From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain

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This is the first full-length study of Spanish attitudes toward death and the afterlife in the peak years of the Counter-Reformation. It contains an analysis of the death rituals requested in sixteenth-century Madrid testaments, as well as a detailed account of the ways in which the "good" deaths of King Philip II and St. Teresa of Avila were interpreted by contemporaries. Though focused on death, it also aims to analyze the ethos of Spanish Catholic piety and belief in an age of profound transformations. This is a history of mentalities that combines quantitative and qualitative methods and analyzes the symbiotic relation between beliefs and cultural structures. It is a study of the relation between popular piety and elite theology, between paradigms and deeds, myth and ritual, art and craft. Though concentrating exclusively on Spain, this study places the early modern Spanish mentality in the wider context of the European Reformation and Counter-Reformation and of Western attitudes toward death.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Now there is at last a big, reliable study of the Spanish attitudes toward death and dying in the time of the Counter-Reformation....a thorough and gripping piece of scholarship....Ranging freely over various classes and cultural facts of the Sixteenth Century, it has a broad scope and a lot of interesting detail." Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

" extraordinarily ambitious undertaking, comprising no less than three books in important, provocative, readable, and thoroughly enjoyable book." Richard L. Kagan, Johns Hopkins University, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"...Eire has produced an impressive and important book....its examination of a vast array of primary sources, it integration of insights from literature, cultural anthropology, theology, and other disciplines, and its well-written, witty prose succeeds wonderfully in demonstrating how the discource of the 'good death' articulated and affirmed Catholic doctrine and practice in a highly polemical age." American Historical Review

"...this is a perceptive and evocative study....[it] presents a vivid, dramatic picture of the centrality of death in the religion and culture of early modern Spain....the book makes an original and imaginative contribution to the religious and social history of early modern Spain." Canadian Journal of History

"Eire's extensive research, his feel for the telling anecdote, and his congenial prose persona make this book informative and entertaining." Carlos Slade, The Journal of Religion

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Abbreviations used in footnotes
Map: Principal sites mentioned in this study
Prologue: Death and the sun
Bk. 1 Eager for heaven: Death and the testamentary discourse in Madrid, 1520-1599
Bk. 2 The king's dissolving body: Philip II and the royal paradigm of death
Bk. 3 The saint's heavenly corpse: Teresa of Avila and the ultimate paradigm of death
Epilogue: In death as in life: From the daily rounds of hell to the vestibule of heaven
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