Secrets from the Archives: Using What I Found

Archival research may be fun, but nothing is really accomplished if you don’t actually use the information you learn from the archived documents.

In my case, I already knew what I wanted to do with the manuscripts going into the archives. For the most part, my research in Pamplona was for the purpose of filling in some the gaps in my thesis. My thesis deals with Tridentine reform in a sixteenth-century parish, but on a more complicated level, it hinges on the actors being tugged in different directions. In other words, how was the bishop involved? What role did the parish priest take in facilitating a impeding the process? And crucially, what say, if any, did the parishioners have?

Because of what I found in my earlier trip to Pamplona in 2009, I am arguing that all three had roles in the reform process. However, my documentation from my earlier trip did not have enough testimony from the parishioners. Thus, one of my primary motivations on this trip was to gain more information on their wants and actions within parochial reform. Therefore, I made sure to focus in on witness testimony in the trials of my Don Pedro.

Specifically, the jewel of trials in terms of witness testimony is a trial the followed a dispute with Don Pedro’s brother, Juanes, Don Pedro himself, and most of the residents of Atondo. The argument was over tithes (when they should be given), but it escalated quickly. Don Pedro found himself facing the entire town, and noticing that his brother was amongst them, he turned his fury on him, calling him a “traitor” and “false.” He then proceeded by attacking him with the church keys (which weighed more than two pounds) and hitting Juanes over the head, apparently with the intention of killing him.

This, of course, took place in front of the entire town, and plenty of witnesses were found when a few days later, Juanes took the case to the Bishop’s court.  This then, is exactly what I was looking for. These witnesses happily stepped forward to tell the Bishop what had happened, and thus condemn, and correct Don Pedro’s behavior. They were not passive, but rather actively involved in the process of reforming this post-Tridentine cleric who was still acting much like a medieval parish priest in that he was heavily entrenched in his parish; in the case of Don Pedro, there was little difference in the actions of a priest when compared to a layman. He involved in the non-priestly happenings of his parish, to the extent that he would even resort to violence.

This is fundamental to my thesis. Don Pedro may have been lagging in the reforming process, but his parishioners showed that they were actively involved and interested. The parish mattered to them, and they mattered in the parish. Conclusions like these are what I will be finalizing in the next coming days as I insert this new evidence and witness testimony into my thesis before I get it to my committee on July 1.