The reception of Tridentine Catholicism in the
New Kingdom of Granada, c. 1550-1650
I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge between October 2010 and June 2014, under the supervision of Dr Gabriela Ramos. My thesis was examined and approved in October 2014. More details can be found below.
My thesis examines the religious conversion of the indigenous population of the archdiocese of Santafé in the New Kingdom of Granada, the territory broadly corresponding to the central highlands of modern-day Colombia, which occupied a peripheral — but by no means marginal — position among the Spanish territories in America. It explores how efforts to evangelise the indigenous population of the region, the Muisca, were affected by the global movement of religious renewal and reformation spearheaded by the Council of Trent in the century after 1550.
To do so it focuses, on one hand, on the changing concerns and priorities of European Catholic missionaries active in New Granada, who from the beginning of the seventeenth century inaugurated an ambitious experiment to use the most current devotions, practices, and institutions in Catholicism at a global level to overhaul the evangelisation of the Muisca, and thereby incorporate them into Catholic Christianity — and Spanish colonial society — once and for all. On the other, it examines how these changes were received by the Muisca themselves, how they opened a range of new avenues through which they could engage with Christianity and negotiate their place in colonial society, during a period of intense change.
Previous research on the history of New Granada has tended to be limited by the imposition of modern national borders, while scholarship on the early modern world has tended to overlook this peripheral region. Instead, this thesis argues that precisely as a result of its distinctive peripheral position, New Granada provides a new and useful perspective to explore key themes in the history of the development of global Catholicism, of European colonial expansion, and of the changes undergone by European and non-European societies as a result of their encounter.
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Anon. (c. 1620), The Agony in the Garden. Detail from the cycle of catechetical murals depicting the life of Christ in the parish church of Sutatausa, one of the parishes examined in my thesis.