Gerónimo de Mendieta

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Fray Gerónimo de Mendieta (1525–1604), alternatively Jerónimo de Mendieta, was a Franciscan missionary and historian, who spent most of his life in the Spanish Empire's new possessions in Mexico and Central America.

His main work is the Historia eclesiástica indiana, written in the late sixteenth century, but not published until 1870 by Joaquín García Icazbalceta, which recounts the history of Franciscan evangelization in the colony of New Spain in the Americas and abuses of the indigenous by Spanish civil society.


Gerónimo de Mendieta was born in Vitoria, Álava, in the Basque country of (Spain), in 1525. When he was twenty years old he entered the Franciscan order in Bilbao. In 1554 he traveled to New Spain to live in Tochimilco where he was taught the local Nahuatl language. He was later moved to Tlaxcala where he became a friend of fellow Franciscan Toribio de Benavente "Motolinia".[1] "Mendieta learned Nahuatl from Motolinia," and Motolina's optimism about indigenous conversion influenced Mendieta.[2]

He returned to the Iberian peninsula in 1570, bringing with him the first copies of the works of Bernardino de Sahagún to the Spanish authorities.[3] He returned to Mexico again in 1573, this time never to return to Europe. He returned under order to compose a history of the work of evangelizing the Americas. From his return to Mexico until 1597 he lived in the monastery of Tlatelolco, working on the history that would make him famous,[4] the Historia eclesiástica indiana, a chronicle of the early evangelization history of the New World. The publication of the work was prohibited, as it was deemed to contain "unsound," millenarian, Joachimite ideas,[5] and it was only published for the first time in 1870, when it was brought to light by Joaquín García Icazbalceta.


  1. ^ Martínez 1980:131-33
  2. ^ Viviana Díaz Balsera, The Pyramid under the Cross, Tucson: University of Arizona Press 2005, p. 241, fn. 25.
  3. ^ Martínez 1980:133
  4. ^ Martínez 1980:135
  5. ^ Martínez 1980:189-191

Further reading[edit]

  • Crivelli, Camillus (1911). "Jerónimo Mendieta". The Catholic Encyclopedia. vol. X (New Advent online reproduction ed.). New York: Robert Appleton and Company. Retrieved 2007-01-30. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Díaz Balsera, Viviana. "Historia eclesiástica indiana or Writing the Crisis of Providentialism", chapter 9 of The Pyramid under the Cross: Franciscan Discourses of Evangelization and the Nahua Christian Subject in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press 2005.
  • Phelan, John Leddy (1970) [1956]. The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World: A Study of the Writings of Gerónimo de Mendieta (1525-1604) (2nd revised ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01404-9. OCLC 88926.
  • Martínez, Jose Luis (1980). "Gerónimo de Mendieta". Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl. Mexico D.F.: UNAM. 14: 131–197.
  • Reinhard, Wolfgang (1992). "Missionaries, Humanists and Natives in the Sixteenth-Century Spanish Indies - a Failed Encounter of Two Worlds?". Renaissance Studies. 6 (3–4): 360–376. doi:10.1111/1477-4658.00124.
  • Washburn, Wilcomb E.; Phelan, John Leddy (July 1958). "Review of The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World: A Study of the Writings of Gerónimo de Mendieta (1525-1604) by John Leddy Phelan". The William and Mary Quarterly. 3rd Series. 15 (3): 404–406. doi:10.2307/1915640. hdl:2027/inu.32000002265413. JSTOR 1915640.