Queen Isabel meets her confessor

March 7, 2013

Fray Fernando de Talavera. Valdés Leal, 1657. Monasterio de san Jerónimo de Buenavista.

“He is a gentle-natured priest, somewhat narrow of mind perhaps, but a sound theologian without bitterness or passion.” Thus wrote Peter Martyr of Fra Fernando de Talavera, Isabel’s confessor… At their first confessional, the Friar, seating himself on a low stool, bade his companion kneel before him; but she, unwilling to lower her dignity, reminded him gently that it was the custom for her confessors also to kneel.

“Señora,” replied Fra Fernando, “this is the tribunal of God, and therefore must you kneel and I be seated.”

Statue of Isabella I of Castile by Bigarny

Statue of Isabella I of Castile by Bigarny

“He is the confessor whom I have long sought,” was the Queen’s comment on this interview, the acknowledgment of her readiness to bow before the spiritual director she could respect. To some minds his answer might have savored of arrogance, but the friar’s personal humility forbade such an interpretation; and when, on the surrender of Granada in 1492, he was appointed as first Archbishop of that city, he accepted the office with a shrinking reluctance that was wholly sincere.


Irene L. Plunket, Isabel of Castile and the Making of the Spanish Nation: 1451-1504 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915), 240-41.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 262



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