear at the beginning of the seventeenth century, this time in Seville, convincing the Inquisition that its earlier efforts had proven inadequate and that these cases required a renewed and expanded Edict of Grace if the institution had any hopes of finally destroying this heretical menace. The 1623 Edict of Grace would replicate nearly the entirety of the 1574 inclusion into the General Edicts of Faith. However, it would also greatly expand the importance of ecstatic religious experiences and lasciviousness. These characteristics for which the alleged sect had become particularly infamous, were considered the dangerous fruit that could be borne from interior religious practice. In 1574, the Inquisition had failed to codify lascivious behavior as a characteristic of the group then being persecuted in Extremadura, but this lacuna was, at least in theory, remedied by the issuance of a carta acordada in 1578.[13] However, while the Consejo found it appropriate to augment the bounds of alumbradismo at that time, it did not ensure its incorporation into General Edicts of Faith and this issue only reappeared with the release of the Edict of Grace in 1623.[14] By then, a dozen propositions would address the alleged salacious acts of those under investigation in Seville, ranging from dishonest communication to embracing, kissing, and fondling. According to the Edict, alumbrados felt assured of their impeccability due to their interior religious practice. Additionally, whereas the previous definition of alumbradismo had only contained a single proposition related to somatic experiences brought on by interior religious practice, the 1623 Edict included at least four. This later Edict also included increasing references to the belief that it was possible to reach a state of perfection and to attain union with God. However, the important distinction remained that this last document was an Edict of Grace, targeted at a specific area, in this case “the archbishopric of Seville, bishopric of Cadiz and its districts,” and meant to encourage and elicit further information from witnesses.[15] The expansive definition proffered by this Edict of Grace, however, failed to be incorporated into either a formal Edict of Faith, as had happened in 1525, or incorporated into the General Edict of Faith as occurred in 1574, and this strictly limited its dissemination, in theory, to a particular geographic and temporal context.

Questioning the Edict of Grace

Pedro de Castro Quiñones / Biblioteca Digital Hispanica, Wikimedia Commons

By 1623, Juan Dionisio Fernández Portocarrero had served as the provisor of the Archbishop of Seville, Pedro de Castro Quiñones, for over a decade and therefore it is unsurprising that he addressed his critique of the Edict of Grace to this esteemed ecclesiastical figure.[16] However, the fact that this prelate would die shortly after the writing of this missive has led some historians to dismiss its importance (Lea, 1907: 31-32). Despite the archbishop’s demise, the document did reach the Consejo and ultimately this council restricted the dissemination of this Edict, both its contents and consequences. The assessment of the 1623 Edict offered by Fernández Portocarrero included responding point-by-point to the bulk of the listed propositions, highlighting where the Edict contradicted itself or was unclear, and even pointing out editorial flaws in orthography. Fernández Portocarrero’s greatest criticism, however, focused on what he considered a two-fold overstep of inquisitorial authority, not only its efforts to define the boundary between orthodox and heterodox interiority but also its trespass on episcopal jurisdiction. Assessing the concerns posited by Fernández Portocarrero regarding the 1623 Edict sheds light on the debates that occurred over inquisitorial categories and hints at the possibility that the Consejo’s decision to ultimately restrict the dissemination of this Edict may have been the result of his criticisms.

Immediately following the release of the 1623 Edict the Archbishop refused to have the inquisitorial censure read aloud in his cathedral. Whether Fernández Portocarrero’s address of his concerns to the archbishop merely took advantage of the anxieties expressed in this repudiation or actually helped to foment them is unclear. It would take a month of dialogue with local inquisitors to resolve this dispute, which hinged on jurisdictional rights and expectations between episcopal and inquisitorial authority. According to Fernández Portocarrero, despite inquisitorial prescription to keep local ecclesiastics informed of its workings, the Archbishop, while aware of the imminent release of an Edict of Grace, had remained ignorant of its contents until the moment it was to be pronounced.[17] A further insult to the prelate was the Edict’s claim to an inquisitorial monopoly on the absolution of crimes listed in the document despite the Council of Trent’s granting the right to absolve secret heresy to bishops (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 431).[18] Fernández Portocarrero claimed this demonstrated “notable scorn of episcopal authority” and stressed that “the Inquisitor General is not the judge of this case to the detriment of the bishops (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 432).”[19]

Fernández Portocarrero, however, was not solely concerned with inquisitorial infringement at the local level. He argued that identifying heretical sects, such as “Alumbrados, congregados, dexados and perfectos,” and judging their alleged propositions was the prerogative of the Universal Council. Fernández Portocarrero stated,

the inquisitors cannot determine nor define any article for or against the faith by general rule. This belongs to the Apostolic See and the Councils. They [inquisitors] can only judge if such and such proposition, of which someone is accused, is against that which is determined by the Church, to punish it, not to judge it nor prohibit it in general (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 431).”[20]

He was willing to concede, however, that if the Inquisitor General intended to pass judgment on such matters, these opinions should have been explicitly qualified with a clear indication that they did not originate from the Apostolic See (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 432).[21] Ultimately for Fernández Portocarrero, these inquisitorial violations of ecclesiastical jurisdictions generally provided a foundation on which to specifically critique the Inquisition’s overstep in defining orthodox interiority.

Juan Pardo de Tavera, Grand Inquisitor of Spain (1539–1645) / Wikimedia Commons

Among Fernández Portocarrero’s initial concerns relating to interiority was the issue of identification and terminology. According to his missive the Edict of Grace identified four distinct sects: “alumbrados, congregados, dexados and perfectos (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 431).” When referring to “the sect of alumbrados or dexados,” he claimed to not know what the former was and to have never heard of the latter (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 432).[22] This claim, almost assuredly polemical, nonetheless problematized the use of multiple terms to describe these heretics even if it was not a novel development of the 1623 Edict. The 1525 Edict of Faith identified “alumbrados, dexados, and perfectos” while the 1574 addendum to the General Edict cited them as “alumbrados” but also referred to “perfectos.”[23] (Keitt, 2005: 79-80; Hamilton, 1992: 12-23).” “Alumbrados” remained the principal identifying term for these heretics, however, Fernández Portocarrero found this conflation with other terms, and their assorted connotations, problematic. He challenged such nomenclature asking what could be wicked in being either enlightened by God (alumbrado) or abandoned in Him (dexado), much less to be a member of a congregation (congregado) or seek perfection in His name (perfecto). He argued, “All of these manners are spiritual paths or means, they should not be condemned, although it is very just to punish those that use them poorly, without defaming nor discrediting congregations.” He even included a jab at the Dominicans, whom he would later identify as responsible for the flaws of the Edict; “if in the order of Saint Dominic there had been heretics, it is not fair to call these Dominican heresies, nor the Order a sect (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 433).”[24] Fernández Portocarrero saw no reason to dismiss interior religious practices out of hand simply because certain individuals proved themselves poor practitioners.

Fernández Portocarrero also expressed concerns that the Edict contradicted the advice of Catholic saints and even condemned spiritual experiences enjoyed by these exalted figures. For example, the seventeenth proposition of the Edict alleged that alumbrados, when before God in prayer, claimed there was no need to meditate or say anything.[25] Fernández Portocarrero pointed out

it is the advice of the saints not to speak nor meditate while in prayer; and although to those beginning the exercise of prayer it is advised that they meditate on the passion of Jesus Christ and his holy humanity, but they also advise the more advanced not to choose meditation, but wait peacefully for what Our Lord will offer them. And to absolutely condemn it seems to be counter to the doctrine of the saints (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 434).[26]

In a similar vein, Fernández Portocarrero argued that it was inappropriate for the Edict to condemn in toto the experience of burning sensations, fainting spells, and tremors as indicative of divine election by the Holy Spirit. He pointed out that “many saints have had the said effects, provoked by the said cause.” Considering that in Seville the majority of individuals having such experiences were women, Fernández Portocarrero likely had in mind such paradigms of Catholic feminine spirituality as Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Angela of Foligno (1248-1309), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), and most recently Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). Each of these women had enjoyed various mystical manifestations along their spiritual path, ranging from visions to raptures and ecstasies, which had been sanctioned by the Catholic Church as true divine gifts. The approval of such experiences by the Church, even when enjoyed by women, proved to Fernández Portocarrero the impossibility of relegating all such experiences beyond the pale of orthodoxy. However, as a man of his times, he was not oblivious to the fact that in certain cases such behaviors had been feigned by individuals with the intent to deceive the faithful.[27] Therefore, the author conceded that this was a possibility and that the Inquisition was justified in punishing such deceivers. Nonetheless, even if such deceits warranted reprimand, the belief that the holy spirit could manifest itself in somatic experiences remained beyond inquisitorial censure (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 433).

Neither the Edict’s references to interiority nor Fernández Portocarrero’s defense of such practices existed independently. The recent canonization of the avid proponent of interior religious practice, Teresa of Avila, could not have been far from the minds of the authors or critics of the Edict (Ahlgren, 1996: 150). Suspected as an alumbrada before her death and accused of such after, Teresa’s writings and fame, nonetheless, managed to tread ever so delicately the line separating orthodox mysticism and heretical alumbradismo. However, this balancing act incurred condemnation as well as praise and was a topic of considerable debate in Spain, including within the Inquisition. The Dominican firebrand and anti-alumbrado crusader of Extremadura, Alonso de la Fuente, informed the Consejo in 1589 and 1591 that he had identified alumbrado tendencies in Teresa’s works, however, his concerns failed to derail her canonization.[28] The rare woman able to balance the demands of the institutional Church with the understood inherent limitations of her gender, Teresa de Jesus’ promotion to sainthood proved that such an equilibrium was possible. The fact that her own religious experience had been decidedly marked by interiority—including mental prayer, mystical union, and visions – and her efforts to justify such practices made her success even more exceptional amidst a climate of increasing suspicion about interior religious experience in general, and its practice by women in particular (Ahlgren, 1996: 85-113).

Amidst his arguments regarding inquisitorial overstep into what he considered the “doctrine of the saints,” Fernández Portocarrero did not limit his pious examples only to those who had achieved sainthood but also included those whose beatification procedures remained ongoing. While the Edict censured the belief “That acts are more worthy when there is less notable devotion” as evil doctrine,[29] Fernández Portocarrero pointed out that this contradicted the prevailing esteem afforded to the holy man Gregorio López (1542-1596). López, a madrileño, who had taken up residence in New Spain, became the singular example of a lay hermit whose beatification process would eventually reach Rome. He was a close associate in Mexico of those accused as alumbrados at the end of the sixteenth century, as well as the infamous Luis de Carvajal who would be burned as a crypto-Jew (Bodian, 2007: 57-58). López dismissed the importance of the exterior rites and rituals of the Catholic Church, advocating the importance of mental over vocal prayer instead. His devotion and practices led him to experience visions, raptures, and revelations. He also seems to have read the works of Teresa of Avila even before her canonization. The death of López in 1596 was followed by the publication of his biography, which quickly sold out when published in Madrid at the behest of members of the Corte. The fact that López’s case for beatification ultimately failed, tainted by the condemnation of Miguel de Molinos in 1687, does not negate the fact that when referenced by Fernández Portocarrero in 1623, López was considered yet another orthodox proponent of an interior spiritual path (Rubial García, 1999: 93-128).

Defending the experiences of saints and those expected to be beatified shortly, Fernández Portocarrero also felt inclined to speak in favor of beatas, lay religious women who lived outside of convents. The continuing inability of Tridentine decrees to force Spanish religious women into enclosure was particularly frustrating to the Spanish Inquisition, which considered such women prone to heresy, especially alumbradismo (Lehfeldt, 1999). The closing clauses of the 1623 Edict included a specific attack against such women and their chosen lifestyle, claiming that beatas’ only intention was “hypocrisy and to deceive the Christian people.” The threat posed by beatas was only exacerbated, so the Edict explained, by their tendency to meet in conventicles both day and night, causing great scandal in the profane world and offense to God in the sacred. To rein in this threat, the Edict prohibited the beatas of Seville and the vaguely denominated “congregados and dexados” from gathering to discuss spiritual matters, giving sermons, or speaking of their rules and congregations.[30] However, Fernández Portocarrero defended the right of religious laypersons, including beatas, to meet for the sake of discussing religion, arguing that such gatherings seemed unproblematic and the Inquisition could not prohibit them. After all, these occurred for the sake of speaking about spiritual matters not matters against the faith. While the Inquisition could take action if such meetings descended into the latter, it was inadvisable to generally prohibit communication between spiritual individuals of any station (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 432, 436).

The Edict went on to specifically censure giving obedience to beatas and entrusting them as spiritual masters.[31] Fernández Portocarrero believed there was no error in doing either, while it “could be trivial it did not seem to be error, and in some subjects it could be very beneficial, since there are women of much and good spirit and there always have been in the Church (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 434-435).”[32] This defense of feminine authority within the Church diverged from the general and nearly constant suspicion regarding women’s proper religious place. Since the Church fathers, “feminine spiritual inadequacy” had dominated Catholicism, regularly reiterated by prominent theologians from Jean Gerson to the authors of the Malleus Malleficarum. There was a long and prolific history of construing the “fairer sex” as more likely to deceive and be deceived, whether by their own nature or the Devil’s. Although under the patronage of Cardinal Jimenez Cisneros, the early sixteenth century witnessed a certain “evangelical democratization” that placed a greater value on feminine religious experience, this trend was largely laid to rest with the advent of the Counter Reformation and its reinforcement of the ecclesiastical, and therefore male, hierarchy (Weber, 1999: 144-145, 147-149).

Fernández Portocarrero’s defense of beatas and their lifestyle was particularly consequential in Seville. Since at least the last quarter of the sixteenth century, the city had maintained an especially large population of beatas and their numbers only grew in the first decades of the seventeenth century (Perry, 1990: 97-117). Nearly a half-century before the 1623 Edict, in 1575, the Consejo had inquired about the numerous beatas in the area and requested the local tribunal’s opinion on how best to handle these women.[33] The inquisitors responded that there were three types of beatas in their jurisdiction and, while ideally all would eventually find themselves within convent walls, it was only the last type that were directly associated with alumbrados. The fact that these documents from 1575, both the Consejo’s inquiry regarding beatas and the tribunal’s response, were used in the drafting of the 1623 Edict speaks to a well-established Sevillian preoccupation with beatas that would find its articulation within the 1623 Edict of Grace against alumbrados.

Despite Fernández Portocarrero’s general defense of interiority, even as practiced by women, he remained conspicuously silent regarding the excesses that many believed could and often did stem from such practice: lasciviousness and descent into carnal sin. The concern that interior religious experience could lead towards sexual misdeeds was well-known and well-respected. In fact, alumbrados had been accused of such behavior in both theory and practice. Claims to personal access to the divine were often followed by claims of impeccability in the face of temptation and sin. The 1525 Edict of Faith clearly stated that alumbrados allegedly believed that “they could abandon themselves to this love of God, which directs people in such a way that they cannot sin mortally or venially” and that “if someone sinned who had already abandoned himself in God, he did not lose his soul, nor must he account to God for the sin.”[34] These propositions, when combined with the allegation that “They did not have to renounce temptations and evil thoughts, but rather should embrace them and take them as a burden and walk onward with the cross,” makes it clear how later alumbrado prosecutors could build upon these statements to assume a sense of impeccability in the face of lascivious behavior among this group.[35] While the earliest alumbrados, with limited exceptions, were not known for their sexual misconduct, this would be seen as increasingly characteristic in the persecutions of the later sixteenth century. While the censure of such behavior failed to appear in the 1574 addendum to the General Edict, it was directly addressed in the 1578 carta acordada that was intended to be incorporated into that definition. Finally, the 1623 Edict of Grace would include a dozen propositions related to such behavior. Despite the audacity of such acts and their clear place within the catalog of errors listed in the Edict, Fernández Portocarrero chose to remain conspicuously silent on these particularly prominent, if novel, additions to the 1623 Edict.

A portrait of Pope Urban VIII, 1627 / Capitoline Museums, Wikimedia Commons

While it was the content of the 1623 Edict and its efforts to regulate interior religious practice which most concerned Fernández Portocarrero, he was not above highlighting the document’s more prosaic flaws. In the first place, it was redundant when explaining alumbrados’ preference for taking communion in many forms.[36] Furthermore, as Fernández Portocarrero pointed out, in proposition fifty-eight the authors of the Edict “called ractos [sic] that which they wanted to call raptos,” an egregious error repeated in proposition sixty-two. (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 436).[37] Additionally, the Edict contradicted itself by stating in proposition fifteen that teachers of this doctrine encouraged their disciples to neither marry nor enter religious orders while proposition twenty-one claimed that leaders of the sect compelled young women to become nuns.[38] Fernández Portocarrero pointed out, “both things cannot be bad (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 434).”[39] In proposition three— “That mental prayer is that which has value and that vocal prayer is barely important at all,”—it was unclear what “value” was being discussed (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 433).[40] He requested further clarification regarding the proposition that, “some persons had said or affirmed that having arrived at a certain point of perfection they could not see holy images, nor hear sermons nor the word of God, or other things of the said sect and evil doctrine.”[41] Fernández Portocarrero pointed out that the phrase “they could not” (no pueden) could have multiple meanings including the physical loss of sight and hearing, that it was not licit to do such acts, or that they abhorred such acts. Since each of these meanings would render a different judgment, “it should have been said with clarity (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 434).”[42] He also found the Edict vague in its condemnation of “words” spoken against the sacrament of marriage, so common an offense that including it among indications of heretical alumbradismo required further clarification (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 433).[43] By pointing out such banal errors in the Edict, Fernández Portocarrero highlighted how this document was, in many ways, an embarrassment to the inquisitorial office, theological and doctrinal points aside.

After enumerating his concerns regarding over half of the Edict’s seventy-six propositions, Fernández Portocarrero retired from his assessment concluding, “I do not discuss the rest of the propositions in particular, because many I do not understand,” claiming they were beyond his faculties, and that the rest were repetitive and there seemed to be little content among them that was actually against the Catholic faith (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 436).[44] Ringing with either sarcasm or exaggerated humility, Fernández Portocarrero concluded his critique. However, not one to criticize without offering solutions, he closed his missive suggesting that to remedy the situation a group of erudite men be convened to judge (cualificar) the contents of this Edict of Grace already approved by the Holy Office. This affront to the Inquisition was complimented by a similar invective against the Dominican order who, Fernández Portocarrero stated, the Edict originated from (Fernández Portocarrero, 1994: 437).[45]

This claim of Dominican involvement in the creation of the Edict of Grace appears accurate. The historian Alvaro Huerga has stated that the Dominicans at the renowned convent of San Pablo in Seville had “amassed and baked” the draft of the proposed Edict that was signed, nearly verbatim, by Inquisitor General Andrés Pacheco.[46] This convent was the city’s oldest (founded in 1248) as well as most important Dominican institution, boasting an impressive collection of theological works in its library as well as maestros of theology in its corridors.[47] If we take the Dominicans at their word, their order had been dealing with this particular issue since roughly September of 1622, or eight months before the release of the Edict of Grace. [48] Justifying their specific abilities to judge such heresy, they pointed out that the convent possessed the papers of the Dominican antialumbrado crusader, Alonso de la Fuente, who had spearheaded the pursuit of these heretics in Extremadura at the end of the sixteenth century. Furthermore, they claimed that without the work of the Dominicans, originally numbering ten but later augmented to twelve, “there would have been no Edict of Grace.”[49] Dominican claims to assisting, if not driving the formulation of the Edict of Grace are corroborated by the undeniable role that order played following its release. The convent of San Pablo was established as a second inquisitorial tribunal to handle the hundreds of witnesses that presented themselves while inquiries from the Consejo were forwarded by the Sevillian tribunal directly to the Dominicans since, “they had worked and were working in this tribunal on this material.”[50] The Consejo was conscious and grateful for the leadership offered by the order and even encouraged the tribunal to be sure to utilize the Dominicans’ abilities.[51]

Considering these circumstances, it seems one of Fernández Portocarrero’s concerns may have been Dominican understandings of the heresy of alumbradismo, and therefore acceptable interior practice, which he saw as facilely accepted by the Inquisition, specifically the Inquisitor General. Although no religious order was a monolith, in general, the Order of Preachers was well-known for their foundational role in the Inquisition, their scholastic tendencies, and their antagonistic attitude towards those orders advocating a more interior spiritual path, the Reformed Franciscans in the early sixteenth century and later the Jesuits. Therefore, Dominican opinions about interior religious practice occupied a particular pole on a spectrum of acceptability and orthodoxy, one not aligned with the opinions of Fernández Portocarrero and one he believed too extreme to dictate the bounds of inquisitorial norms.

Consequences of Challenging the Edict of Grace

Title page of Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Venice 1564) / Wikimedia Commons

The challenge to the 1623 Edict of Grace posited by Fernández Portocarrero brought him and his skills to the attention of the Holy Office which saw him as a valuable actor worthy of incorporation into the very institution he had critiqued. Not even a year after penning his critical missive to the Inquisition, this graduate of the prestigious University of Alcala with a degree in canon law, was named inquisitor of Mallorca.[52] The following year he was appointed inquisitor in Seville amidst the ongoing alumbrado persecutions caused by the Edict of Grace he had so vehemently critiqued.[53] While acting as inquisitor in Seville, Fernández Portocarrero was also tapped by the Inquisitor General to join the junta tasked with formulating a new Index of Prohibited Books.[54] Moving ever closer to the center of power, both figuratively and geographically, Fernández Portocarrero was elected attending Inquisitor of the Corte in early 1630 and by 1633 was inquisitor of Toledo. He was appointed to the Supreme Council of the Inquisition in 1634. He would also garner the archbishoprics of Guadix (1636) and then Cadiz (1640) before his death in 1641 (Sánchez-Rivilla, 2000: 339). Far from facing censure or reprimand, Fernández Portocarrero’s brazenness seems to have impressed even the institution whose work he denounced, opening new doors for his career. His critique of the 1623 Edict of Grace immediately preceded his earliest appointments within the Holy Office and from there he quickly ascended the inquisitorial ladder of employment. Despite modern conceptions of inquisitors, or the inquisitorial corps more generally, these men constituted the intellectual and religious elite of their time. The social and political capital that came with appointments within the Holy Office were indeed something worthy of pursuit for men of Fernández Portocarrero’s station (Lynn, 2013: 294-332).

Certainly, the critique offered by Fernández Portocarrero seems to have had an effect on inquisitorial efforts to prosecute alumbrados based on the definition provided in the 1623 Edict of Grace. This description failed to develop further into either an Edict of Faith (as it had in 1525) or as part of the permanent inquisitorial catalog of offenses announced in General Edicts of Faith (as in 1574). Instead it was the 1574 description of the heresy that continued as the officially sanctioned and widely disseminated definition. As an Edict of Grace, the Consejo proved itself particularly concerned with the 1623 Edict’s dissemination beyond the intended “Archbishopric of Sevilla, Bishopric of Cadiz, and their districts.”[55] The Edict sent to the tribunal of Seville from the Consejo was accompanied by a letter ordering that, to ensure the greatest publicity, the tribunal was to print copies of the Edict and distribute them among the religious orders and any other persons deemed appropriate.[56] However, authorizing the printing of this Edict of Grace made policing its diffusion a more difficult task. A few months later the Consejo was forced to write to the neighboring tribunal after hearing that a copy of the 1623 Edict of Grace intended for Seville had been printed and found within Cordoba’s jurisdiction. In consultation with Inquisitor General Pacheco, who had so readily signed the new Edict of Grace, the Consejo ordered the tribunal of Cordoba to immediately collect all the circulating copies of this document from its jurisdiction since the Edict had been printed there without license.[57] It seems a similar incident may have occurred in Granada as well.[58]

In fact, in the wake of the final auto de fe punishing alumbrado suspects, even the Sevillian tribunal had to be reprimanded for its overzealous printing and dissemination of information about alumbrado suspects. Obviously believing they had committed no wrong, the tribunal had sent the Consejo printed copies of the Relación del auto that they held in February 1627. The tribunal received a prompt reprimand for printing the report without first gaining the permission of the Consejo and were ordered to immediately retrieve all the copies.[59] The auto de fe that had occurred at the end of 1624, and had punished the greatest number of alumbrado defendants, had been published by the printer Juan de Cabrera of Seville within that same year.[60] The fact that the Sevillian tribunal granted the same printer the rights to print the report of the 1627 auto de fe seems far from outlandish but was, nevertheless, not approved by the Consejo.[61] Whether this shift in policy was the result of the new Inquisitor General, Antonio Zapata Cisneros y Mendoza, formally taking possession of his appointment just three days before receiving the printed Relación is unclear. Nonetheless, within ten days of his appointment the Consejo ordered the Sevillian tribunal to collect all these printed reports (Sánchez-Rivilla, 2000: 283). Efforts to curtail the dissemination of documents related to the alumbrados of Seville—both the Edict of Grace as well as the Relación of the 1627 auto de fe – indicate the Consejo’s efforts to monopolize the authority to define, but also disseminate, the bounds of interiority addressed in the cases of the Sevillian alumbrados.

While the Consejo took pains to limit the immediate dissemination of the Edict of Grace it also ensured that this definition was never incorporated into the General Edicts of Faith that circulated in Spain or the rest of its empire. As an Edict of Grace, the 1623 document’s intended audience had been those in and around Seville who could compliment the tribunal’s knowledge of particular suspected alumbrados. The failure of the historiography to differentiate between the definitions provided in the 1525 Edict of Faith specifically against this heresy or the addendum to the General Edict of Faith regarding alumbrados from 1574, compared to the localized and specific intent of the 1623 Edict of Grace to elicit testimony about particular cases, has led to these documents being considered equally relevant in an effort to define the meaning of alumbradismo. The Edict of Grace proffered a targeted proposal about the bounds of heretical interiority in and around Seville at that moment. Despite the enormous response of the populace to the Edict of Grace, appearing to denounce suspects in droves, the fact that this document met with almost immediate critique from Fernández Portocarrero, that the Consejo went to efforts to ensure its confinement to its intended locale, and its ultimate failure to be incorporated into General Edicts of Faith requires a reconsideration of the weight afforded to this most extreme definition of alumbradismo within the historiography. Although this proposed definition was initially approved by the Inquisitor General, it was not one that the Holy Office was willing to stand behind beyond the bounds of its immediate intended audience. The 1623 Edict of Grace suggested a novel and more inclusive understanding of alumbradismo that was found immediately unacceptable to Fernández Portocarrero and eventually also the Consejo who refused to disseminate this as the definitive definition.


There is no definitive proof that Fernández Portocarrero’s critique against the understanding of interior religious practice outlined in the 1623 Edict of Grace was the driving force limiting this definition’s maturation into either an addendum to or distinct Edict of Faith. The earliest Edict of Faith against the heresy published in 1525 had been preceded by an Edict of Grace encouraging witnesses to come forward. Their testimony was taken under consideration before releasing the formal 1525 Edict of Faith. When the Holy Office found it necessary to re-define the heresy of alumbradismo in 1574, it proceeded directly to create an addendum to the General Edicts of Faith. However, despite the success of the 1623 Edict of Grace in encouraging the appearance of hundreds of witnesses, the Consejo failed to use this testimony to formulate a more lasting articulation of the heresy of alumbradismo. Therefore, while this 1623 Edict of Grace was unquestionably the most expansive definition of alumbradismo, it was also the one most limited in its scope— both geographically and temporally—by the Holy Office. Despite the 1623 Edict of Grace representing the final Consejo-sanctioned definition of the heretical category of alumbradismo, it was the 1574 addendum to the General Edicts of Faith which would remain the definitive definition disseminated across the entirety of the Inquisition’s jurisdiction over the next century and a half. Whether this failure of the 1623 definition to mature from an Edict of Grace into an Edict of Faith was the direct result of the criticisms of Fernández Portocarrero is difficult to assess. Nonetheless, the existence of his critique and the ultimate failure to enshrine this most extreme definition of alumbradismo in an Edict of Faith highlights the fact that nearly a century after its formulation as a bellwether for heretical interiority, alumbradismo remained a category that the Inquisition rationally deliberated, including and even sometimes incorporating oppositional voices. The bounds of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and even heresy, remained malleable and open to questioning within the highest reaches of the Spanish Inquisition.

The Consejo-sanctioned guidelines and bounds of heresy, however, were not always perfectly overlain onto individual inquisitorial cases. How local tribunals and inquisitors would see fit to deploy such definitions onto their defendants opens room for slippage between the norms dictated by the Supreme Council and the case law practiced by tribunals. Throughout the seventeenth century the more exaggerated and theatrical version of alumbradismo outlined in the 1623 Edict of Grace failed to disappear from alumbrado case law despite the bounds of the category having been reined in by Supreme Council. The application of juridical categories occurred at the tribunal level, the creation and formulation of these categories, however, remained the prerogative of the Supreme Council. Why in the future alumbrados would increasingly conform to this last Edict despite the Consejo’s rejection of it as definitive is another history yet to be written. However, such a study must not neglect the fact that inquisitorial guidelines were mediated at the local level, but to what degree that occurred speaks more to the internal dynamics of specific tribunals rather than the norms dictated by the Supreme Council of the Holy Inquisition.


  1. “Parecer del Señor Don Juan Dionisio Portocarrero remitido al Señor Arzobispo de Sevilla sobre el edicto publicado en Sevilla de orden del Senor Inquisidor General Don Andrés Pacheco y del Consejo de la General Inquisición” Archivo Histórico Nacional (Madrid), Inquisición, Libro 1219, f. 474r-480v. A transcription of the document with the orthography modernized can be found in (Huerga, 1994: 430-437). The author has chosen to cite the transcription of Huerga when citing this document unless otherwise noted.
  2. He had received his degree in canon law from the prestigious University of Alcala in 1592. (Sánchez Rivilla, 2000: 339).
  3. “The edict of 1623 issued against the alumbrados of Seville, reiterates the 1574 edict and then adds fifteen new articles that expand the definition of alumbradismo to the extent that it covers almost every infraction against church discipline imaginable; atheism, witchcraft, blasphemy, and bigamy all come under the umbrella of illuminism.” (Keitt, 2005: 81). “A finales del siglo XVI, el término ‘alumbrado’ se había controvertido en un cajón de sastre que los inquisidores utilizaban a su antojo para calificar las formas más dispares de heterodoxia,” (Sarrión, 2003: 213). “The association between alumbradismo and Lutheranism evident in the 1530s was accompanied by a tendency, which persisted until late in the century, to use the charge of alumbradismo against various forms of novelty…” (Hamilton, 1992: 91). “By the seventeenth century, the terms alumbradismo and iluminismo would both be bandied about to describe the female pseudosanctity more properly called ilusionismo.” (Holler, 1999: 220).
  4. Other authors who have treated the critique of Fernández Portocarrero. See (Keitt, 2005: 85-86, 104-105 and Lea, 1907: 31-32).
  5. That is not to say that the Inquisition was always receptive to such critiques. For one example see (Homza, 2004: 299-336).
  6. Particularly insightful recent works on this topic include (Pastore, 2010; Giordano, 2004).
  7. There is an immense historiography treating these forms of interiority. For introductory discussions on how these relate to alumbradismo specifically see, (Hamilton, 1992: 29-32; Sluhovsky, 2007: 102-112; Nieto, 1978: 293-313).
  8. The seminal work on this is (Bataillon, 1950). For a challenge to this work see (Asensio, 2000). Illustrating the ambivalence towards Erasmus shortly after the release of the 1525 Edict of Faith see (Homza, 1997: 78-118).
  9. For the concept of a heresy having a “birth certificate” see (Lerner, 1972: 83). Transcriptions of this document can be found in (Márquez, 1972: 273-283 and Huerga, 1978-1994: 395-401). For an English translation see (Homza, 2006: 80-92).
  10. The author would like to thank Robin Vose for his assistance regarding Edicts of Grace and inquisitorial manuals. “1525 Edict of Faith” in (Márquez, 1972: 274; Bethencourt, 2009: 174-201). The testimony of witnesses who responded to this Edict of Grace can be found in Ortega-Costa, 1978 and Hamilton, 1979).
  11. This is a gross simplification of the 1525 Edict of Faith. The first appearance of alumbradismo is also the most discussed and had produced an immense bibliography. Key texts include (Márquez, 1972; Huerga, 1978-1994; Hamilton, 1992). A sampling of other key authors with multiple works on the topic include (Selke, 1952 and 1968; Andrés Martin, 1973, 1977, 1984; Nieto, 1975 and 1978; Ortega Costa, 1977 and 1978). More recently discussions of the topic include Pastore, 2010; García-Arenal and Pereda, 2017: 121-152).
  12. A fuller account of De la Fuente’s efforts and role in redefining the heresy can be found in (Fowler, 2016).
  13. AHN, Inquisición, Libro 579, f. 122.
  14. The author has failed to locate an Edict containing this addendum in either Spain or Mexico.
  15. Unless otherwise stated the author used the printed “1623 Edict of Grace” found at AHN, Inquisición, Libro 1263, f. 162-167v. There is also a handwritten copy of this Edict in AHN, Inquisición, Libro 1231, f. 648-653v.
  16. The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewer who pointed this out. While unable to explore and delve into the full ramifications of his service in this article, the author expects to do so in the future.
  17. “Dióse noticia a V.S.I. que se quería publicar un edicto de gracia: todos lo supimos. Pero no se comunicó a V.S.I. la materia…” “Parecer del Señor Don Juan Dionisio Portocarrero,” 430.
  18. “…y el señor Inquisidor General reserva la absolución a los inquisidores y prohíbe absolver de ellos a los confesores ordinarios que tienen facultad del prelado…” Council of Trent, Session 24, chapter 6: “When and how the Bishop may absolve from crime, and dispense in cases of irregularity and a crime that is secret,-except that proceeding from willful homicide, and those crimes which have been already carried before a legal tribunal; -and (it shall be lawful for them), in their own diocese, either by themselves, or by a vicar to be deputed especially for that purpose, to absolve gratuitously, as far as the tribunal of the conscience is concerned, after imposing a salutary penance, all delinquents whatsoever their subjects, in all cases whatsoever that are secret, even though reserved to the Apostolic See. The same also, as regards the crime of heresy, shall be permitted them in the said court of conscience, but to them only, and not to their vicars.” [accessed 10/December/2016]
  19. “el señor Inquisidor no es juez de esta causa en daño de los obispos.”
  20. “Cualifica el señor Inquisidor General 76 proposiciones por de mala doctrina y por errores, y cuatro sectas—de Alumbrados, congregados, dexados y perfectos—, y dice que fue acordado con el Consejo de Inquisición que se leyesen y publicasen. No pudo hacer más un Concilio Universal, y si en él se hiciera y se mandara publicar en el arzobispado de Sevilla particularmente sin haber llamado a el arzobispado… no pueden los inquisidores determinar ni definir articulo ninguno por de fe, ni contra ella, por regla general. Esto pertenece a la Sede Apostólica, a los Concilios. Pueden solamente cualificar si tal o tal proposición, de que alguno es acusado, es contra lo determinado por la iglesia, para castigarlo, no para cualificarlo, ni prohibirlo en general.”
  21. “Que el señor Inquisidor General haya querido cualificar las dichas sectas y proposiciones (que el señor Inquisidor General las cualifica por de fe), se convence claramente de aquellas palabras de la prefación del edicto: ‘y reconocido por Nos y por el Consejo el grave daño que resulta a la republica cristiana de la mala doctrina que han enseñado…”
  22. “y en muchas partes de él se trata de la secta de alumbrados o dexados: no sé yo qué secta sea ésta nunca otra vez he oído decir de los dexados.”
  23. AHN, Inquisición, Libro 578, f. 235v-236.
  24. “Todos estos modos son encaminados o trato espiritual, no debieran condenarse, aunque sea muy justo castigar a los que usan mal de ellos, sin infamar ni desacreditar las congregaciones: si en la religión de Santo Domingo hubiere habido herejes, no es justo llamar a las herejías dominicanas, ni a la religión secta.”
  25. Proposition 17: “Que en la oración, se recogen en la presencia de Dios y dizen, que allí no se han de hazer discursos, ni meditar (aunque sea en la pasión de nuestro Señor Jesu Christo, ni detenerse en pensar en su Santísima Humanidad.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 163v.
  26. “es consejo de los santos que en la oración no se hagan discursos ni se medite; y aunque a los que comienzan el ejercicio de la oración se aconseja que mediten en la pasión de Jesucristo y en su santísima humanidad, pero también se aconseja a los muy ejercitados que no escojan meditación, sino que esperen con quietud lo que Nuestro Señor les ofreciere. Y condenarlo todo absolutamente, parece que es oponerse a la doctrina de los santos.”
  27. Among many works on this topic see (Haliczer, 2002; Schutte, 2003; Keitt, 2005).
  28. (Huerga, 1978: 88-96). The concerns of De la Fuente regarding Teresa are also reproduced in (Llamas, 1972).
  29. Proposition 44: “Que los actos son más meritorios quanto ay menos devoción sensible.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 164v.
  30. “Y por quanto tenemos relación, que en esta dicha Ciudad de Sevilla, y su distrito, ay muchas personas, que sin causa ni razón (por su propria [sic] voluntad y disinio[sic]) se visten en abito de Beatas de diversas Ordenes, y Religiones, en gran descredito y desautoridad dellas, y solo con fin de hipocresía, y engañar al pueblo christiano) se juntan y hacen conventículos de día y de noche (de que resulta mucha nota y escándalo, y muchas ofensas de Dios.) Prohibimos i mandamos so pena de Excomunión mayor, que las dichas Beatas, ni los dichos Congregados, i dexados, no se junten de día, ni de noche, haciendo conventículos, ni con ocasión de hazer platicas espirituales, ni Sermones, ni de tratar de cosas de sus Reglas i Congregaciones.” The accusation that alumbrados gathered in conventicles at night to hear sermons and discuss spiritual matters was also listed as proposition sixty-seven in the Edict of Grace. “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 165v, 167.
  31. Proposition 20: “Que dan la obediencia a mujeres, a las quales tienen por Maestras de Espíritu, y doctrina.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 163v.
  32. “En la 20a se condena dar la obediencia a mujeres y tenerlas por maestras de espíritu y doctrina. Lo cual podría ser liviandad, pero parece que no error, y en algunos sujetos podría ser muy provechosos, pues hay mujeres de mucho y buen espíritu, y siempre las ha habido en la iglesia.”
  33. AHN, Inquisición, Libro 578, f, 341v; AHN, Inquisición, Legajo 2946, s.f.
  34. (Homza, 2006: 84-85) (propositions 9 and 11).
  35. Ibid., 91 (proposition 44).
  36. Proposition 15: “…o que algunas personas al tiempo que reciben el Sanctisimo Sacramento de la Comunión, ayan recebido muchas formas juntas, diciendo que reciben más gracia, o mayor gusto…”; Proposition 29: “Que quando comulgan, dizen que an menester mucha fe, porque con pocas formas, recibe poco a Dios.”; Proposition 31: “Que la gente que comulga con más formas, es más perfecta.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 163, 164.
  37. “En la 58a se llaman ractos a los que se quisieron llamar raptos: vicio es de la impresión, pero descuido muy culpable en tan grave materia, y lo mismo se dice en la proposición 62a.” Proposition 62: “Que en los dichos grades arrobos, o ractos, no ay fe, porque ven a Dios claramente.” Proposition 58: “Que en los arrobos, que llaman ractos, ven en esta vida a Dios claramente, como se ve en la gloria.” “1623 Edict of Grace,”, f. 165v. The author primarily used the printed version of Edict located in Libro 1263 but also consulted the handwritten Edict located at Libro 1231 to see if the error had been simply typographical when the Edict was printed. However, the mistake is also in the handwritten copy of the Edict. “1623 Edict of Grace,” AHN, Inquisición, Libro 1263, f. 162-167v & Libro 1231, f. 648-653v.
  38. Proposition 15: “Y que los Maestros de la dicha mala doctrina de alumbrados, aconsejan, i mandan generalmente que todos sus dicipulos, hagan voto de no casarse, persuadiendolas que no entren en Religión (sintiendo mal de las Religiones)” Proposition 21: “Y que obligan a las doncellas que hagan voto de castidad, y de ser Monjas.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 163r-v.
  39. “en ésta es error persuadir que entren, y en aquella, obligar a que hagan voto de entrar. Y no pueden ser ambas cosas malas.”
  40. Fernández Portocarrero pointed out that if this “value” referred to the previous proposition, “that prayer is sacrament below the accidents,” that the intent of the propositions was still unclear and required clarification. Proposition 3: “Que la oraciOn mental, es la que tiene este valor, y que la Oración vocal, importa mui poco.” Proposition 2: “Y que la Oración es Sacramento, debaxo de accidentes.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 162v.
  41. Proposition 14: “O que algunas personas ayan dicho i afirmado, que aviendo llegado a cierto punto de la perfección, no pueden ver Imágenes Santas, ni oír Sermones ni palabra de Dios, o otras cosas de la dicha seta y mala doctrina.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 163.
  42. “La palabra no pueden puede tener diferentes sentidos: no pueden, hoc est, pierden la vista y el oído; no pueden, hoc est, no les es licito; no pueden, hoc est lo aborrecen. Y teniendo cada sentido de éstos diferente cualificación, se debió decir con claridad.”
  43. “En la 6a se condena decir palabras sintiendo mal del sacramento del matrimonio. No se dice que palabras, y debiera explicarse, para hacer este caso particular y digno de advertencia, pues es cosa clara y comúnmente sabida que es error sentir mal del sacramento.” Proposition 6: “Y que dizen palabras sintiendo mal del Sacramento del Matrimonio.” “1623 Edict of Grace,” f. 162v.
  44. “No trato en particular de las demás proposiciones, porque muchas no entiendo por no ser de mi facultad, y muchas no son para repetidas, si bien las más parece tener poco contra la fe.”
  45. “Para remedio de lo cual, lo primero parece que convendría cualificar todo el edicto con parecer de personas doctas que no sean de la religión de Santo Domingo, de donde el edicto ha procedido…”
  46. “En fin, el convento de San Pablo prestó una abierta y decidida colaboración teológica a la campana inquisitorial contra el Alumbradismo barroco. El borrador del célebre edicto contra los Alumbrados, que lleva la firma del Inquisidor General don Andrés Pacheco y la fecha de 9 mayo 1623, se amasó y coció, según me consta, en el horno teológico de este convento.” (Huerga, 1978-1994, IV: 12).
  47. (Larios Ramos (O.P.), 2016: 94-95). The author would like to thank Eduardo Fernández Guerrero for this citation. Huerga, Historia de los Alumbrados, IV 11-12.
  48. The orders to review the “qualities of the propositions” relating to alumbrados were sent at the end of 1623 and the response was actually provided by the renowned Dominican calificadores Jeronimo de Ulloa and Domingo Farfan writing from the convent of San Pablo. In their response from November 1623, these Dominicans opened their missive pointing out that they had been working on the matter of alumbrados for the preceding year and two months, hence roughly since September of 1622, approximately eight months before the release of the Edict of Grace in May 1623. “y por haber visto el nuevo orden que ahora se guarda en este tribunal de la Inquisicion de Sevilla acerca de las calidades de las proposiciones, escribimos esta carta avisando a V.A. de lo que pasa.” AHN, AHN, Legajo 2960, s.f., letter dated 7 November 1623.
  49. “y si no fuera por la buena industria y ayuda de V.M. y del señor [inquisidor] don Alonso de Hoces y de diez frailes de esta nuestra Orden que hasta ahora hemos entendido en esto y otros dos que ahora andan más, que somos doce, ni hubiera habido edicto de gracia, ni se hubiera descubierto tanta inmensidad de delitos y delincuentes, ni tuvieran tanto cuerpo las causas como hoy tienen.” AHN, Legajo 2960 s.f., letter dated 7 November 1623.
  50. AHN, Legajo 2960 s.f., letter dated 11 April 1623; “Con ésta se os envía el edicto de gracia que el Ilustrisimo Señor Inquisidor General ha concedido en materia de los alumbrados en conformidad de los papeles que sobre esto habéis enviado…” AHN, Libro 690, f. 68r-v; AHN, Leg. 2960, s.f., letter dated 22 August 1623.
  51. AHN, Inquisición, Libro 690, f. 83v, 85v-88r.
  52. In that same year he penned two additional works, including one that delineated the boundaries of inquisitorial and royal jurisdiction in Mallorca, “Memorial de don Juan Portocarrero sobre el caso y suceso de Cádiz” (BN MSS 2355 209r-212v) and “Sobre la competencia de jurisdicción de que se trata entre la inquisición y ministros reales de Mallorca” (BN Salon General-3/36589). (Sanchez-Rivilla, 2000: 339).
  53. (Sánchez-Rivilla, 2000: 339). The appointment of Fernández Portocarrero meant that while he missed the first auto de fe that punished alumbrado suspects in 1624, he was present for the event that occurred in 1627 and which punished the leaders and most infamous of the Sevillian alumbrados: madre Catalina de Jesus and Juan de Villalpando. Just a few months following his appointment, after reviewing the collected materials he, along with the tribunal’s senior inquisitor, Rodrigo de Villavicencio, Fernández Portocarrero had written an update to the Suprema about those remaining ongoing cases related to alumbrados. AHN, Inquisición, Legajo 2962 s.f., letter dated 9 September 1625.
  54. “el índice más voluminoso y con más censuras de todos los publicados por la Inquisición española a lo largo de los siglos XVI y XVII, y si añadimos a ello que este catálogo iba a suscitar una importante reacción de oposición, que conduciría a la publicación de un nuevo índice apenas ocho años después…” (Pardo Tomás, 1991: 66-67; Manning, 2009: 22-25).
  55. AHN, Inquisición, Libro 1263, f. 62-67v.
  56. “Y para que haya más publicidad de él y venta a noticia de todos, le haréis imprimir y daréis copia a los prelados de las religiones y a las personas que os pareciere más a propósito.” AHN, Inquisición, Libro 690, f. 68r-v.
  57. AHN, Libro 602, f. 55v.
  58. AHN Legajo 2405, s.f., letter dated 22 August 1623.
  59. AHN, Libro 690, f. 277r.
  60. “Relación de las prevenciones y forma como se celebró el Auto público de Fe, en…Sevilla, por el Santo Oficio de la Inquisición…el 30 de noviembre deste año 1624…” BNE, MSS. VE/1383/2.
  61. “Relación del Auto de fe que celebró la Inquisición de Sevilla, en el convento de San Pablo el Real, el segundo domingo de Cuaresma, último día de febrero del año de 1627.” BNE, MSS. 23162/6. This seems likely to be a manuscript copy of the Relación held in the Real Academia de Historia (Jesuitas, t. 89, doc. 172) based on the work of (Huarte, 1968).


  • Ahlgren, Gillian (1996) Teresa of Avila and the Politics of Sanctity. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
  • Andrés Martin, Melquiades (1973) Nueva Visión de los “Alumbrados” de 1525. Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid.
  • Andrés Martin, Melquiades (1977) “Bibliografía sobre los alumbrados de 1525.” In Primeras Jornadas de Bibliografía. Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid.
  • Andrés Martin, Melquiades (1984) “Los alumbrados de Toledo según el proceso de María de Cazalla (1525-1534).” Cuadernos de Investigación Histórica, 8: 65-81.
  • Asensio, Eugenio (2000) El erasmismo y las corrientes espirituales afines: conversos, franciscanos, italianizantes. SEMYR, Salamanca.
  • Bataillon, Marcel (1950) Erasmo y España: estudios sobre la historia espiritual del siglo XVI. Fundo de Cultura Económica, Mexico.
  • Bethencourt, Francisco (2009) The Inquisition: A Global History, 1478-1834. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Bodian, Miriam (2007) Dying in the Law of Moses: Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
  • Fernández Portocarrero, Juan Dionisio [1623] (1994) “Parecer del Señor Don Juan Dionisio Portocarrero remitido al Señor Arzobispo de Sevilla sobre el edicto publicado en Sevilla de orden del Señor Inquisidor General Don Andrés Pacheco y del Consejo de la General Inquisición”. In Historia de los Alumbrados, Tomo V, Temas y Personajes (1570-1630), edited by Huerga, Alvaro. Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid: 430-437.
  • Fowler, Jessica J. (2016) “Assembling Alumbradismo: The Evolution of a Heretical Construct.” In After Conversion: Iberia and the Emergence of Modernity, edited by García-Arenal Mercedes. Brill, Leiden: 251-282.
  • García-Arenal, Mercedes and Pereda, Felipe (2017) “On the Alumbrados: Confesionalism and Religious Dissidence in the Iberian World”. In The Early Modern Hispanic World: Transnational and Interdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Lynn, Kimberly and Rowe, Erin. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 121-152.
  • Giordano, María Laura (2004) Apologetas de la Fe: elites conversas entre Inquisición y patronazgo en España (siglos XV y XVI). Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid.
  • Haliczer, Stephen (2002) Between Exaltation and Infamy: Female Mystics in the Golden Age of Spain. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Hamilton, Alastair (1979) El Proceso de Rodrigo de Bivar (1539). Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid.
  • Hamilton, Alastair (1992) Heresy and Mysticism in Sixteenth-Century Spain: The Alumbrados. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.
  • Hamilton, Alastair (1996) “Merciful Inquisitors: Disagreements within the Holy Office about the Alumbrados of Toledo.” In Querdenken: Dissens und Toleranz im Wandel der Geschichte: Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Hans R. Guggisberg, edited by Erbe, Michael; Füglister, Hans; Furrer, Katharina et al. Palatium Verlag im J and J., Mannheim: 123-134.
  • Holler, Jacqueline (1999) “More Sins than the Queen of England: Marina de San Miguel before the Mexican Inquisition.” In Women in the Inquisition: Spain and the New World, edited by Giles, Mary E.. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore: 209-228.
  • Homza, Lu Ann (1997) “Erasmus as Hero or Heretic? Spanish Humanism and the Valladolid Assembly of 1527.” Renaissance Quarterly, 50: 78-118.
  • Homza, Lu Ann (2004) “How to Harass an Inquisitor-General: The Polyphonic Law of Friar Francisco Ortiz.” In A Renaissance of Conflicts: Visions and Revisions of Law and Society in Italy and Spain, edited by Marino, John A. and Kuehn,Thomas. Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, Toronto: 299-336.
  • Homza, Lu Ann (2006). “1525 Inquisition Edict on the Alumbrados.” In The Spanish Inquisition, 1478-1614: An Anthology of Sources, edited and translated by Homza, Lu Ann. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, Indianapolis: 80-92.
  • Huerga, Alvaro. (1978-1994) Historia de los Alumbrados, 5 vols. Fundación Universitaria Española, Seminario Cisneros, Madrid.
  • Keitt, Andrew (2005) Inventing the Sacred: Imposture, Inquisition, and the Boundaries of the Supernatural in Golden Age Spain. Brill, Leiden.
  • Larios Ramos, Antonio (2016) “Los Dominicos y la Inquisición en Sevilla durante la Modernidad.” Revista de Humanidades, 27: 91-112.
  • Lea, Henry Charles (1907) A History of the Inquisition of Spain. The Macmillan Company, New York.
  • Lehfeldt, Elizabeth (1999) “Discipline, Vocation, and Patronage: Spanish Religious Women in a Tridentine Microclimate.” Sixteenth Century Journal, 30, 4: 1009-1028.
  • Lerner, Robert (1972) The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Llamas Martínez, Enrique (1972) Santa Teresa de Jesús y la Inquisición española. Editorial de Espiritualidad, Madrid.
  • Lynn, Kimberly (2013) Between Court and Confessional: The Politics of Spanish Inquisitors. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Manning, Patricia W. (2009) Voicing Dissent in Seventeenth-Century Spain: Inquisition, Social Criticism and Theology in the Case of El Criticón. Brill, Leiden.
  • Márquez, Antonio (1972) Los alumbrados: Orígenes y filosofía, 1525-1559. Taurus Ediciones, S.A., Madrid.
  • Nieto, José C. (1975) “En torno al problema de los alumbrados de Toledo.” Revista Española de Teología, 35: 77-93.
  • Nieto, José C. (1978) “The Heretical Alumbrados Dexados: Isabel de la Cruz and Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz.” Revue de littérature comparee, 52, 2-4: 293-313.
  • Ortega Costa de Emmart, Milagros (1977) “Las proposiciones del edicto de los alumbrados. Autores y calificadores.” Cuadernos de Investigación Histórica, 1: 23-36.
  • Ortega-Costa, Milagros (1978) Proceso de la Inquisición contra María de Cazalla. Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid.
  • Pardo Tomás, José (1991) Ciencia y Censura. La Inquisición Española y los libros científicos en los siglos XVI y XVII. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid.
  • Pastore, Stefania. (2010) Una herejía española: conversos, alumbrados e Inquisición (1449-1559). Marcial Pons Historia, Madrid.
  • Perry, Mary Elizabeth (1990) Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  • Rubial García, Antonio (1999) La santidad controvertida: Hagiografía y conciencia criolla alrededor de los venerables no canonizados de Nueva España. Fondo de Cultura Económica, México.
  • Sánchez Rivilla, Teresa (2000) “Inquisidores Generales y Consejeros de la Suprema: Documentación Biográfica.” In Historia de la Inquisición en España y América, III: Temas y problemas, edited by Pérez Villanueva, Joaquín; Escandell Bonet, Bartolomé and Alcalá, Ángel. Centro de Estudios Inquisitoriales, Madrid: 228-437.
  • Sarrión Mora, Adelina (2003) Beatas y endemoniadas: mujeres heterodoxas ante la Inquisición, siglos XVI a XIX. Alianza Editorial, S.A., Madrid.
  • Schutte, Anne Jacobson (2003) Aspiring Saints: Pretense of Holiness, Inquisition and Gender in the Republic of Venice, 1618-1750. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  • Selke de Sánchez, Angela (1952) “Algunos datos nuevos sobre los primeros alumbrados: el edicto de 1525 y su relación con el proceso de Alcaraz.” Bulletin Hispanique, LIV, 2: 125-152.
  • Selke de Sánchez, Angela (1968) El Santo Oficio de la Inquisición: Proceso de Fr. Francisco Ortiz. Ediciones Guadarrama, Madrid.
  • Sluhovsky, Moshe (2007) Believe Not Every Spirit: Possession, Mysticism, and Discernment in Early Modern Catholicism. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Weber, Alison (1999) “Little Women: Counter-Reformation Misogyny.” In The Counter Reformation, edited by Luebke, David. Blackwell Publishers Inc, Malden: 144-162.
  • Weber, Alison (2000) “Demonizing Ecstasy: Alonso de la Fuente and the Alumbrados of Extremadura.” In The Mystical Gesture: Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Spiritual Culture in Honor of Mary E. Giles, edited by Boenig, Robert. Ashgate, Aldershot: 141-158.

Originally published by Culture and History Digital Journal 6:2 (2017) under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.