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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Arte de bien morir : changes in the Church's official discourses from fifteenth century Spain to eighteenth century Mexico Bastante, Pamela


The Ars moriendi manuals were instrumental in the late medieval Church's discourses of confession and penance. This genre, which developed as a reaction to the Black Death and other social and natural disasters of the fourteenth century, produced many vernacular versions in Europe which varied in content and length. Though the message was the same and promoted the Church's emphasis on confession for the soul's salvation, the genre continued to evolve in the sixteenth century under the Humanist movement and the Reformation of the Church. As a result, the Ars moriendi manual, which had been popular because of its brevity and concision, was chosen by the Franciscan Order as an essential text for promoting the Christian doctrine in New Spain and for reorganizing the funerary practices therein. The sixteenth to eighteenth-century Mexican versions of the Arte de bien morir reiterate the discourse of the Church regarding the salvation of the soul (live well to die well); however, they also address important and specific issues that were of concern to the Church of New Spain; chiefly, religious syncretism and idolatry. This dissertation makes use of documents from the Archivo General de la Nation (AGN) in Mexico City, the Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico, the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropologia e Historia in Mexico City. Studies by scholars such as Rowe and Schelling, Todorov, Gruzinki, Mignolo, Weckmann and Duverger, are also drawn upon to highlight these pressing issues of the Mexican Church and to identify the official and unofficial discourses that link the Old World to the New.

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