Ushaw College and Bartolomé Carranza

Ushaw College, Durham. The College was founded in 1808 by scholars from the English College, Douai, who had fled France upon that college's closure during the French Revolution. Ushaw was the principal Roman Catholic seminary in the north of England for the training of Catholic priests. It closed in 2011 and is now part of Durham University.
Ushaw College, Durham. The College was founded in 1808 by scholars from the English College, Douai, who had fled France upon that college’s closure during the French Revolution. Ushaw was the principal Roman Catholic seminary in the north of England for the training of Catholic priests. It closed in 2011 and is now part of Durham University.

This week I attended a conference at Ushaw College in Durham. This three-day international and interdisciplinary conference was on the theme of Early Modern Catholics in the British Isles and Europe: Integration or Separation and was organised by two academics at Durham University: Dr James Kelly and Dr Hannah Thomas. The conference’s main sponsors were the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University and by the University of Notre Dame. It really was an excellent conference – and it was a particular joy to see so many grad students discussing their work. Two of them, Georgina Moore (Bath Spa) and Liam Temple (Northumbria), have blogged about the conference:

See: http://adventuresofahistorian.co.uk/?p=262 and http://www.theosophicaltransactions.com/2015/07/3.html

This was my first visit to Ushaw, and it certainly won’t be my last. The library and archive are magnificent and, if you study English and/or Iberian history, it needs to be on your ‘must visit’ list. There is, inevitably, a heavy emphasis on the 18th and 19th centuries in its collections but there are significant holdings for the early modern period as well.

Information about their holdings can be found here:


It should be noted, however, that their holdings are not yet fully catalogued online and, as I have discovered during my first (brief) visit, there are many gems yet to be fully revealed at Ushaw. I am looking forward to making a detailed study of their Anglo-Iberian holdings in the coming months and will detail some of my findings in this blog from time to time.

One particular delight I discovered during my visit to the library this week was a copy of the first edition of Bartlomé Carranza’s Comentarios (1558).


Bartolomé Carranza (1503-76) was a Spanish Dominican, who traveled to England as part of Philip of Spain’s retinue in 1554, on the occasion of Philip’s marriage to Mary I. Until recently, Carranza’s career and, in particular, his involvement in the rooting out of heresy during the reign of Philip and Mary, had been almost entirely overlooked by all but a handful of English-language scholars. Carranza was central to plans for restoring and maintaining Catholic worship in England.

The English Synod of 1555-56 identified the need to examine closely what was happening in the parishes, and to find suitable ways in which they could re-establish uniform worship. Carranza was commissioned to investigate current English religious practices and to write an official response. His research led him to produce the ‘Comentarios sobre el catechismo christiano’.

Mary I died before the  ‘Comentarios’ was completed, and it was not published until 1558 (in Antwerp). But the work remains important for understanding how the Marian Church sought to establish and maintain Catholic worship, since Carranza’s ideas were formulated – and presumably tested – while he was in England. His commentaries reveal much about his opinions on clerical responsibility, on how the laity should be expected to behave, and on how order could – and should – be maintained in England.

Carranza’s work in England appears to have been an extension of his previous activities as an inquisitor in Valladolid. As John Edwards has noted, it was this inquisitorial experience that provided him with a ‘blueprint’ for how to deal with heretical behaviour and heretical belief in England. (See John Edwards, ‘Fray Bartolomé Carranza’s Blueprint for a Reformed Catholic Church in England’ in Thomas F. Mayer [ed.], Reforming Reformation [Ashgate, 2012], pp.141-162.)

In the same year that his Comentarios were produced, Carranza fell foul of the Inquisition, who smelled more than a whiff of heresy in his commentaries. Carranza spent years languishing in prison, bereft of aid from Philip II, and his commentaries were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (‘Index of Prohibited Books’). Eventually, Carranza would be cleared of heresy but compelled to abjure sixteen errors. After doing so, he was ordered to remove himself to the Dominican cloister of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (in Rome), where he would live in seclusion; within a week of this judgement he was dead.

The copy of Bartolomé Carranza’s Comentarios (1558) at Ushaw College

The early provenance of the copy remains obscure but a later owner’s details can be found inside. Before making its way to Ushaw, it was previously owned by Dom José Maria de Mello, Bishop of the Algarves and Inquisitor General of Portugal (1756-1818). He was famously accused of being responsible for the mental decline of Queen Maria I of Portugal. He was also notorious for wanting the entire population of France to be excommunicated. (See Simão José da Luz Soriano, História de el-rei D. João VI, Primeiro rei constitucional de Portugal e do Brazil, em que se referem os principaes actos e occorrencias do seu governo, bem como algumas particularidades da sua vida privada [Lisbon: Typographia Universal, 1866], pp.15-17.) Quite a book, with quite a provenance then. I look forward to seeing what else can be found in the Iberian holdings at Ushaw.

You may also be interested to know that José Maria de Mello also owned a copy of the so-called Carey Bible, which is now housed in the John J. Burn’s Library at Boston College. His Bible bears the same provenance slip as that in the Ushaw copy of Carranza, which is pasted in a comparable position in both books. The Carey Bible was the first Catholic Bible printed in the USA, and was printed by Mathew Carey, an Irish immigrant and former journalist. Carey had lived and worked in France for a time, before relocating to Philadelphia. In the 1780s he first began printing copies of the King James Bible, before deciding to produce an edition of the 1582 Douay-Rheims Bible for the American market. It appears that fewer than 500 copies were printed.

If you have $2,250.00 to spare, José Maria de Mello’s copy of the first edition of Philipp van Limborch’s Historia inquisitionis (Amsterdam, 1692) is currently available for purchase from the American book dealer, Eric Chaim Kline:


For José Maria de Mello’s copy of the Carey Bible in the John J. Burn’s Library see:


On the John J. Burns Library see: 


Suggested further reading

John Edwards and Ronald Truman (eds.) Reforming Catholicism in the England of Mary Tudor. The achievement of Friar Bartolomé Carranza (Ashgate, 2005)

John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (Yale University Press, 2011), chapters 9 and 10

____, ‘Experiencing the Mass anew in Mary I’s England: Bartolomé Carranza’s ‘Little treatise in Reformation and Renaissance Review 9:3 (2007), pp.265-276

____, ‘Bartolomé Carranza de Miranda’s “Little treatise on how to attend Mass” (1555): a translation’, Reformation and Renaissance Review 11:1 (2009), pp. 91-120

____, ‘Fray Bartolomé Carranza’s Blueprint for a Reformed Catholic Church in England’ in Thomas F. Mayer (ed.), Reforming Reformation (Ashgate, 2012), pp.141-162

Elizabeth Evenden, ‘Spanish Involvement in the Restoration of Catholicism during the reign of Philip and Mary’ in Elizabeth Evenden and Vivienne Westbrook (eds.), Catholic Renewal and Protestant Resistance in Marian England (Ashgate, forthcoming in 2015)

José Tellechea Idígoras Tellechea (ed.), Bartolomé Carranza, Comentarios sobre el catechismo christiano, 2 vols (Madrid: Editorial Católica, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1972)

____ (ed.), Fray Bartolomé Carranza. Documentos históricos, 7 vols (Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1962-94)

A Portuguese blog on ‘As Invasões Francesas’ (‘The French Invasions’), detailing Dom José Maria de Mello’s role during the Peninsular War (which cites the text by Simão José da Luz Soriano mentioned above):


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s