Seen and Not Heard: Early Modern Notions of Gender and Religion in Spain

Educated, connected, eloquent, and well-read, María de Cazalla faced the Spanish Inquisition over charges of a new heresy: alumbradismo. Arrested in 1532, Cazalla’s case relates to the growing threat of Lutheranism and developing Protestant doctrine. Specifically, Maria dared to teach publicly concerning matters of theology and religion, something relegated to male clergy members. This paper will examine gendered aspects of the crimes of heresy leveled against Maria by the Spanish Inquisition. Maria’s actions served to invert appropriate levels of authority. Maria subverted expectations of gender and the roles available to men and women by claiming authority normally reserved for male clergy members like priests and bishops. In doing so, Maria took on an inappropriate level of influence as a woman. Parameters dictated by gender strictly defined Cazalla’s role as a wife and mother in early modern Spain. Women faced increasing scrutiny, especially those who responded to reformist ideas in a period marked by intense religious change. In response, church and societal expectations placed greater strictures on those women who sought to engage in public reform. Cazalla’s case exemplifies issues of gender and religious reform with the Inquisition’s charges in that Cazalla dared to teach, and that she subverted issues of authority through an inversion of prescribed church hierarchy. Cazalla is an important link regarding the treatment of heresy and gender in early sixteenth-century Spain. Ultimately, Cazalla represents the clash between reality and ideology in actions which went against expectations for her sex.


We went out on the Non Stop Bar Crawl that Steff works for last night. You know, for some mutual support on her first shift. Realised this morning that we drank a ridiculous concoction of beer, wine, mojito, sangria, strongbow, snakebite, tequila slammer & CAZALLA! And you wonder why you feel like death the next morning.

Me & Phil are going for a curry later as a reward.