From the Indies to Rome  The Travel Diary of an Unfinished Journey by the Jesuit Miguel de Viñas (1677-1698)

From the Indies to Rome
The Travel Diary of an Unfinished Journey by the Jesuit Miguel de Viñas (1677-1698)

Joint Project

The Archive of the Colegio de San Ignacio in Santiago de Chile, administered by the Chilean chapter of the Society of Jesus, preserved a sui generis collection of sources concerning the local archival context. It is a series of documents associated with the journey of the Spanish Jesuit Miguel de Viñas, dated between 1677 and 1698. It was indexed by the Jesuit historian Walter Hanisch (1916-2001), who organized the documents in chronological order and incorporated a new primary source to propose, we believe, a new research project that he never completed.  

Who was Miguel de Viñas? Born in Martorell (Barcelona) in 1642, a year after the sacking and burning of the city at the time of the Guerra dels Segadors, fought against the rule of Philip IV. He was educated in Tarragona and traveled to Peru as a Jesuit novice in 1671, where he was trained at the Colegio de San Pablo. In 1680, Viñas moved to Santiago de Chile as a professor of theology at the Colegio Máximo de San Miguel, where he was vice-principal and then principal (1682-1694). He thus became a trustworthy figure within the Chilean society during a period when several cases of corruption and trafficking of influences were discovered during the governments of Francisco de Meneses (1664-1667) and Juan Henríquez (1670-1682).  He was even a consultant to the Synod of Santiago, assembled by bishop Bernardo Carrasco de Saavedra in 1688.

In 1694, Viñas was appointed procurator by the I Provincial Congregation to participate in the XV General Congregation of the Company of Jesus in Rome. Viñas could not travel to Rome, probably because he prioritized the search of missionaries for the province of Chile. He returned to Santiago in April 1699 with 26 new missionaries.

This project focuses on this archival collection composed of diverse kinds of documents (including original papers and reproductions). These were created with various purposes and authors, all related to Miguel de Viñas’ journey and to the recent historiographical research carried out by Hanisch.

The documental collection has 189 folia containing Royal decrees, letters from bishops and governors, letters to the King, Notary expedients and instructions for procurators traveling to Rome; Jesuit’s orders, dispensations, and provisions; Memorials for the Council and its decrees; patent letters, licenses, among others records. This collection was compiled by Viñas himself during his journey. After his travels between distant, but connected spaces, he brought back these records to Santiago with the purpose of generating, we argue, an account of his European journey. Therefore, the documental collection can be considered as a “record of all the documents and instructions of his journey”, as Hanisch's description put it, or a “Travel Diary” written and collected by Viñas between America and Europe.

The nature of the documents allows us to propose an interpretation from a legal-historical perspective. Indeed, legal texts regulated the different phases of Viñas’s transatlantic mission in a complex and diverse world through powers of attorney, assignment of commissions, roles, responsibilities, and duties; right and privileges to protect individual and collective interest. Religious procurators have received much attention by historiography, but they played a key role as representatives of their order or bishops in Spain or Rome. They acted as mediators; they were political and business agents, passeurs of documents between the New and the Old World. These movements contributed to the creation of institutional and informal ties between the different parts of the Catholic Monarchy and beyond. During their travels, they also fulfilled the function of connecting various institutions through the circulation of information and knowledge. This allowed for legal processes, business and political negotiations to take place at different levels.

In the end, procurators had also their own personal or familiar interests. Viñas, for example, managed to publish, in Genoa in 1709, a three-volume book titled Philosophia Scholastica. It was later sent to the Colegio Máximo of the Society of Jesus in Santiago. Based on the various texts collected by Miguel de Viña, the project analyzes the complex connections between his role as a Jesuit procurator and a compiler of documents in his transit between Europe and America at the end of the seventeenth century. Through the analysis of the constitution of this archive, we can observe how these agents connected people, functions, and knowledge via Transatlantic circulation.

Viñas’s journey was not something exceptional. On the contrary, it can be considered as a distinctive institutional connection of this time. However, the documentation kept in the Archive of the Colegio de San Ignacio in Santiago is one of its kind: the archive is exceptionally complete, and its nature allows to study in detail the mission of this Jesuit figure and all of its legal, administrative, and political implications. Although it lies out of all norms, this is a corpus that refers to the norms; and, most especially, to the administrative practices of the Society of Jesus and other institutions, as well as to the relationship between its agents and multiple institutions. 

The main result of the project will be the publication of a critical edition of the corpus of documents related to Miguel de Viñas’s journey, based on the transcription of the manuscript preserved in Santiago. To this task, we will add some scientific articles related to the figure of Miguel de Viñas and other active procurators who mediated between the Old and New World in the early modern times.

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