Rhetorica Christiana

Diego Valadés (1533–1582?).
Rhetorica Christiana ad concionandi et orandi usum accommodate […] ex Indorum maximè deprompta sunt historiis.
Perugia: Petrus Jacobus Petrutius, 1579. (BRB1305)

The first book by a Mexican-born author printed in Europe, the Rhetorica Christiana was intended as a comprehensive source of instruction for sixteenth-century Franciscan missionaries to Mexico. It retains great historical value for its descriptions of indigenous Mexican culture and customs, and features twenty-seven engraved plates, including a fold-out view of Mexico City. The illustration in the exhibited opening is an allegorical image of Franciscan evangelization in the New World. At the four corners of the walled cloister, Franciscan friars instruct girls, boys, women, and men within separate domed vestibules. Arranged clockwise around the central church, which is carried in procession by St. Francis and the principal missionary in Mexico, Martín de Valencia (1473–1534), individual scenes depict a Christian funeral, instruction of the biblical Creation story, examination before marriage, learning to write one’s name, the marriage ceremony, baptism, confession, and the teaching of penitence, doctrine, and the secular arts. In the arched cells at the bottom of the image, priests administer justice, hear confession, offer communion, celebrate Mass, and give last rites. Each of the scenes is accompanied by an alphabetical letter that is keyed to further explanation in the text.

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View of Mexico City, with the Great Temple.

Illustrated Books
Rhetorica Christiana