On June 1, the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History will host the evening lecture “Mexico in 1585: The Backdrop of the Tercer Concilio Provincial” by Prof. Dr. John F. Schwaller, Professor of Latin American History at the University of Albany and former President of SUNY Potsdam, both in New York. His lecture will focus on the historical context behind the Third Mexican Provincial Council (1585), which sought to introduce reforms from the Council of Trent and safeguard Catholic dogma. In the end, its constitutions proved definitive, governing religious life in the viceroyalty of New Spain for the following three centuries. The site where the Council met—Mexico City—was also home to the viceregal government. In fact, there were multiple institutions within the city that fulfilled important roles in the civil and ecclesiastical governance of the region. In this lecture, Schwaller will consider ongoing interactions between different authorities that occurred as the prelates of the Mexican dioceses met in Mexico City. Drawing on correspondence involving viceroys, the crown, royal court judges, and others, Schwaller highlights the issues that confronted the highest levels of royal government. At the same time, he superimposes these concerns over quotidian apprehensions about life in the colony and of the pressing issues within the city, drawn from the condensed institutional minutes (actas) of Mexico City’s municipal council (cabildo municipal) and the cathedral chapter (cabildo eclesiástico), whose records illustrate the life of the cathedral, and provide glimpses into policy discussions that could have an impact within the archdiocese and eventually the ecclesiastical province of Mexico.
Schwaller is one of the leading scholars in the study of Nahuatl and Nahua culture as well as the history of the Catholic Church in Spanish America. He is the author of multiple articles and books, including Origins of Church Wealth in Mexico: Ecclesiastical Finances and Church Revenues, 1523-1600 (1985; Spanish edition, 1990); The Church and Clergy in Sixteenth-Century Mexico (1987); Nahuatl Manuscripts in Repositories in the United States (2001); The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America (2011); The First Letter from New Spain: The Lost Petition of Cortés and His Company, June 20, 1519, with Helen Nader (2014); and Directorio para confesores of the Third Mexican Provincial Council of 1585, with Stafford Poole (Oklahoma University Press, 2018, forthcoming).