Ursula de Jesus (1604-1666) was an African-Peruvian who rose out of slavery who became a donada (a non-slave religious servant) in the Roman Catholic Church. In her lifetime, she was notable for her mystical visions and her claims of communicating with the souls of those who dies and went to purgatory.[1]

The daughter of slaves, her first experience with mysticism came when she became the property of Luisa de Melgarejo Sotomayor, a mystic and beata (lay pious woman) in Lima. In 1617, she went to the Convent of Santa Clara in Lima as the servant of Ines del Pulgar, a 16-year-old novice and the niece of the woman who owned her parents.[2]

In 1642, she survived a near-fatal fall into a well, and later credited her rescue to the prayer-answered intercession of the Virgin of Carmen.[3]

For the remainder of her life, Ursula de Jesus sought a life of religious spirituality. In 1645, one of the nuns of the convent purchased her freedom. Although she was denied the ability to become a nun because of her race, she remained at the convent as a donada. She stated that she experienced divine visions, particularly with the souls in purgatory who sought her intercession to gain their release. A diary of her visions and life experiences was created between 1650 and 1661; it was first published in English in 2004.[2]


  1. “The Human Tradition in Colonial Latin America” by Kenneth J. Andrien, Google Books
  2. 2.0 2.1 Van Deusen, Nancy E. “The Souls of Purgatory.” University of New Mexico Press, 2004. ISBN:0-8263-2827-X
  3. Humanities and Social Sciences Online

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