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Mary of Jesus of Ágreda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mary of Jesus of Ágreda OIC
Born2 April 1602
Ágreda, Soria, Spain
Died24 May 1665(1665-05-24) (aged 63)[1]
Ágreda, Soria, Spain

Mary of Jesus of Ágreda (Spanish: María de Jesús de Ágreda), OIC, also known as the Abbess of Ágreda (2 April 1602 – 24 May 1665), was a Franciscan abbess and spiritual writer, known especially for her extensive correspondence with King Philip IV of Spain and reports of her bilocation between Spain and its colonies in New Spain. She was a noted mystic of her era.

A member of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Conceptionists, Mary of Jesus wrote 14 books, including a series of revelations about the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her bilocation activity is said to have occurred between her cloistered monastery in rural Spain and the Jumano Indians of central New Mexico and West Texas, as well as Tucson, and inspired many Franciscan missionaries in the New World. In popular culture since the 17th century, she has been dubbed the Lady in Blue and the Blue Nun, after the color of her order's habit.

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Early life

She was born María Coronel y de Arana, the daughter of Francisco Coronel and Catalina de Arana, in Ágreda, a town located in the Province of Soria. The couple had 11 children, of whom only four survived into adulthood: Francisco, José, María and Jerónima. The family had close ties with the Franciscan friars of the Friary of San Julián, which lay on the outskirts of the town. Either the mother would go to the friary with her children for Mass and confession, or the friars would visit the family home. Nonetheless, Mary later recalled that, as a very young child, she felt her parents were very hard on her.

Mary of Jesus' biographer and contemporary, the bishop José Jiménez y Samaniego, was a longtime friend of the Coronel family, and wrote that even as a young girl, she had ecstasies and visions in which she felt that God was instructing her about the sinfulness of the world.[2] At the age of four, she was confirmed by Diego de Yepes, a bishop and the biographer and last confessor of Teresa of Avila, who was reportedly impressed with the child's spiritual acumen.[3]

When Mary of Jesus was twelve, she made the decision to enter a monastery, having decided upon that of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Tarazona. As her parents prepared to accompany her there, Catalina de Arana had a vision that she was to turn the family home into a monastery in which both she and her daughters were to commit their lives as nuns. While the young María was agreeable to this arrangement, her father refused to go along with it. In this he was supported by his brother, Medel, as well as by their neighbors, who all considered this arrangement a violation of their marriage vows. His resistance lasted for three years, until in 1618, then considered an older man in his early fifties, he (and later his brother) entered the Franciscan Friary of San Antonio in Nalda as a lay brother. Her brothers, who had already become friars, continued their studies toward the Catholic priesthood in Burgos. She and her mother entered the convent together, January, 1619.

Monastic life

A view of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception founded by the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda with a statue of her in front.

Catalina and her daughters then converted their family home into the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, to be a part of the Order of the Immaculate Conception. The choice of this Order was a part of the huge devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary which marked Spanish spirituality of that period. They began this endeavor as part of the Discalced—or reformed—branch of the Order. Unfortunately, there were no monasteries of this branch in the region, so three nuns of the original Calced branch were brought from their monastery in Burgos to serve as the abbess of the community and to train them in the life of the Order. Mary of Jesus was 16 when she and her mother and sister took the religious habit of the Order and she was given the religious name by which she is now known. She felt, though, that she had to make up for her years of laxity during the period of contention between her parents and the delay in the foundation of the monastery resulting from it.

As other women soon joined the community, the monastery was rebuilt (and completed in 1633), although when reconstruction began the community's coffers contained 24 reales (approximately 2.5 Spanish dollars at the time), supplemented by a donation of 100 reales from devotees and many other gifts and hours of voluntary labor. Once she had made her religious profession in 1620, Mary of Jesus began to experience a long period of illness and temptations. After her mother's death, which her fellow nuns elected her, now twenty-five years old, as their abbess.[4] Though rules required the abbess to be changed every three years, Mary remained effectively in charge of the monastery until her death, except for a three-year sabbatical in her fifties.[5]

Throughout her life, Mary of Jesus was inclined to the "internal prayer". Like her countrywoman Teresa of Avila a generation earlier, these prayerful experiences led to religious ecstasies, including reported accounts of levitation. As this form of prayer was practiced frequently among women, the Inquisition kept a watchful eye on those who advocated the practice.

Mystical bilocation

Apparition of the Virgin by Sister María de Jesús de Ágreda, Mexican School, 18th century

Between 1620 and 1623, Mary of Jesus reported that she was often "transported by the aid of the angels" to settlements of a people called Jumanos. The Jumano Indians of New Spain (what is today Texas and New Mexico) had long been requesting missionaries, possibly hoping for protection from the Apaches. Eventually a mission led by the Franciscan Friar Juan de Salas visited them in 1629.[6]

The abbess reported further but less frequent visits afterwards, all while she physically remained in the monastery at Ágreda. They thus are considered bilocations, an event where a person is, or seems to be, in two places at the same time.

Before sending the friars, Father Alonso de Benavides, Custodian of New Mexico, asked the natives why they were so eager to be baptized. They said they had been visited by a Lady in Blue who had told them to ask the fathers for help, pointing to a painting of a nun in a blue habit and saying she was dressed like that but was a beautiful young girl.[7] The Jumanos visiting Isleta indicated that the Lady in Blue had visited them in the area now known as the Salinas National Monument, south of modern-day Mountainair, New Mexico, about 65 miles (104.6 km) south of Albuquerque. At the same time, Fray Estéban de Perea brought Benavides an inquiry from Sor María's confessor in Spain asking whether there was any evidence that she had visited the Jumanos.

As reports of Mary's mystical excursions to the New World proliferated, the Inquisition took notice, although she was not proceeded against with severity, perhaps because of her long written relationship with the Spanish king.[8][9]

Accounts of Mary's mystical apparitions in the American Southwest, as well as inspiring passages in Mystical City of God, so stirred 17th- and 18th-century missionaries that they credited her in their own life's work, making her an integral part of the colonial history of the United States.[10]

Written works

The title page of the Mistica Ciudad de Dios, Vida de la Virgen María, a work written by the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda and published in 1722

María de Ágreda's best known single work is the Mystical City of God (Spanish: Mistica Ciudad de Dios, Vida de la Virgen María), consisting of eight books (six volumes). This related her revelations about the terrestrial and heavenly life, reportedly received directly from the Blessed Virgin Mary. The books include information about the relationship of the 'Blessed Virgin' with the Triune God, as well as the doings and Mysteries performed by Jesus. The narrative contains extensive details and covers the New Testament time line. It also relates advice given by the Holy Mother on how to acquire true sanctity.[11]

The Mystical City of God, the biography of Mary, is now frequently studied in college and university programs of Spanish language and culture, for its contribution to Baroque literature.[8] Written in elegant Spanish, it relates both terrestrial and spiritual details. These included the way the earth looks from the space (contained in her unpublished 17th Century "Tratado de rendondez de la Tierra"); the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, the Assumption of Mary, the duties of Michael the Archangel and Gabriel the Archangel; and meticulous detail on the childhood of Jesus. Other details that Mary related concerned Christ's Passion, Resurrection and Ascension.

German philosopher and theologian Joseph Görres, while expressing his admiration for the wonderful depth of its speculations, finds that the style is in the bad taste of the period, pompous and strained, and very wearisome in the prolixity of the moral applications appended to each chapter.[4]

In addition to her 14 published works, Mary of Jesus also served as the spiritual (and sometimes political) advisor to King Philip IV of Spain, at his request and for more than 22 years. Their surviving correspondence includes over 600 letters.[12]


The Mystical City of God was condemned in Rome, 4 August, 1681, by the Congregation of the Inquisition, and Pope Innocent XI had forbidden the reading of it, but, at the instance of Charles II of Spain, suspended execution of the decree for Spain. The book did not attract much attention outside of Spain until a Recollect friar, translated and published the first part of it, at Marseilles in 1696. This resulted in its being referred to a commission of the Sorbonne, which also condemned it in July 1696.[4]

Spanish cardinal José Saenz d'Aguirre sought to have the censure annulled since he considered the judgment of the Sorbonne based on a faulty translation. Investigations of the book were made in 1729, under Pope Benedict XIII, when her canonization was again urged. In 1748, Pope Benedict XIV, while conceding that the book had received the approbation of the Universities of Salamanca, Alcalá, Toulouse, and Louvain, asked the General of the Franciscans to investigate the authenticity of the writings, as it was alleged that her confessors had tampered with the text.[4]

Discussion continued for and against. German Church historian and canonist, Joseph Hergenröther said that the condemnation of 1681 was because its publication in 1670 ignored Pope Urban VIII's decree of 1625 in the papal bull Sanctissimus Dominus Noster that required a bishop’s approval for the publication of private revelations; or because it contained apocryphal stories. It was also suggested that those who followed the philosophical approach of Aquinas (mainly Dominicans) objected to the views of those who followed Duns Scotus (mainly Franciscans) being presented as Divine revelation.[4] Theologian Eusebius Amort wrote a treatise on mysticism, De Revelationibus et Visionibus, etc. (2 vols, Augsburg 1744) directed against the "Mystic City of God,"; it brought him into conflict with several of her Franciscan defenders.[13]

The suspension of the Decree of Innocent XI, condemning the book, was made operative only in Spain, and although Charles II asked to have the permission, to read it extended to the whole of Christendom, Pope Alexander VIII not only refused the petition, but confirmed the Brief of his predecessor. The King made the same request to Pope Innocent XII, who did nothing, however, except to institute a commission to examine the reasons raised by the Spanish Court. Her works had been placed on the Index, but the Franciscans were assured that that was a mistake of the printer, as no condemnation appeared there.[4]

Death and legacy

Less than ten years after her death, Mary of Jesus was declared Venerable by Pope Clement X, in honor of her "heroic life of virtue". Although the process of beatification was opened in 1673, it has not as yet been completed.

Lying below the blue recumbent statue is the incorrupt body of the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda in the Church of the Conceptionists Convent in Ágreda, Spain.

The tradition of the apostle St James and the shrine of El Pilar, reputed to be the first church dedicated to Mary, was given by Our Lady in an apparition to Sister Mary Agreda recorded in The Mystical City of God, and is credited with instigating the rebuilding of the fire-damaged Cathedral Basilica in Zaragoza in the Baroque style in 1681 by Charles II, King of Spain, completed and rededicated in 1686.

Incorruptible body

When Mary of Jesus's casket was opened in 1909, a cursory scientific examination was performed on the 17th century abbess's body. In 1989, a Spanish physician named Andreas Medina participated in another examination of the remains and told investigative journalist Javier Sierra in 1991: "What most surprised me about that case is that when we compared the state of the body, as it was described in the medical report from 1909, with how it appeared in 1989, we realized it had absolutely not deteriorated at all in the last eighty years."[14] Investigators took photographs and other evidence before re-sealing her casket, which remains on display in the monastery church. Some consider that incorruptibility, that is, lack of normal rot and decay after death, further evidence of sanctity.

Sainthood process

Her cause was formally opened on 28 January 1673, granting her the title of Servant of God.[15] The abbess is now considered Venerable. After the 400th anniversary of her birth in 2002, several groups (including The Spanish Mariology Society, The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, The Knights of Columbus, The American Council for the Mystical City of God and The Working Group for the Beatification of Sister Maria de Jesus de Agreda) renewed attempts to move her beatification process forward.[16]

In popular culture

San Angelo, Texas, credits the abbess as a pioneering force behind the establishment of early Texas missions.[17] Jumano Native Americans reminisce about her role in their survival, and her possible connection to the legend of Texas's state flower, the bluebonnet.[18]

She is featured in a work of fiction, The Lady in Blue ("La Dama Azul"), by Javier Sierra (Atria Books, 2005/07, ISBN 1-4165-3223-4), as well as in the English biography Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue (University of New Mexico Press, 2009). She also served as the inspiration for the novel Blue Water Woman by Ken Farmer (Timber Creek Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0-9971290-8-3), book #7 of The Nations series.

In his memoirs, the 18th-century Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova describes reading the Mystical City of God during his imprisonment in the Venetian prison I Piombi.[19]


  1. ^ "Sister María de Jesús de Agreda". CatholicSaints.Info. 2009-12-26. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  2. ^ Ximénez Samaniego, José. Life of Venerable Sister, Mary of Jesús—D. Ágreda: Poor Clare Nun, Translated by Ubaldus da Rieti (Keller-Crescent Printing and Engraving, 1910)
  3. ^ Peña García, Manuel. Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda (El Burgo de Osma, 1997)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Campbell, Thomas. "Maria de Agreda." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 1 July 2023 Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Fedewa, Marilyn H. (2009). Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue. University of New Mexico Press.
  6. ^ Plocheck, Robert (2005). "Franciscan Missionaries in Texas before 1690". Texas Almanac. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2012-07-22.
  7. ^ Abernethy, Francis Edward (1 July 1994). Legendary Ladies of Texas. University of North Texas Press. pp. 9ff. ISBN 978-0-929398-75-4. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  8. ^ a b Colahan, Clark A. The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power (University of Arizona Press, 1994)
  9. ^ 'The Blue Nun - María Jesus de Ágreda Mystical Missionary to the Indians' by Jay W. Sharp
  10. ^ Palou, Francisco. Life and Apostolic Labors of the Venerable Father Junípero Serra, Translated by C. Scott Williams (Pasadena, CA: George Wharton James, 1913)
  11. ^ (Impresion from original 17th Century autograph): SOR MARIA DE JESUS DE AGREDA, MISTICA CIUDAD DE DIOS, VIDA DE MARIA, Texto conforme al autógrafo original, Impresión: Mexico D.F 1984
  12. ^ María de Jesús de Ágreda: Correspondencia Con Felipe IV, Religión y Razón de Estado, with Introduction and Notes by Consolación Baranda (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1991)
  13. ^ Shahan, Thomas. "Eusebius Amort." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 5 July 2023 Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  14. ^ O'Brien, Christopher, Enter the Valley (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1999)
  15. ^ Index ac status causarum beatificationis servorum dei et canonizationis beatorum (in Latin). Typis polyglottis vaticanis. January 1953. p. 146.
  16. ^, Marilyn H Fedewa. "The Beatification of Sor Maria Goes to Rome". Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  17. ^ Flippin, Perry. "Pageant to portray nun's paranormal story," GoSanAngelo, July 16, 2007
  18. ^ "Jumanos Still Revere Lady in Blue," Tradicion Revista, December 2008, Vol. XII, No.2
  19. ^ Casanova de Seingalt, Jacques. "Volume 2, Chapter XXVI: To Paris and Prison – Under the Leads". The memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, 1725–1798. Translated by Machen, Arthur. Retrieved 30 August 2017. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Maria de Agreda". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.


  • Henry Gardiner Adams, ed. (1857). "Agreda, Marie d'". A Cyclopaedia of Female Biography: 18. Wikidata Q115393166.
  • Life of Venerable Mary of Ágreda, by James A. Carrico, Emmett J. Culligan, 1962.
  • The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power, by Clark A. Colahan, University of Arizona Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8165-1419-4
  • Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue, by Marilyn H. Fedewa, University of New Mexico Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8263-4643-8
  • Quill and Cross in the Borderlands: Sor María de Ágreda and the Lady in Blue, 1628 to the Present. By Anna M. Nogar. 2018. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 9780268102135

External links

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