Juan de Palafox y Mendoza (June 26, 1600 – October 1, 1659), was a Spanish bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. He also held political office in the New World. From June 10, 1642 to November 23, 1642 he was viceroy of New Spain.
Born in Navarre, Palafox y Mendoza was the natural son of Jaime de Palafox. He was taken in by a family of millers who gave him the name "Juan" and raised him for ten years. Thereafter his father recognized him, and had him educated at Alcalá and Salamanca.
In 1626 he was a deputy of the nobility in the Cortes de Monzón, and a little later prosecutor at the Counsels of War and of the Indies.
He was ordained and became the chaplain of Maria of Austria, sister of Spanish King Philip IV of Spain. He accompanied her on her various trips around Europe.
In 1639 Philip IV nominated him as bishop of Puebla de los Ángeles in Mexico (then the Spanish colony of New Spain) and Pope Urban VIII appointed him. He was consecrated at Madrid on December 27, 1639. He arrived in Veracruz on June 24, 1640, in the company of the new viceroy, Diego López Pacheco, 7th Duke of Escalona, whom he had gotten to know aboard ship. He was also named visitador (representative of the king) to investigate the two previous viceroys. He served as bishop of Puebla from 1640 to 1655 and as interim archbishop of Mexico from 1642 to 1643.
He founded the Dominican convent of Santa Inés, amended the by-laws of the seminary of San Juan, and founded the colleges of San Pedro and San Pablo. He also founded the girls school Purísima Concepción and worked diligently on completing the cathedral, which was dedicated April 18, 1649.
As bishop, Palafox y Mendoza distinguished himself by his efforts to protect the Native Americans from Spanish cruelty, forbidding any methods of conversion other than persuasion.
In this and other matters he met with the uncompromising hostility of the Jesuits, whom in 1647 he laid under an interdict. The Jesuits excommunicated him. Palafox twice, in 1647 and 1649, laid formal complaints against them at Rome. The pope, however, refused to approve his censures, and all he could obtain was a brief from Pope Innocent X (on May 14, 1648), commanding the Jesuits to respect the episcopal jurisdiction. On May 20, 1655, Palafox and the Jesuits signed an accord, but disagreements continued. In the same year the Jesuits succeeded in securing his transfer to the little see of Osma in Old Castile.
Palafox was an enthusiastic patron of the arts, and it was during his tenure in Puebla that the city became the musical center of New Spain. Composers such as Juan Gutierrez de Padilla, maestro di capilla of the cathedral under Palafox and the most famous seventeenth century composer in Mexico, brought the latest European music styles to the New World. Palafox also strongly believed in education in general. He founded the Biblioteca Palafoxiana on September 5, 1646, stocking it with five thousand books of science and philosophy.
In 1694 Charles II of Spain petitioned for his canonization; but though this passed through the preliminary stages, securing for Palafox the title of Venerable, it was ultimately defeated, under Pope Pius VI, by the intervention of the Jesuits. Palafox was beatified much later, on September 12, 1767.
His writings were published in 15 volumes in Madrid in 1762.
As visitador general, Bishop Palafox y Mendoza broke with Viceroy Diego López Pacheco Cabrera y Bobadilla in 1642, accusing him of being in league with Portugal. (Portugal was then in revolt against Spain.) Bishop Palafox claimed to have orders from the Crown, although he did not show them. He arrived secretly in the capital, and in the middle of the night of June 9/10, he met with the Audiencia and laid out his suspicions. He then ordered that the viceregal palace be surrounded by guards. The following morning Viceroy López Pacheco was informed that he was under arrest and that the bishop had been named archbishop of Mexico and viceroy of New Spain. His possessions were confiscated and he was held for some time before being allowed to return to Spain. In Spain he was acquitted of the charges against him.
During his brief term as viceroy, Palafox established the laws governing the University, the Audiencia, and the legal profession. Two members of the Audiencia rejected his reforms, and he suspended them from office. Palafox also raised twelve companies of militia to protect the colony against the spread of revolution from Portugal and Catalonia. He destroyed the pagan religious statues of the Indians that had been kept in the capital as trophies of the Spanish conquest.
He was succeeded as viceroy by García Sarmiento de Sotomayor, 2nd Count of Salvatierra on November 23, 1642, but continued to hold the post of visitador.
- This article incorporates text from the article "Palafox de Mendoza, Juan de" in the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Gerard Béhague: "Mexico", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy. (Accessed December 11, 2005.) (subscription access)
- (Spanish) "Palafox de Mendoza, Juan de," Enciclopedia de México, v. 11. Mexico City, 1988.
- (Spanish) García Puron, Manuel, México y sus gobernantes, v. 1. Mexico City: Joaquín Porrua, 1984.
- (Spanish) Orozco Linares, Fernando, Gobernantes de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1985, ISBN 968-38-0260-5.
Diego López Pacheco
|Viceroy of New Spain|
| Succeeded by|
García Sarmiento de Sotomayor