Roman medicine, papal power, and the making of Spanish saints

Bradford A. Bouley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This paper re-evaluates the relationship between the papacy and the Spanish monarchy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries by looking at the negotiations that took place over the bodies of prospective saints. Beginning with Diego of Alcalà nearly every saint canonized in this period underwent posthumous medical examination, sometimes including a full autopsy. Although initially arising out of local ideas about the body, such dissections became a requirement for canonization. As it did in other canonization proceedings, the papacy attempted to standardize this criterion for holiness as well; therefore, the methods and criteria for assessing bodily holiness came increasingly to be set by members of the Roman Curia. Any argument, therefore, which states that the Spanish monarchy dominated saint-making in this period needs to be tempered by the fact that papal standards of evaluating holiness were applied throughout the realms of the Spanish Empire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-148
Number of pages18
JournalRivista di storia del cristianesimo
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Religious studies


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