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Hubert Howe Bancroft:
Burial of an Archbishop-Viceroy in Mexico City, 1612

This is an account by a late 19th century historian.

The embalmed body, arrayed in pontifical robes of purple taffeta garnished with gold and silver, rested in the chapel on a catafalque, covered with black gold-bordered velvet, and surrounded with candles. The interior of the chapel was draped in black. The head of the corpse reclined on a black velvet cushion, ornamented with gold and silver, and bore on the brow a mitre. Close to it rose the guidon of the captain-general, a rank held by the deceased in virtue of his office as viceroy. At the left shoulder rested the pastoral staff, and in the right hand the archiepiscopal cross; at the feet were two royal maces of gilt silver, and between them the prelate's hat.

For three days a constant stream of visitors appeared at the chapel to give a last look at the beloved face, while friars and clergy held vigils, masses, and chants here as well as at other temples. The bells tolled solemnly all the while, and nearly every person exhibited some token of mourning, especially officials and men of means.

On the 25th a vast concourse gathered at the palace to escort the body to the cathedral tomb. First marched the school children with white lighted tapers; then came thirty-eight brotherhoods, according to age, with standards, crosses, and other paraphernalia; the different monastic orders, closing with the Dominicans, to whom belonged the deceased, followed by over four hundred members of the clergy, the prebendaries of the Chapter being last. Then came the coffin, having at the feet the prelate's hat, and a cap with white tassel, the insignia of a master of theology. Behind were borne the cross and guidon, draped in black, between two kings-at-arms. On either side of the coffin strode the viceregal guard, while halberdiers assisted in keeping back the crowd. Following the guard came the deacons; the commercial court; the university representation, with sixty-four of its graduated doctors bearing the insignia of the faculty; the municipality, preceded by their mace-bearers; the audiencia, with three nephews of the deceased; the royal officers, bearing a black standard with royal arms in gold; three companies of infantry in lines of seven, with arms reversed, marching to the sound of four muffled drums and two fifes; the maestre de sala of the viceroy, bearing aloft on a half-pike the arms of the deceased, gilded on a black surface; the master of horse and chamberlain, leading a steed in deep mourning with a long train; another gentleman of the court, on horseback, bore the guidon of captain-general, with royal arms on crimson velvet. The procession closed with the servants of the palace, led by the major-domo.

Between the palace and the cathedral five catafalques had been erected, to serve as resting-places for the coffin as it was transferred to different bearers. The oidores bore it from the chapel to the first station; then the cathedral chapter, the municipality, the university corporation, and the commercial representatives carried it successively, the oidores taking it from the last station into the cathedral, where it was placed in a lofty position, amid a blaze of lights. As the alf6reces approached they lowered the standards, and placed them at the foot of the coffin. On the left rested Guerra's coat of arms; on the right were the cross and the guidon. After service the coffin was buried at a late hour by the high altar, on the evangel side. It was a grand and glorious casting-forth.

During the novenary each religious order came to chant masses, assisted by ecclesiastic and civil bodies. On March 7th the members of the procession marched in the same order as before to the cathedral, where the vigil was chanted, and funeral oration delivered in Latin. The following day the funeral sermon was preached by the dominican provincial.


From The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft: The Conquest of Mexico by Hubert Howe Bancroft (New York: The Bancroft Co., 1883-1888), vol. 3, pp. 21-23.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall, July 1998

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