The Sacrament of Penance and Religious Life in Golden Age Spain

By (author) Patrick J. O'Banion

Hardback - £57.95

Publication date:

26 October 2012

Length of book:

248 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271058993

The Sacrament of Penance and Religious Life in Golden Age Spain explores the practice of sacramental confession in Spain between roughly 1500 and 1700. One of the most significant points of contact between the laity and ecclesiastical hierarchy, confession lay at the heart of attempts to bring religious reformation to bear upon the lives of early modern Spaniards. Rigid episcopal legislation, royal decrees, and a barrage of prescriptive literature lead many scholars to construct the sacrament fundamentally as an instrument of social control foisted upon powerless laypeople. Drawing upon a wide range of early printed and archival materials, this book considers confession as both a top-down and a bottom-up phenomenon. Rather than relying solely upon prescriptive and didactic literature, it considers evidence that describes how the people of early modern Spain experienced confession, offering a rich portrayal of a critical and remarkably popular component of early modern religiosity.

“Patrick O'Banion's work addresses the most understudied—and most misunderstood—of all the sacraments: penance. It resists older scholarly models that discuss the sacrament of penance exclusively in terms of power and oppression and instead seeks to examine the active participation of the faithful. Therefore, while O'Banion looks specifically at early modern Spain as a case study for examining the role that the sacrament played in the spiritual lives of ordinary people, his conclusions have broader implications for understanding devotion and practice in the Catholic world.”

—Erin Rowe, University of Virginia