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Saint and Nation: Santiago, Teresa of Avila, and Plural Identities in Early Modern Spain.

Saint and Nation: Santiago, Teresa of Avila, and Plural Identities in Early Modern Spain. By Erin Kathleen Rowe. (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011. Pp. xv, 264. $74.95.)

In this nicely written volume, the author offers a lively, multifaceted account of the campaign in early-seventeenth-century Spain to make St. Teresa of Avila national copatron with Santiago (St. James) and the debate that it produced. Teresa, founder of the order of the Discalced Carmelites, was associated with mysticism, the fight against heresy, and reform within the church. Santiago's position derived from two legends that did not enjoy equal weight and credibility, even among some of his most dedicated adherents. Reputedly he evangelized Roman Hispania, and his body was subsequently transported to Galicia, where his tomb was discovered; he also became closely associated with the protection and defense of the Christian kingdoms that were formed after the conquest of most of the Iberian Peninsula by Muslims in the early eighth century. Indeed, it is in the latter guise, as Santiago Matamoros, that he was best known in Spain and was carried to the Americas, where some Spaniards thought that he aided them in their battles. By the time of the copatronage campaign, however, some had begun to see Santiago as no longer relevant to contemporary society. His unsubstantiated legends had become something of an embarrassment. Teresa, in contrast, was a modern Castilian strongly identified with the goals of the Catholic Reformation.

Erin Kathleen Rowe examines the major issues involved in this debate, not least the possible implications of having a woman as copatron (some adherents went so far as to envision Teresa and James as a couple). The endorsement of Teresa by the Cortes, Castile's political assembly, together with the support of King Philip IV and his powerful (and often controversial) minister, the Count-Duke of Olivares, raised questions about the proper exercise of royal authority in matters affecting the ecclesiastical sphere. The strength of the Discalced Carmelites in certain cities could run counter to the preferences of other ecclesiastics, complicating patterns of how support for Teresa was distributed geographically.

Not surprisingly, readers learn about this debate from the point of view of educated, literate people--mainly, although not exclusively, fairly high ranking ecclesiastics--who wrote letters and treatises or preached sermons. Whether the issue of Teresa's status as copatron engaged the popular imagination to any significant degree simply cannot be judged from the available sources, although her popularity is indisputable.

Though Rowe succeeds well in laying out the terms of the copatronage campaign, the debate, and the motivations and objectives of the participants, she is, perhaps, on weaker ground in placing the debate in the broader context of crisis and the quest for a unified nation. As she writes, "co-patronage remained a staunchly Castilian problem," a limitation that undermines the argument that the debate reflected a larger concern over the nature of Spain as a nation, which, despite, and to some degree in overt defiance of, Olivares's aspirations, continued to fall short of full political unification (9). That the relationship between the debate and contemporary ideas about the Spanish nation remains murky does not, however, detract from the value of this scholarly study.

Ida Altman

University of Florida
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Author:Altman, Ida
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2012
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