This dissertation examines the so-called ‘false chronicles,’ a notorious set of forged histories from sixteenth-century Spain. The most influential of the texts was attributed to a fourth-century author named Flavius Lucius Dexter - known as ‘Dextro’ in Spanish. Until the falsos cronicones were denounced as forgeries at the end of the seventeenth century, readers throughout Spain enthusiastically embraced the new and exciting details that these purportedly late-antique chronicles provided about the first centuries of Christianity on the Iberian Peninsula.
The first half of the dissertation explains who, why, and how the texts were created, and, most importantly, what made the forged texts seem real to people at the time. Chapter One traces how Jerónimo Román de la Higuera, a Jesuit from Toledo, molded the chronicles in imitation of ancient and early medieval models, while forwarding a vision of the past that - apart from its status as a forged text - actually hewed closely to contemporary historical standards in mainstream European thought at the time. Chapter Two examines Higuera in the context of sixteenth-century Toledo, where he enjoyed an important base of support, even as he antagonized his Jesuit superiors in Spain and Rome. The third chapter traces the dissemination of the texts in manuscript, their transformation in print, and addresses the role of print layout and accompanying commentary in the creation of the chronicles' verisimilitude and authority.
Once in print in the 1620s, the chronicles spread much more quickly and broadly, and began to affect the shape of intellectual discourse and religious life in Andalucía and beyond. The second half of the dissertation turns to these further effects of the false chronicles. Chapter Four surveys many of the new local sacred histories written by Dexter-philes in seventeenth-century Andalucía. Local historians often encouraged new local religious devotions which determined the ‘official’ shape of local history and religion for years, and even centuries, to come.
This was particularly true in the diocese of Jaén, where the discovery of relics gave the false chronicles an extra boost of veracity. Chapters Five and Six present a case study of the remarkable events which unfolded when the alternative history of the cronicnes was introduced to the community of Arjona in 1628. The subsequent discovery of relics in Arjona fomented devotion to the martyrs among ‘popular’ and ‘elite’ alike, as all classes of people collected the relics for their miraculous healing powers, and the town became a destination for pilgrims from throughout southern Spain.
The following chapters ask how the bishop of Jaén, Cardinal Baltasar de Moscoso y Sandoval, negotiated the profound ambiguities at the heart of the Arjona relic discoveries. Chapter Seven examines the Cardinal-Bishop's balancing act of sponsoring devotion to the new martyrs while simultaneously subjecting them to the scrutiny required by Counter-Reformation Catholicism. The chapter also explores the relative importance of the Arjona relics in light of the bishop's other projects and preoccupations, including other ‘new’ relics and saints. Chapter Eight analyzes the dilemmas the bishop confronted in verifying the authenticity of the Arjona relics, as he appealed to Madrid and Rome for guidance on the complicated question of how to verify relics in the evolving contexts of local and universal Catholicism.
The conclusion outlines the subsequent history of the false chronicles in Spain. By the mid-eighteenth century, polemic about the cronicones had reached the heart of Spanish religious and intellectual culture, and came to involve fundamental questions about the very nature of historical and religious truth. In this way, discussions about the false chronicles reflected - and helped shape - changing definitions of historical and religious authenticity, as Spain moved from the early modern period into the Enlightenment.