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God in La Mancha: Religious Reform and the People of Cuenca, 1500-1650.

Although Spain is identified more than any other country with the Counter Reformation, the enormous changes in religious practices and beliefs it brought about have been studied largely in the context of the period's most notoriously repressive institution - the Inquisition. In this impressively documented book, Sara Nalle proposes that the Counter Reformation in Spain constituted a genuine educational and religious reform supported by popular and elite groups alike. Drawing on years of research in the archives of the Castilian diocese of Cuenca, Nalle traces the transformation of the magical, intercessory in·ter·ces·sion  
1. Entreaty in favor of another, especially a prayer or petition to God in behalf of another.

2. Mediation in a dispute.
 faith of the Middle Ages into the complex mixture of ritual observance, social control, and popular religious enthusiasm that made up Tridentine piety.

Before Trent, most Castilians did not know the basic articles of their faith; concubinage concubinage

Cohabitation of a man and a woman without the full sanctions of legal marriage. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the term concubine has been generally applied exclusively to women; Western studies of non-Western societies use it to refer to partners who are
, absenteeism and ignorance were widespread among the clergy. Nalle demonstrates how the Counter Reformation mounted a remarkably effective and far-reaching campaign to educate and reform the moral life of the clergy and catechize cat·e·chize  
tr.v. cat·e·chized, cat·e·chiz·ing, cat·e·chiz·es
1. To teach the principles of Christian dogma, discipline, and ethics by means of questions and answers.

 the laity. The reforms were successful, Nalle suggests, because they channeled rather than repressed re·pressed
Being subjected to or characterized by repression.
 preexisting pre·ex·ist or pre-ex·ist  
v. pre·ex·ist·ed, pre·ex·ist·ing, pre·ex·ists
To exist before (something); precede: Dinosaurs preexisted humans.

 structures of faith. The new religiosity re·li·gi·os·i·ty  
1. The quality of being religious.

2. Excessive or affected piety.

Noun 1. religiosity - exaggerated or affected piety and religious zeal
religiousism, pietism, religionism
 was increasingly organized and centralized, but it also gave expression to intimate forms of piety. Sixteenth-century Castilians participated enthusiastically in religious brotherhoods, supported orphanages for the poor, and attended mass, but they also were attracted to mystical contemplation, penitential pen·i·ten·tial  
1. Of, relating to, or expressing penitence.

2. Of or relating to penance.

1. A book or set of church rules concerning the sacrament of penance.

2. A penitent.
 practices and Christocentric devotions.

Although there were few conversos and moriscos in Cuenca, and still fewer Protestants (just one person was burned for Lutheranism between the years 1556-1585), the Inquisition fulfilled an important role. Nalle shows how in the course of the Tridentine period, the Inquisition's mission evolved from one of persecuting heretics to regulating standards of sexual behavior sexual behavior A person's sexual practices–ie, whether he/she engages in heterosexual or homosexual activity. See Sex life, Sexual life. . In keeping with a new puritanism," the Inquisition used its judicial machinery to combat bigamy bigamy (bĭ`gəmē), crime of marrying during the continuance of a lawful marriage. Bigamy is not committed if a prior marriage has been terminated by a divorce or a decree of nullity of marriage. , fornication Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to each other.

Under the Common Law, the crime of fornication consisted of unlawful sexual intercourse between an unmarried woman and a man, regardless of his marital status.
 and clerical solicitation. Although thousands appeared before inquisitors, Nalle argues that the Holy Office was an accepted, even a popular institution among the majority of conquenses.

Nalle also challenges the notion of the Counter Reformation as unremittingly hostile to education. The Church was undoubtedly wary of the potential connection between literacy and religious dissent, and closely monitored printing and censored all vernacular translations of Scripture. But its catechization efforts and the establishment of seminaries and parish schools actually contributed to an astounding a·stound  
tr.v. a·stound·ed, a·stound·ing, a·stounds
To astonish and bewilder. See Synonyms at surprise.

[From Middle English astoned, past participle of astonen,
 rise in literacy rates. By the end of the sixteenth century, most priests held university degrees, and over half of the males in the cities of Madrid, Avila, Toledo, and Cuenca were literate. (Here and in an earlier study, Nalle has amassed an impressive array of statistics that drastically revise previous estimates of literacy in early modern Spain.) In contrast to Reformation Europe, the inexpensive, mass-produced primers, catechisms and religious pamphlets that were eagerly consumed by Castilians of all strata promoted not dissent but conformity to Tridentine doctrine.

In her final chapter Nalle suggests an intriguing correlation between religious and economic decline. Basing her arguments on extensive archival data, she traces a remarkable increase in testamentary masses for the dead at the beginning of the seventeenth century. During a period of overall population decline and economic stagnation, only the clergy increased in numbers and wealth, supported by "the investment of capital into enterprises that would yield no profit in this world"(205).

Obviously, a study of a single diocese, even one as richly detailed as this, cannot give a complete picture of the Catholic reform. The conformity and relative lack of conflict in Cuenca may not have been as pronounced in other areas with larger minority populations. Nonetheless, Nalle's evaluation of popular compliance with the Tridentine reforms is judiciously corrective rather than apologetic. God in La Mancha stands as a significant contribution to Reformation studies and as an exemplary analysis of the complex relationship between social change and social control.
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Author:Weber, Alison
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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