For the defense of the faith? The crusading indulgence in early modern Spain

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Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte


In 1593, in the plaza of the fortress of Perpignan (then under Spanish control), a soldier named Diego Nicolás came upon a group of his brothers in arms reading “a book about the indulgences given by the pope and how those who die in the war against the infidels go directly to heaven without entering purgatory.”1Ac-cording to the testimony those soldiers offered to the Holy Office of the Inquisition, Diego, overhearing their discussion, had exclaimed, “The pope can’t dothat!”2The accused was a bad Christian, the witnesses explained, and descended from Moors. Responding to the accusation, the defendant claimed that in fact he had said exactly the opposite: the pope could certainly remit the sins of those who died fighting against infidels. His defense demonstrated that the witnesses had made their accusations out of animosity. He was an Old Christian, not amorisco. He heard Mass regularly and took the bull of crusade(tomaba la bulade la cruzada), a popular indulgence promulgated by the pope at the request of the monarch that granted its bearers a wide range of penitential and dietary pri-vileges.3Originally granted only to peninsular crusaders, the cruzada indulgence was preached in the early modern period to the entire population of Spain, and the monetary donations made by those who took it went toward the defense of the faith.



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