Cathechism of Fray Pedro de Gante

Vitr. 26-9 - Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

El catecismo de Fray Pedro de Gante, Katechismus Paters Pedro de Gante

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

El catecismo de Fray Pedro de Gante
Katechismus Paters Pedro de Gante

Type
Extent / Format

83 pages / 7.7 x 5.5 cm

Date
1525-1528
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Fray Pedro de Gante (1482 – 1572)

Short description

In the so-called Catechism of Fray Pedro de Gante from the 16th century, the foundations of the Christian faith is conveyed in numerous brightly washed pen drawings. The textbook, which experienced numerous reprints, served for the communication of the Christian faith to the indigenous peoples of Mexico by means of the Spanish conquistadors. The famous author of the catechism was Fray Pedro de Gante, a Flemish Franciscan who was active as one of the first Christian missionaries in Mexico. Pedro de Gante is believed to be an illegitimate son of Emperor Maximilian I and went to America at the behest of Emperor Charles V. His catechism is a marvelous attestation of this initial period of European settlement in America!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Catechism of Fray Pedro de Gante

In the so-called Catechism of Fray Pedro de Gante from the 16th century, the foundations of the Christian faith is conveyed in numerous brightly washed pen drawings. The textbook, which experienced numerous reprints, served for the communication of the Christian faith to the indigenous peoples of Mexico by means of the Spanish conquistadors. The famous author of the catechism was Fray Pedro de Gante, a Flemish Franciscan who was active as one of the first Christian missionaries in Mexico. Pedro de Gante is believed to be an illegitimate son of Emperor Maximilian I and went to America at the behest of Emperor Charles V. His catechism is a marvelous attestation of this initial period of European settlement in America!

Ingenious Picture of Christian Doctrine

166 pages measuring 7.7 x 5.5 cm present a plethora of marvelous drawings. These nimble pen drawings are washed with wonderful color and evoke the impression of a picture book. No text detracts from these pictures, only symbols such as the cross clarify the context of the drawings. The images present the foundations of the Christian faith, such as the sign of the cross, the Our Father, the Ave Maria, the 10 Commandments, the sacraments, or works of mercy. The Christian teachings were to be conveyed to the Indios with pictures and images, with which they were already familiar.

A Great Success

This manuscript, stored today in the Spanish National Library in Madrid, originates from the years 1525-1528. It is bound in dark brown leather, which is closeable at the front with an overlap. The Catecismo de la doctrina cristiana by Pedro de Gante, a catechism for the conveyance of Christian teachings to the indigenous people of Mexico, enjoyed numerous reprints during the 16th century. The author believed this message could be more easily communicated through brightly colored pictures. Pedro de Gante himself referred to the drawings as hieroglyphs. In fact, the Christian symbols depicted cannot always be deciphered at first glance, which adds to the charm of the catechism as an interesting object of study.

An Early Missionary

Fray Pedro de Gante (1490-1572) was a Franciscan monk who originally came from Flanders. Breaking free from his convent in Ghent in 1522, Pedro de Gante came to Spain and finally left America one year later as part of a cohort of several Franciscan monks at the behest of Emperor Charles V. Once there, he became active as one of the first Christian missionaries in Mexico. He learned the language of the Aztecs and founded a school, which also educated new missionaries who were to continue his work. It has additionally been supposed that he was an illegitimate son of Emperor Maximilian I! Fray Pedro de Gante is one of the most exciting figures in this epoch of the Spanish conquest and settlement of America.

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