Take Note(s): A New Indulgence

A former owner of the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection‘s copiously annotated copy of the medico-pharmacological magnum opus Polyanthea Medicinal (1716) by Portuguese physician João Curvo Semmedo (1635-1719) left this note containing what appears to be a recipe of his or her own on a small sheet of paper.

Oblong paper slip containing an 18th-century manuscript recipe
Oblong paper slip containing an 18th-century manuscript recipe. Photograph by the author.

Of equal interest is the printed text on the other side: an indulgence of six months issued by the Portuguese Tribunal da Junta da Bula da Cruzada under Procommissario Geral Manuel Caetano de Sousa (1658-1734) to … someone, possibly with the first name Christováo:

Dom Manoel Caetano de Sousa, Clerigo Regular, do Conselho de S. Magestade, ProCómissario Géral Apostolico da Bulla da Santa Cruzada nestes Reynos, & Senhorios de Portugal, &c. : Fazemos saber a vòs Christováo[?] VasCara[...] que por quanto tendes tomado a Bulla da Santa Cruzada este presente anno de [blank] & dado a esmola della, & hora destes mais hum vintem, tomando este papel com o vosso nome escrito nelle, ganhais o Jubileo dos seis mezes, com todas as indulgencias, perdoens, graças, e faculdades por S. Santidade concedidas, pela maneyra, & fórma declarada na Bulla. D. Mel. Caetano d. Sousa
Early 18th-century indulgence of six months issued by the Portuguese Tribunal da Junta da Bula da Cruzada under Procommissario Geral Manuel Caetano de Sousa (1658-1734) with his xylographic signature, partially completed in manuscript with the name “Christováo[?] VasCara[…]”. Photograph by the author.

The indulgences offered by Bulas da Santa Cruzada originally raised money for crusade-related expenses, such as “building or repairing churches in the area of conquest” and “redeeming Portuguese captives from the Moslems” but subsequently became “in effect a quite legitimate and traditional way of taxing all Portuguese from the Patriarch of Lisbon down to the humblest camponês” (Miller 54 (note 94), 131). Among the “indulgences, pardons, graces, and faculties … granted in the manner and form declared in the bull” [indulgencias, perdoens, graças, & faculdades … concedidas pela maneyra, & forma declarada na Bulla], as this text puts it, were the ability “to elect a confessor other than their parish priest (even during Lent), commute most vows, eat dairy products when otherwise proscribed, and attend Mass and receive the sacraments in private oratories” (O’Banion 170). Crusading indulgences remained popular on the Iberian peninsula well into the Enlightenment, as this example from between 1722 and 1734 attests.

Now with its own place on our shelves, this item joins various other indulgences—from a fifteenth-century xylograph to a pair of nineteenth-century fictions—in the Henry Charles Lea Library.

Works Cited

Miller, Samuel J. Portugal and Rome c. 1748-1830. Rome: Universitá Gregorian Editrice, 1978.

O’Banion, Patrick J. “For the Defense of the Faith? The Crusading Indulgence in Early Modern Spain.” Archiv Für Reformationsgeschichte 101.1 (2010): 164-185.

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