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María de Agreda

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Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda
María de Jesús de Agreda.jpg
Sister María de Jesús de Ágreda
Born 2 April 1602, Ágreda, Spain
Died 24 May 1665 (aged 63), Ágreda, Spain
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Monastery of La Concepción
(founded in the 17th century by the Sister María de Jesús de Ágreda and where her incorrupt body rests)
Maria de Jesus de Agreda - frontispiece

Title page of the revelations of Maria, 1722, Verdussen, Antwerp.

María Fernández Coronel y Arana, Abbess of Ágreda or, known in religion as Sor (Sister) María de Jesús de Ágreda (2 April 1602 – 24 May 1665), also known as the Lady in Blue and the Blue Nun, was born and died in Ágreda, a town located in the province of Soria, Castile and León, Spain. She was the daughter of Don Francisco Coronel and his wife Catalina de Arana; all the members of her family were powerfully influenced by the religious fervor so prevalent in Spain in that period. A devout practitioner of quiet prayer, and she was known to experience religious ecstasy after receiving the sacraments.


Her biographer and a contemporary, Bishop Jose Jimenez Samaniego, was a longtime friend of the Coronel family, and records that even as a young girl she was filled with divine knowledge. From her early years, he writes, she was favored by ecstasies and visions and became a noted mystic of her era.[1] At the age of four, Maria de Agreda was confirmed by Bishop Don Diego de Yepes, the biographer and last confessor of St. Teresa of Avila, because he was so impressed with Maria's spiritual acumen.[2]

When Maria was fifteen the whole family adopted the Catholic religious life. Her father, then considered an older man in his early fifties, entered the Franciscan house of San Antonio de Nalda. Her brothers continued their studies toward the priesthood, in Burgos. Maria, her mother and sister established a Franciscan nunnery through the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception in the family house at Agreda. Later, as enrollment grew, this was replaced by the building still existing. Construction of the new convent facility was begun with only twenty-four reales (approximately two and a half Spanish dollars at the time) in the convent coffers, supplemented by a donation of 100 reales from a devotee. It was completed in 1633 by voluntary gifts and labor. At the death of her mother, Maria was appointed president of the convent as locum tenens at the age of twenty-five, after which she was elected by the convent's nuns as abbess. Though the rules required the abbess to be changed every three years, Maria remained effectively in charge of the Agreda convent until her death, except for a three year sabbatical in her fifties.[3]

In 1670, five years after her death, Samaniego told how at the age of twenty-two she had been miraculously conveyed to Texas and New Mexico, to convert a native people, and had made five hundred bilocations for that purpose in one year. This was recounted more than 200 years later in the first edition (in 1888) of Michael Muller's book, Catholic Dogma.[4] Throughout her life, Maria de Agreda was inclined to the "internal prayer" or "quiet prayer" for which the Franciscans are noted. Like her countrywoman St. Teresa of Avila, these prayerful experiences inevitably led to her ecstasies, including witnessed accounts of levitation. Then, as reports of her mystical excursions to the New World proliferated, the Inquisition took notice of her, although she was not proceeded against with severity.[5]

Sor Maria's importance in religion, Spanish history, and the history of the American Southwest, is based on three grounds:

1. She was a prolific author, with fourteen books to her credit. Her signature work, Mystical City of God, the biography of Mary, (mother of Jesus), is now frequently studied in college and university programs of Spanish language and culture, for its contribution to Baroque literature.[6]

2. At the request of King Philip IV of Spain, she served as his spiritual (and sometimes political) advisor for over twenty-two years, as documented in over 600 letters between them during that period.[7]

3. Accounts of her mystical apparitions in the American Southwest, as well as inspiring passages in Mystical City of God, so stirred 17th and 18th century missionaries that they credit her in their own life's work, making her an integral part of the colonial history of the United States.[8]

Reported Incorruptibility and Sainthood Process

An additional mystery associated with the abbess of Ágreda is identified in popular literature. The physical body of the nun is said to be incorruptible, that is, not subject to rot and decay after death. During an opening of her casket in 1909, a cursory scientific examination was performed on the body. In 1989 a Spanish physician named Andreas Medina participated in another examination of Sister Maria de Jesus de Ágreda as she lay in the convent of the Conceptionist nuns, the same monastery where she had lived in the 1600s. Dr. Medina told investigative journalist Javier Sierra in 1991: "'What most surprised me about that case is that when we compared the state of the body, as it was described in the medical report from 1909, with how it appeared in 1989, we realized it had absolutely not deteriorated at all in the last eighty years.'" [9] Purportedly, complete photographic and other evidence was obtained by investigators before her casket was re-sealed. Now, her incorrupt body can be visited in the Church of the Convent of Ágreda.

Regarding her status as a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church, there is much history. Less than ten years after her death, Maria de Jesus de Ágreda was declared as Venerable by Pope Clement X, in honor of her "heroic life of virtue." And, although the process of beatification was opened in 1673, it has not been completed as of now because of various misinterpretations of her writings (to the extent that Mystical City of God was temporarily placed on the Church's Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1681). Therefore her status remains as "Venerable" (i.e., not "Blessed" as in someone who is "beatified," or "Saint," as in someone who has been canonized). In recent years, however, after the 400th anniversary of her birth in 2002, there have been renewed efforts internationally by several marian groups to move the beatification process forward [10].

Popular Culture

The legacy of Maria de Agreda nun is celebrated in a variety of venues today. The city of San Angelo, Texas credits her as a significant pioneering force behind the establishment of early Texas missions.[11] Jumano Native Americans reminisce about her role in their survival, and her possible connection to the legend of Texas's state flower, the bluebonnet.[12] She is featured in a work of fiction, The Lady in Blue ("Dama azul"), by Javier Sierra (Atria Books, 2005/07, ISBN 1-4165-3223-4), as well as in a new, popularly-written biography, Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue (University of New Mexico Press, 2009).

Giacomo Casanova mentions being compelled to read Maria de Agreda's book, Mystical City of God, during his imprisonment in the Venice prison "i Piombi" as a means of the clergy to psychologically torture the prisoners. He called it the work of an "overheated imagination of a devout, melancholy, Spanish virgin locked up in a Convent."[13] In it, Casanova argues that a captive's mind can get inflamed with such aberrant ideas to the point of madness, which was purportedly the purpose of having been given the book to read.

Her 4 volume writings have also been said to have been the source of inspiration for Mel Gibson and his co-writer in the production of the film The Passion of the Christ on certain events involved in the passion.


  • Life of Venerable Mary of Ágreda, by James A. Carrico, Emmett J. Culligan, 1962.
  • The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power, by Clark A. Colahan, University of Arizona Press, 1994.
  • Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue, by Marilyn H. Fedewa, University of New Mexico Press, 2009.


  1. Ximénez Samaniego, José. Life of Venerable Sister, Mary of Jesús—D. Ágreda: Poor Clare Nun, Translated by Ubaldus da Rieti (Keller-Crescent Printing and Engraving, 1910)
  2. Peña García, Manuel. Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda (El Burgo de Osma, 1997)
  3. Fedewa, Marilyn H. Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue (University of New Mexico Press, 2009)
  4. "This holy virgin burned with a most ardent love for God and for the salvation of souls. One day, she beheld in a vision all the nations of the world. She saw the greater part of men were deprived of God's grace, and running headlong to everlasting perdition. She saw how the Indians of Mexico put fewer obstacles to the grace of conversion than any other nation who were out of the Catholic Church, and how God, on this account, was ready to show mercy to them. Hence she redoubled her prayers and penances to obtain for them the grace of conversion. God heard her prayers. He commanded her to teach the Catholic religion to those Mexican Indians. From that time, she appeared, by way of bilocation, to the savages, not less than five hundred times, instructing them in all the truths of our holy religion, and performing miracles in confirmation of these truths. When all were converted to the faith, she told them that religious priests would be sent by God to receive them into the Church by baptism. As she had told, so it happened. God, in his mercy, sent to these good Indians several Franciscan fathers, who . . . when they asked the Indians who had instructed them, they were told that a holy virgin appeared among them many times, and taught them the Catholic religion and confirmed it by miracles." (Life of the Venerable Mary of Jesus of Agreda, § xii.) Muller, Michael. The Catholic Dogma: "Extra Ecclesiam Nullus omnino Salvatur"
  5. Colahan, Clark A. The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power (University of Arizona Press, 1994)
  6. Colahan, Clark A. The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power (University of Arizona Press, 1994)
  7. María de Jesús de Ágreda: Correspondencia Con Felipe IV, Religión y Razón de Estado, with Introduction and Notes by Consolación Baranda (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1991)
  8. Palou, Francisco. Life and Apostolic Labors of the Venerable Father Junípero Serra, Translated by C. Scott Williams (Pasadena, CA: George Wharton James, 1913)
  9. O'Brien, Christopher, Enter the Valley (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1999)
  10. The Beatification of Sor Maria Goes to Rome
  11. Flippin, Perry. "Pageant to portray nun's paranormal story," GoSanAngelo, July 16, 2007
  12. "Jumanos Still Revere Lady in Blue," Tradicion Revista, December 2008, Vol. XII, No.2
  13. The Story of My Escape From Prisons of the Republic Of Venice Called The Leads, originally written in 1787, and translated by John M. Friedberg circa 1995-98

See also

External links

ru:Мария Агредская uk:Марія з Агреди

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