Dr. Norberto Rivera Carrera
Emmo. Sr. Cardenal Arzobispo de México
Guillermo Moreno Bravo
Vicario General de la Arquidiócesis
Pbro. Dr. Juan de Dios Olvera Delgadillo
Pbro Pedro Becerril Mercado
Pbro. Mtro. Gustavo Watson Marrón
Director del Archivo Histórico del Arzobispado de México
Mtra. Berenise Bravo Rubio
Mtro. Marco Antonio Pérez Iturbe
Imágenes digitales del Archivo Histórico del Arzobispado de México 1532-1821
© D.R. Arquiodiócesis Primada de México, 2008
The Archivo Histórico del Arzobispado de México traces its roots to the creation of the offices of the diocese in Mexico City under the Bula Sacri Apostolatus Ministerio, issued by Pope Clement VII on September 2, 1530. That papal bull gave rise to the pastoral, administrative, and legislative activities of the Church in New Spain. Thenceforth, all of the documentation generated by the activities in the central Mexican bishopric and subsequent archbishopric gave form to the archive. Today the colonial section of the archive houses 9550 documents and 319 books related to the administration of the archdiocese.
The archive, a fundamental part of ecclesiastical governance located originally in the bishop and then archbishop's secretariat, grew with the increasing activities of the various dependencies of ecclesiastical governance. Those dependencies included the secretariat, the Oficina de Negocios Eclesiásticos, the Provisorato, the Juzgado de Testamento, Capellanías y Obras Pías, the Cárcel Eclesiástica, and the Archivo. Also contributing to the growth in documentation were the Prosecretario, the Promotor Fiscal, and four clerks. Throughout the colonial period those dependencies generated an untold volume of documents.
When the Laws of the Reform nationalized most Church property during the mid-nineteenth century, the federal government confiscated a significant portion of the archbishop’s archive and most Church property. The bulk of those confiscated documents today are located in various record sets in the Archivo General de la Nación, notably in Bienes Nacionales and Indiferente Virreinal. Over the next century as the archbishop’s office physically moved several times, some paper was lost, misplaced, or otherwise left behind. Forunately, even though the 1985 earthquake seriouly damaged the building that houses the administrative offices for the archdiocese, no historical documents were lost, according to the former director of the archive. Consequently, the thousands of files and books that comprise the archive remain an extremely rich source for assessing and analyzing the activities of the Church, the economic dynamics of the Mexico’s central region, and the behaviors and attitudes of parishioners.
Beginning in 1999 a small team of historians, Pbro. Mtro. Gustavo Watson Marrón, Mtra. Berenise Bravo Rubio, and Mtro. Marco Antonio Pérez Iturbe, began to organize, identify, and describe the colonial records. From the bundles, boxes, and stacks of paper and books emerged three major record sets, Fondo Episcopal, Fondo Cabildo, and Fondo Juzgado Eclesiástico de Toluca. Subsequently, that same team oversaw the digitalization of the colonial documentation, excluding extremely fragile documents, photocopies of documents located in other repositories, the oversized documents conserved in map cases, and several boxes of documents discovered among other record sets several years later. Dr. Linda Arnold converted the 199,667 .jpg image files into PDF files, concatenated those files to conform to the paper files and books, and produced the electronic interface.
The first of the three record sets, Fondo Episcopal, consists of papers generated by the dependencies of the archbishop’s governing council; those dependencies were the secretariat and three tribunals. While the least extensive of the three record sets, due to the fact that much of the documentation related to work of the ecclesiastical tribunals was confiscated in the mid-nineteenth century, Fondo Episcopal consists of governance books, site visit reports to many parishes, and a valuable series of ecclesiastical censuses. The governance books serve as an index of the many activities of the secretariat and indicate the full scope of the archbishop’s activities and responsibilities. The site visit reports illustrate the state of parishes and parishioners, occasionally revealing interesting aspects about the religious practices and beliefs of indigenous as well as mestizo parishioners, valuable information for reconstructing the history of mentalidades. The censuses, created as control documents to insure that parishioners complied with annual confession and communion commitments, offer insights into the composition of communities. Also included in this record set are a series of documents (boxes 177-181) from the Colegiata de Guadalupe, important for understanding the various aspects of the administration of the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and complementing colonial documentation located in the Basilica’s archive.
The records in Fondo Cabildo represent the work of the ecclesiastical council in Mexico City, the body charged with the administration of the cathedral and the collection of tithes. The most extensive body of colonial documentation in the colonial archive, those records include innumerable fiscal documents principally related to the adjudication of tithe matters. Two fiscal judges in the archbishop’s office had the responsibility and authority to use coercion to enforce the collection of tithes and to prosecute tithe collectors who might have been lax in fulfilling their responsibilities. The records, which complement documentation in the metropolitan cathedral’s archive, include civil and criminal cases and volumes of supporting documentation for those cases, documentation critical for studying regional economic history, conflicts between the Church and tithe collectors, and the economic impact of the wars of independence. Those documents and some accompanying maps reveal the number of tithers, haciendas and ranches in the region, and the prices of seeds, offering researchers basic sources for assessing price and inflationary trends, economic growth across the region, and demographic growth. Also incorporated into Fondo Cabildo is a series labelled Museo Catedral, a colonial institution confiscated by the national government in the 1920s, documenting liturgical practices and religious rituals in the archdiocese and the religious congregations. Finally, Fondo Cabildo includes financial records related to the production of bells, lists of ornaments in diverse cathedrals and Jesuit colleges, and costs associated with religious processions.
The third record set, Juzgado Eclesiástico de Toluca, originates from the ecclesiastical court in Toluca. Due to the extensive expanse of the archbishopric, the archbishop delegated to ecclesiastical judges in Toluca authority to adjudicate nonserious crimes. Those judges, who served as intermediaries between parishioners in the Valley of Toluca and the ecclesiastical court in Mexico City, resolved disputes between lay brotherhoods; administered marriage permits for Spaniards, Indians, and castas; approved marriage dispensations; punished Indians for non-serious religious crimes; and developed the evidence for serious religious crimes for the Provisorato in Mexico City. A handful of the cases against Indians, involving witchcraft and disputes over wills, include documents in Nahuatl.
Together, the three record sets offer researchers a rich body of documentation. The staff at the Archivo Histórico del Arzobisbado de México hope that with this electronic version students, faculty, and independent researchers will enrich the historiography. Any questions about access to the documents not digitized should be directed to the staff at the archive. Finally, researchers wishing to publish a document who need of the original .jpg image files should contact the Archivo Histórico del Arzobispado de Mexico at email@example.com to obtain permission and the necessary files.