Juan de Padilla

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For the Castilian revolutionary, see Juan Lopez de Padilla.

Father Juan de Padilla (1500–1542), born in Andalusia, was a Spanish Roman Catholic missionary who spent much of his life exploring North America with Francisco Vásquez de Coronado.[1]

Padilla and three other Franciscans, together with more than 300 Spanish soldiers and workers, accompanied Coronado on his quest for the Seven Cities of Gold, a mythical land of great wealth. When Coronado abandoned his search, Padilla and others followed him to explore what is now the Southwestern United States; Padilla was one of the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon. But, when Coronado was told by a native named the "Turk" that a great land called Quivira was in modern-day Kansas, Coronado's entire party immediately left in search of it.

After reaching the location in 1541, the Spaniards camped alongside a Wichita village for 25 days. Finding no gold, they killed the Turk in fury. Coronado returned to the Southwest and Padilla followed. One year later, the missionary priest returned to Kansas to preach to the Wichita, and establish the first Christian mission in the present-day United States. He was killed in Kansas in 1542 by Native Americans, and is considered to be one of the first Christian martyrs in the U.S.[2]

Ghost phenomenon and legend[edit]

Juan de Padilla is associated with a miracle known as the "Rising of the coffin of Padre Padilla".[3] The story of seeing his coffin rise above the ground was repeated for many years, and was believed by many people in Isleta, where the Padre is believed to be buried.

Anton Docher, once a priest in Isleta, investigated the miracle in the presence of several witnesses. He opened the grave of Padre Padilla. During this operation, Docher injured his arm and suffered gangrene.[4] Doctors recommended amputation. The natives inhabitants evoked the intercession of Padre Padilla. Docher made a prayer to Padre Padilla to cure him, and the wound disappeared.[5] cf


  1. ^ "Juan de Padilla". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  2. ^ Engelhardt, p. 14: "...[in] 1542, three Friars Minor were martyred in New Mexico as victims of their zeal for the Christian Faith. They were Fr. Juan de Padilla, Fr. Juan de la Cruz, and Brother Luis de Ubeda or Escalona.
  3. ^ Samuel Gance. Anton ou la trajectoire d'un père. L'Harmattan, 2013, p.179-186.
  4. ^ Ray John de Aragón. Hidden History of Spanish New Mexico, 2012, p.81
  5. ^ Alice Bullock. Living legends of the Santa Fe country, 1985, pp.85-86


  • Engelhardt, Zephyrin, O.F.M. (1908). The Missions and Missionaries of Kansas, Alaska, Volume One. The James H. Barry Co., San Francisco, CA. 
  • Alice Bullock (1985). Living legends of the Santa Fe country. Sunstone Press. 
  • Keleher, Julia M.; Chant, Elsie Ruth (2009). The Padre of Isleta: The Story of Father Anton Docher. Sunstone press Publishing. ISBN 978-0-86534-714-4. 
  • De Aragon, Ray John (2012). Hidden History of Spanish New Mexico. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-86534-506-5. 
  • Samuel Gance, Anton ou la trajectoire d'un père, L'Harmattan, Paris, 2013, 208 p. ISBN 978-2-336-29016-4