Sunday, 11 May 2014


THE GRIM AND GRUESOME PIETY OF LUISA DE CARVAJAL Y MENDOZA (1566-1614).

From her autobiography describing her childhood and adolescence:

My governess taught me to behave very chastely…She would not let me sleep on my left side, so no harmful fluid would flow straight to the heart. And she would make me cross my arms over my chest in the form of a cross. Then, pulling my nightgown to my feet, she folded it between my knees. In the summer she stitched the bed sheets together on both sides, for my health and my modesty.

She did not allow me to take any book in hand that was not religious…or to remain where romances of chivalry, love stories, and vain fictions were read.

My cousin enjoyed playing with dolls, but I did not have the temperament for it…I preferred to play grown-up ladies and nuns, which was our usual game…and we would sing psalms.

My uncle had given me a whip made from white silk, very unusual and delicate, recommending that I flagellate myself.  Since I found it too soft, I added a silver thistle.
 
Because the whipping left me with open wounds, I placed a thin folded towel on my back so the blood would not stain my blouse...My back became abscessed...I had to seek help from a servant. She tried to remove the towel, but could not do it without taking large pieces of flesh with it...I gritted my teeth and tightened my fists.

I was vigilant in words and actions in matters of chastity. I never wore a low-cut bodice or short sleeves.
 
It was my custom to wear a hair shirt of bristles whenever my uncle ordered me to,…at other times I would do so on my own. During Lent, I wore it three days a week.

At the age of thirty-nine, Luisa left her native Spain for England to convert Anglicans to Catholicism. Her “insurrectional acts” were not tolerated in London. She was arrested and died in prison.

(Source: Anne J. Cruz, The Life and Writings of Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza; image from 2.bp.blogspot.com)

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