Lights and Shadows: The Inquisitorial Process Against the Jesuit Congregation of Nuestra Señora de la Luz on the Mariana Islands (1758–1776)


  • Alexandre Coello de la Rosa

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    • Alexandre Coello de la Rosa is assistant professor and researcher “Ramón y Cajal” at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain).

  • My warmest thanks to professors William B. Taylor and William Christian Jr, as well as to the Editorial Assistant, Anna Haunton, and the referees for their helpful comments on this article.


This article focuses on the controversy over the charges of sexual impropriety made against Father Franz Reittemberger within the context of worship of Nuestra Señora de la Luz (Our Lady of Light) in the mid-eighteenth century Mariana Islands. As is well known, this cult began to spread around the Americas and the Philippines (via New Spain) starting in 1740, and it became a cohesive force in a multiethnic society perched on the outskirts of Spain's overseas empire. The Society of Jesus arrived in the Marianas' archipelago in 1668 to found a mission with the economic support of Queen Mariana de Austria, Philip IV's widow and regent of Spain. In 1758 Father Reittemberger founded the Marian devotion to Our Lady of Light. After the expulsion of the Jesuit order from the Spanish islands of the Pacific (1769), the Augustinian commissaries of the Holy Office accused the congregation's founder of the crime of sollicitatio ad turpia. In examining this Inquisition trial Jesuit and Augustinian rivalries come to the fore, revealing the larger anti-Jesuit sentiments that drove public censure of the colonial church in the Spanish overseas possessions.