Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi in Colonial Cuzco, Peru

Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi in Colonial Cuzco, Peru

by Carolyn J Dean

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In Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ Carolyn Dean investigates the multiple meanings of the Roman Catholic feast of Corpus Christi as it was performed in the Andean city of Cuzco after the Spanish conquest. By concentrating on the era’s paintings and its historical archives, Dean explores how the festival celebrated the victory of the Christian God over sin and death, the triumph of Christian orthodoxy over the imperial Inka patron (the Sun), and Spain’s conquest of Peruvian society.
As Dean clearly illustrates, the central rite of the festival—the taking of the Eucharist—symbolized both the acceptance of Christ and the power of the colonizers over the colonized. The most remarkable of Andean celebrants were those who appeared costumed as the vanquished Inka kings of Peru’s pagan past. Despite the subjugation of the indigenous population, Dean shows how these and other Andean nobles used the occasion of Corpus Christi as an opportunity to construct new identities through tinkuy, a native term used to describe the conjoining of opposites. By mediating the chasms between the Andean region and Europe, pagans and Christians, and the past and the present, these Andean elites negotiated a new sense of themselves. Dean moves beyond the colonial period to examine how these hybrid forms of Inka identity are still evident in the festive life of modern Cuzco.
Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ offers the first in-depth analysis of the culture and paintings of colonial Cuzco. This volume will be welcomed by historians of Peruvian culture, art, and politics. It will also interest those engaged in performance studies, religion, and postcolonial and Latin American studies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822397038
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 09/10/1999
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 312
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Carolyn Dean is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ

Corpus Christi in Colonial Cuzco, Peru

By Carolyn Dean

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1999 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-9703-8


Corpus Christi Triumphant

The Spanish celebration of Corpus Christi, introduced to native Andeans after the invasion and occupation of their lands, made room for indigenous performances and conditioned the meanings conveyed by them. A brief examination of the history and manner of celebration of Corpus Christi on the Iberian peninsula at the time of the colonization of the Andes indicates that the festival signified by means of an oppositional framework through which innumerable conquests were viewed. From its inception Corpus Christi, which celebrates the doctrine of transubstantiation, has specifically incorporated references to non-Roman Catholic beliefs and, frequently, peoples. It does so in the form of a triumph, a celebration heralding a victor. In the case of Corpus Christi, that victor was Christ himself, embodied in the consecrated host. When the triumph of Christ's body was performed annually in colonial Peru, the Spanish conquest was rehearsed as well. Implicitly the colonizer's Corpus Christi celebrated military triumph and domination over yet another non-Christian people.

Celebrating the Body of Christ

The triumphal spirit of the Corpus Christi celebration inheres in its origins. Prior to the thirteenth century, there was no festival in the Roman Catholic church that specifically celebrated the Holy Eucharist, the consecrated wafer that, through transubstantiation, becomes the body of Christ in the rite of Holy Communion. Early in the thirteenth century, according to legend, one Juliana, a virtuous woman who ministered at the leper hospital attached to the Praemonstratensian house of Mont Cornillon (in Liège, Belgium), dreamed repeatedly of a full, radiant moon disfigured by a black scar. Eventually (after some twenty years), Christ himself revealed to her that the moon symbolized the cycle of liturgical feasts of the Catholic church; the scar signified the absence of a celebration of the "Holiest of Holies," the consecrated host. Juliana related the vision to her superiors and eventually it came to the attention of the archdeacon of Liège (Jacques Pantaléon), who became Pope Urban IV in 1261. In 1264 he published the bull that instituted the feast of Christ's Body or, in Latin, Corpus Christi. In 1311, Pope Clement V designated Corpus Christi as an obligatory feast of the Catholic calendar, fixing the celebration to the fifth day after the Octave of Pentecost, which is the ninth Thursday after Easter Sunday, or the Thursday following Trinity Sunday. w Accordingly, the feast of Corpus Christi usually falls between late May and mid-June.

Initially, the Corpus Christi festival was instituted to affirm the controversial doctrine of transubstantiation, considered essential to the Roman Catholic faith, which held that Christ was embodied in the consecrated eucharistic host. The festival was useful in countering heretical assertions that the sacred host was not the actual Body of Christ (Epton 1968, 92). In 1551, the Council of Trent (session 13, October 11) issued a decree characterizing the feast of Corpus Christi as a "triumph over heresy" and condemning anyone refusing to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament in procession (Addis and Arnold 1951, 787). Thus, the festival was conceived of as a joyous celebration of victory—not only of the Christian God over sin and death, but of the Roman Catholic church over heretics.

Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) has been credited with championing the new festival of Corpus Christi and devising the liturgy. Throughout Europe, the celebration included processions featuring the display of the host; often there were mystery plays in which the doctrine of transubstantiation and its importance were explained. Because local celebratory customs were incorporated into Corpus Christi festivals, regional differences manifested themselves. The essential ingredient of Corpus Christi, wherever it was celebrated, was (and is) the triumphal procession of the consecrated host through city or village streets. The host—the Body of Christ—is held in a monstrance, a receptacle designed to display the wafer for adoration.

Spaniards were early celebrants of this "triumph over heresy." It was celebrated in Toledo in 1280 and Seville in 1282; both of these festivals antedate the papal bull of 1311 which made the feast mandatory (Epton 1968; Gascón de Gotor 1916, 6). Records of early festivals exist for Gerona (1314), Barcelona (1319), and Valencia (1348 or 1355) as well (Gascón de Gotor 1916,11; Zumalde 1964, 37; Arias 1980, 30; Lleó Cañal 1980,19). Corpus Christi rapidly grew to be one of the most important festivals celebrated on the Iberian peninsula in the early modern period. In Seville, for example, Corpus Christi became known as the Thursday that shines greater than the sun ("Jueves que reluce más que el sol") and was the most important celebration in Madrid's early modern festive cycle.

Because the Corpus Christi celebration was one of the most elaborate festivals sponsored annually in any Iberian town of the early modern era, it was frequently the measuring stick against which other festivals were compared. In festive description it is common to find references to Corpus Christi vis-à-vis the size, participation, decorations, processional route, and other celebratory features of extraordinary (i.e., not annually recurring) festivals. In reports of festive decorations of the processional route for a special celebration, it is not unusual to find an author observing, "The streets of the town were decorated as they are for Corpus Christi." Corpus Christi was evoked as a common referent so that the reader would know just how richly adorned the route was; such analogies also suggest that the citizenry had outdone itself on a given occasion.

The Visual Vocabulary of Triumph

The celebration of Corpus Christi, like all other nonpenitential processions, employed a vocabulary of triumph derived from Roman imperial ceremonies that themselves were based on a variety of earlier, circum-Mediterranean celebratory practices. Temporary triumphal arches and adorned processional paths were traditional visual cues that a victor was being heralded. In the case of religious processions, that victor was usually a saint in the form of a statue or reliquary; during Corpus Christi, the host, housed in its monstrance, was triumphant.

Temporary triumphal arches, erected along the processional route for Corpus Christi and many other festive occasions, were concrete references to the Roman imperial past. Canopies likewise bespoke special status. According to Christian tradition, a canopy (or baldachino) covers the consecrated host in the Corpus Christi procession. Canopies were the exclusive prerogative of high ecclesiastic authorities (archbishops or higher), sacred images, and officers of high political rank. The privilege connoted by the canopy was widely appreciated. In both profane and religious processions the canopy signaled the presence of the person(s) or object honored by the cortege. In Corpus Christi, the canopy designates the consecrated host as the supreme hero of the procession. Elevating the consecrated host on a litter or escorting it in a cart (carro) also conveyed its status relative both to those who walked in the procession and those who watched it.

Processional routes bedecked with banners, tapestries, and other festive garnishments, gun and flag salutes, fireworks, music and dance, all conveyed the celebratory nature of Corpus Christi. Each of these aspects of Corpus Christi was shared by other celebrations establishing a common festive vocabulary that was both visual and performative. The performed vocabulary of triumph was also shared with profane processions such as the advent, the reception of distinguished guests (Romeu Figueras 1957, 37-39). In advents, the visitor (or returning dignitary) would be welcomed at the outskirts of the city and escorted into the community, usually to the cathedral or major church, along decorated streets through temporary triumphal arches and past emphemeral altars constructed especially for the occasion. The temporary altars, at which the cortege would pause, sanctified the path by echoing the structure of a church's interior. In church architecture the arch that leads from the nave into the choir or sanctuary is designated as the triumphal arch. In a church, then, passage under the triumphal arch signals that one is approaching the main altar. Because, in festive processions, the appearance of triumphal arches through which the cortege passes as it approaches temporary altars is reminiscent of sacred architecture, the pathway is transformed into a sanctified ritual space.

Processions were typically accompanied by music and dancing, fireworks, and short plays or dialogues, traditionally presented in the streets, that entertained and informed the public who celebrated the return or visit of prominent personages (Zumalde 1964, 39). The plays, which on profane occasions informed the public about the deeds of the entering dignitary, became, by the end of the fifteenth century, the famous Spanish autos sacramentales, religious mystery or morality plays (Zumalde 1964, 54). Advents and religious processions thus shared a festive structure through which divine and mundane personages were linked.

The procession of Corpus Christi thus presents Christ as the supreme victor who is present at the celebration in his honor. Because Christ is actualized through transubstantiation, the Roman Catholic church and its particular representative who has the power to summon Christ also participates in the triumph. Traditionally, the celebratory cortege that escorts the consecrated host includes a broad spectrum of the community's religious and civic organizations, which display images of their patron saints or banners representing them. While all of these saints are themselves triumphant figures, on the feast day of Corpus Christi each is subordinated to the consecrated host. A divine hierarchy of the Christian God and his supernatural vassals (saints and angels) is thus manifested in the procession. Also implicit in the cortege is the community's social and political hierarchy, the order of the procession connoting the relative status of the participants.

In early modern Spain, Corpus Christi processions usually involved not only the highest religious authorities, but political leaders of the highest ranks as well. In Madrid, for example, the city's secular clergy, religious orders, and municipal council, who appeared in almost all of Madrid's religious processions, were customarily joined in the Corpus Christi cortege by all of the royal counselors, the royal house, lords and high nobility, as well as "other innumerable ministers" (otros ministros que son sin número) (Quintana 1629, 386-388). Records from 1482 indicate that Queen Isabela presided over the Madrid procession, and in 1498 Fernando and Isabela each carried a pole of the canopy that shaded the monstrance; in 1518 Carlos I, together with the ambassadors of England, France, Portugal, Venice, and others carried the poles of the canopy, and in 1641 Philip IV and Prince Baltasar Carlos joined the cortege (Gascón de Gotor 1916,17-21; Azorin García 1984,145).

Similarly, the Corpus Christi processions of other Spanish cities were attended by high nobility and civic leaders. According to records from 1424, Alfonso V of Aragón hoisted one of the poles of the canopy, as did Carlos I of Spain (by then Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) in Valencia in 1535 (Gascón de Gotor 1916, 12). In 1528 Carlos I attended the festival in Valencia, as did Philip II in 1585 and Philip III in 1612 (ibid.).

By parading in proximity to the host (the "Holiest of Holies"), a union of the highest sacred and profane, supernatural and worldly authorities was demonstrated—the body of the ruler and the Body of Christ unified. Spanish Corpus Christi processions thus manifested the inextricable union of divine and royal, heavenly and earthly, religious and political authorities. Traditionally these were supported by armed military battalions, further reinforcing the notion that the triumph portrayed was not restricted to symbolic and supernatural realms.

The Multiple Triumphs of Corpus Christi

To evoke the "triumph over heresy" in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation, most early modern Spanish Corpus Christi processions included the representation of non-Christian elements over which Christ (in the form of the host) would symbolically triumph; sometimes these figures were general references to evil, like the famous tarasca, the dragonlike serpent featured in the Corpus Christi processions of Madrid and other Spanish communities. In seventeenth-century Seville, for example, the tarasca was accompanied by mojarrillas —celebrants costumed as "savages" in brightly colored outfits who carried inflated cow bladders with which they made rude noises directed at the crowd (Lleó Cañal 1980, 39, 41). Their costumes were in accord with medieval conventions for the uncivilized, as was their behavior. The Corpus Christi in Seville also featured "giants," six figures who represented men and women of diverse nations, all of whom were subject to the triumph of Christ.

Often, Corpus Christi occasioned the celebration not only of the abstract notion of Christ's victory over death, and hence sin, but of Catholic Christianity over heresy, and Catholic Christians over nonpapists. Not infrequently, references were made to historical and/or contemporary political triumphs involving non-Christian peoples. Spanish Christians, dressed as Moors, Arabs, or Turks, would attempt to impede the celebrations (Gascón de Gotor 1916, 33); they always failed, of course. In early modern Madrid, the devils, who fought—and were defeated by—angels in a Corpus Christi dance, were dressed as Moors (Very 1962, 21). Famous battles were often represented by the celebrated rocas (or roques), processional carts, of Valencia and other Spanish cities. In the seventeenth century, one such cart was constructed in memory of the conquest of Valencia (1238). It was accompanied by dancers dressed as Moors while another cart, dedicated to the archangel Michael, was constructed in memory of the reconquista (reconquest) with a dance of the infidels (Gascón de Gotor 1916,12-13). In 1492, the Corpus Christi celebration in Murcia gave special attention to the recent reconquest of Granada in two special mystery plays (Rubio Garcia 1983,101).

The Spanish Corpus Christi festival explicitly linked the state's political and military victories with divine triumphs; divine will and royal will were inextricably intertwined. Because the "defense" of Catholic Christianity legitimized offensive or "conquest" activity, the triumph of the Corpus Christi was understood as the triumph of those who celebrated Corpus Christi. Many Spanish celebrations of this feast featured choreographed performances that were militaristic in nature. Dancers often appeared as combatants: angels and demons, Samson and the Philistines, and Christians and Moors are just a few of the warring factions presented in Spanish Corpus Christi festivals. By extension, the community of Christians participating in local ritual triumphs enlisted in this global war against nonpapists.

The celebratory structure of Corpus Christi in early modern Spain was confrontational: those who celebrated Corpus Christi (i.e., Roman Catholics) were characterized as victors, while those who did not revere the consecrated host were vanquished. This was especially the case in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries following the capture of the southern Iberian provinces from the Muslim Moors. Corpus Christi in Granada, the last of the Muslim strongholds to fall to Christian forces (1492), involved particular references to the "reconquest." In fact, the celebration of Corpus Christi was introduced to Granada specifically to counteract Islam (termed "infidelism"), with the Catholic monarchs establishing a special endowment to help defray the costs of the Corpus Christi celebration in that city (Garrido Atienza 1889, 6). A decree (cédula) in 1501 commanded that the people of Granada celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi with "such great displays of happiness and contentment" that it would "seem as though they were crazy" (la fiesta ha de ser tal e tan grande la alegría y ccmtentamiento, que parezcais locos) (ibid.). Thus, while promoting a sense of community among celebrants, Corpus Christi also occasioned suspicious regard of potential "enemy" elements within the local society. A regulation from 1468 in Murcia, for example, gave Jews and Moors in the street at the time of the procession, especially during the passing of the Body of Christ, two options: they could flee the streets and hide themselves, or kneel and demonstrate "due respect" (Rubio García 1983, 67).


Excerpted from Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ by Carolyn Dean. Copyright © 1999 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents

Contents List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Corpus Christi Triumphant 2. The Body of Christ in Cuzco 3. An Ambivalent Triumph 4. Envisioning Corpus Christi 5. Inka Bodies 6. Inka (In)vestments 7. The Composite Inka 8. Choreographed Advocacy 9. The Inka Triumphant Notes Bibliography Index

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