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Juan Mariana

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Author and Jesuit, b. at Talavern, Toledo, Spain, probably in April, 1536; d. at Toledo, 16 February, 1624.

He is one of the most maligned members of the Jesuit order, owing to the opinions expressed in his book, "De rege et regis institutione", on the killing of despots. He joined the order 1 January, 1554. Nothing more is known of his parentage or his family history.

It is an evidence of his talent that, as early as 1561, after finishing his studies, he was called by his superiors to Rome, where he taught theology for four years. After a further short sojourn in Sicily, he occupied the chair of theology in Paris (1569-1574), but was obliged through illness to return to Spain. There he spent a great number of years at Toledo, occupied almost exclusively with literary work.

Among his literary labours the most important is undoubtedly his great work on the history of Spain, which is still remembered today. There was published as late as 1854, in Madrid, an improved and richly illustrated edition continued up to that year. The work first appeared as "Historiæ de rebus Hispaniæ libri XX. Toleti, typis P. Roderici, 1592". A later edition of the compiler himself, carried on still further is "De rebus Hispaniæ libri XXX", published at Mainz in 1605. This edition bears the imprimatur of the order for the thirty books, given by Stephan Hojeda, visitor from Dec., 1598, and of the provincial from 1604. The author had in the mean time converted a Latin edition into Spanish and this appeared complete, containing the thirty books of the Latin edition, at Toledo in 1601. This went through a number of editions during the lifetime of the author and through others after his death.

The second work published is that mentioned above, "De Rege et Regis institutione libre III et Phillippum III Hispaniæ Regem Catholicum, 1599". The work was written at the solicitation of the tutor of the royal princes and at the expense of Philip II (Garcias de Loaysa), but was dedicated to Philip III, who had become king in the meantime. It was not objected to by the King nor anywhere else in Spain; it was obviously calculated to bring up the King as the true father of his people and as a pattern of virtue for the whole nation. The Protestant Dr. Leutbecher (Erlangen, 1830) expressed his judgment of the book in the following terms: "Mariana's excellent mirror for kings . . . contains more healthy materials for the education of future kings than any other princely mirror, and is worthy of all respect as much from kings themselves as from their educators. . . . Would that all kings were as Mariana wanted them to be." The book certainly contained a misconstrued observation in favour of the assassination of Henry III of France, and defended, though with many restrictions and precautions, the disposition and killing of a tyrant. That did not escape the Jesuits in France and they drew the attention of the general of the order to it. The general at once expressed his regret, stating that the work had been published without his knowledge, and that he would take care that the book should be corrected. In 1605 there really appeared a somewhat altered edition at Mainz; to what degree the book had been corrected by the order is hard to discover. Mariana himself had not prepared another edition. But in 1610 a real storm broke loose against the book in France; by the order of Parliament the book was publicly burnt by the hand of the public executioner, while in Spain it continued to enjoy the royal favour. The general of the order forbade members to preach that it is lawful to kill tyrants.

There was still a whole series of smaller works from the pen of Mariana; many of them are only in manuscript. Some of his published works are not without value in political economy — his work "De ponderibus et mensuris" for example, which appeared at Toledo in 1599 and at Mainz in 1605, and his little "De monetæ mutatione", which appeared in a general collection of his works in 1609. In a criticism of this small publication Pascal Duprat (Sommervogel, V, 592), a French economist, declared as late as 1870 that Mariana had set forth the true principles of the money question far better than his contemporaries. This work, however, proved fatal to the author. The fact that he had opposed with genuine courage the depreciation of the currency laid him under a charge of treason to the king, and Mariana, then seventy-three years old, was actually condemned to lifelong imprisonment, which took the form of a committal to a Franciscan convent. He was only to be allowed freedom shortly before his death.

The vehement character of Mariana, which strove against real or intended wrong, had also its dark side. The period of his old age coincided with a stormy time in the history of the order. In the order, which had just them begun to flourish, there were a number of members who were not satisfied with the approved principles of the founder and the Holy See, especially as there was a good deal in them that did not correspond with the principles of the older orders. Even the solemn Bulls of Gregory XIII, which again expressly confirmed the points criticised from within and without the order, did not altogether bring quiet, so that in the year 1593, under the government of Acquaviva, there was a general congregation for the purpose of expelling some of the members. Juan Mariana, for a long period at least, was numbered among the dissatisfied and the advocates of change. In the year 1589 Mariana had already prepared a manuscript to defend the order against the attacks of some of his opponents; the general, Acquaviva, was inclined to have it published, but as it was desirable not to disturb the momentary calm that had come in Spain, this "Defensorium" was never printed. Some time later Mariana, when internal dissensions prevailed in the order, was engaged in the preparation of a memorial, which it is highly probable he intended to forward to Rome. According to Astrain ("Historia de la Compañia de Jésus", III, 417), it must have been written in 1605. The author took great care of the manuscript; there are no indications it was ever intended to be published. But on his arrest in 1610 all of Mariana's papers were seized, and in spite of his request nothing was returned.After his death the memorial was published at Bordeaux by the opponents of the order in 1625 under the title "Discursus de erroribus qui in forma gubernationis Societatis occurunt". After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain it was often reprinted again (1468 [sic], 1841) in Spanish and named "Discorso de los enfermadades de la Compañia. Since the publication of all the editions was the work of opponents of the order, there is nor guarantee that the original text has been reproduced whole. Astrain, nevertheless, showed (op. cit. III, 560, note 3) that the copies of the manuscript which had passed through his hands agreed with the printed work. The original text was thus published without being essentially altered. It is but the effusion of a dissatisfied member of the order. The further development of the order and the further papal confirmation of the principle of the order show Mariana to have been wrong in his criticisms, though his subjective culpability is much lessened by the circumstances. He never left the order; and there seems to have been an entire reconciliation in his last years.


SOMMERVOGEL, Bib. de la Comp. de Jésus (Brussels and Paris, 1894), 1547 sqq.; CASSANI, Verones ilustres, V, 88-98; DUHR, Jesuitenfabeln (Freiberg, 1899), n. 25; ASTRAIN, Historia de la Compañia de Jésus, III (Madrid, 1909).

About this page

APA citation. Lehmkuhl, A. (1910). Juan Mariana. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Lehmkuhl, Augustinus. "Juan Mariana." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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