Official Declaration of Monastic Vows
By TWO Hieronymite Monks
Double-Manuscript on Vellum
Hand-Coloured Beautifully Illustrated
With Four Original Signatures
Little-Known Burgos Monastery
Diocese of Burgos [Spain], 5 October 1761. Two manuscripts on one vellum leaf, each being an illustrated manuscript vow of monastic service to the Order of Hieronymites, after the one-year probation had been completed, each elevating the writers from novice to a full Augustine monk, both of whom are pledging service to the Diocese of Burgensis [Burgos]. To one side, the declaration is by Josephus Garcia, to the other is by Antonio Solagurem. Both declarations are beautifully illustrated and coloured in manuscript, signed in the original by the new monk, and also by two of his superiors who are named in the vow. All text is in Latin. Item measures approximately 24 x 34 cm. Slightly age-toned, otherwise in very good condition, a beautifully preserved document, of which seldom survive.
An exquisite city and castle scene, possibly depicting Burgos, drawn below the statement of service and devotion by Josephus Garcia, is framed by a circle of leaves, stars and ribbon, topped by a small cross and prominent bird.
Antonio Solagurem’s motif, to verso, is very symbolic, a round frame with 24 points, the upper-most being the cross of Jesus on a mound. Below the text is a rooster which is connected to the apostle Peter and signifies both vigilance and repentance, a hen to acknowledge the ideal and maternal and self-sacrificing love of the virgin Mary, and red tulip to symbolize God’s perfect love.
Each of the two new monks sign their declarations in the original. Both are ratified by the same superiors of the monastery, Father Antonio Jose Prior, and Father Silvester Cassanova Magziten Hovrozum [sp?].
Monastic life was a respected career choice, attracting among them, the second or third sons of the aristocracy, who were not likely to inherit their father’s lands. They were often encouraged to join the church and one of the paths to a successful career was to join a monastery and receive an education there. The attraction to it varied, and was sometimes more than piety. The fact was, that there was the chance of real power if one rose to the top; and one was guaranteed decent accommodation and above average meals for life. As most monks came from a well-off background; indeed, bringing a substantial donation on entry was expected. Recruits tended to be local, as seen in the present document, but larger monasteries were able to attract people even from abroad.
Committing to communal life and a noble purpose after having been immersed into learning and practicing the eremitic ways of life for one full year, with the present document, the writers each profess permanent vows of obedience to the Church, which were once binding for life, and thus he becomes a true monk.
He claims his entitlement to the status, by including the names of his parents, and by doing so, confirming that he is ‘of free condition and born of a legitimate marriage,’ which was a common condition of acceptance into several monastic orders in the Middle Ages and even into the Early Modern Period.
He states his “completion of probation period,” and declares his vows, which includes what is known presently as a “vow of stability.” The latter is a commitment to remain at the same monastery, never seeking for a “better” place. As such, his vow is addressed namely to his two superiors and the monastery itself. He signs the bottom of the document, which is ratified by the two signatures of the named monks, who are in some form the head of the household.
[“Novices,” the young men who joined at aged 15 or older, were never permitted to be alone, unsupervised by a monk. After one year at the monastery, a novice could take their vows and become a full monk. It was not always an irreversible career choice; although rules did begin to develop from the 13th century CE that a youth could freely leave a monastery on reaching maturity.]
Some excerpts from the vow:
“In nomino Dni. N.R.I. [Domini Nostri] Jesu Christi Benedicti Amen.”
[In the name of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.]
” Anno nativitatis eius dem millessimo septingentessimo sexagessimo Primo, die vero vigessima quinta Octobris”
[In the Year of His Birth Seventeen hundred and sixty-one, the 5th day of October]
“Josephus Garcia legitimus Bartholome de Garcia… of … Diocesius Burgensis”
[I, Josephus Garcia, legitimate son of Bartholome de Garcia… of… the Diocese of Burgos…]
“Expleto mex aprobationis tempore, solemnem, liberam, spontaneum que profesionem facio et promitto obedientiam Omnipotenti Deo Beatae Virginie Maria et Bto.Ptri.No. [Beatro Patro Nostro] Augustino…”
[Completed my period of probation, solemnly, freely, willingly, make the promise to obey the omnipotent deity Blessed Virgin Mary and our Holy Father Augustine… ]
“… Priori huius Regalis conventus Burgensis… Priori Generalis totius Ordinis Eremitarum Scti. P.[Patris] N. Augustini…”
[… This Royal Conventual priory of Burgos… Priory of the Entire Order of Hieronymites of Our Father Saint Augustine…]
The Order of Hieronymites or The Order of Saint Jerome (Latin: Ordo Sancti Hieronymi, abbreviated O.S.H.) is a Catholic cloistered religious order and a common name for several congregations of hermit monks living according to the Rule of Saint Augustine, though the inspiration and model of their lives is the 5th-century hermit and biblical scholar Saint Jerome. On 18 October 1373, Pope Gregory XI issued a papal bull recognizing them as a religious order, under the Rule of Saint Augustine.
The Hieronymite congregation was formed in Spain and Italy in the fourteenth century, by a movement and amalgamation of several groups of hermits, and the sovereign pontiffs, while granting it their approval, imposed upon it the rule of St. Augustine, though the name of St. Jerome, whom the religious had chosen as their model and patron, was retained. By the year 1415, their houses numbered twenty-five. in that year, they were united by the pope and given the status of an exempt Order, free from episcopal jurisdiction.
The Order, from its outset, enjoyed great favor from the king of Spain, and soon possessed some of the most famous monasteries in the Iberian Peninsula. So close was its relationship to the Papacy during the early phase of colonization, that between 1516 and 1518, the Island of Hispaniola was governed directly by the Hieronymite order, which had itself been a creation of King Alfonso XI of Castile
The Hieronymites also became celebrated for their generous almsgiving. Though their way of life was very austere, the Hieronymites also devoted themselves to study and to active ministry, possessing great influence at the courts both of Spain and of Portugal. The authority which they gained from so holy a manner of living allowed of their being employed efficaciously in the reformation of other religious orders. It was by their help that St. John of God was enabled to found his first hospital. They went to both Spanish and Portuguese America and played a considerable part in bringing Christianity to the peoples of the New World. The government of the island of San Domingo was at first confided to them. Many of them have been raised to the episcopal dignity.
The men’s branch of the Hieronymites of Spain was suppressed in 1835. In other regions it was earlier. At that time, there were 48 monasteries with about a thousand monks. Most of the monastery buildings fell into ruins, others were given to other religious orders, still others became breweries, barns, or holiday homes. The literary activity of this order has been confined to Spain and Portugal.
They are also referred to informally as Jeronimos, Hieronymite monks, or simply hermits or eremites.