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Jesuit Pastoral Theater on an Urban Stage: Lisbon, 1588-1593

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

In the late sixteenth century, the Society of Jesus became one of the most influential religious groups in Catholic Europe and beyond. Yet specifically how the meteoric rise of the Jesuits occurred has remained an enigma, especially in light of the entrenched complex of interests that comprised contemporary society. Based on manuscript correspondence and other under-exploited archival material, this article analyzes the actions of senior members of this religious order in the city of Lisbon in late 1580s and early 1590s in order to show how the Society gained its prestige through a host of pastoral activities directed at a variety of audiences. By avoiding a focus on colleges or missions, this study offers a new perspective on the Jesuits' attempts to win their place among ecclesiastical elites, as well as the respect of both nobles and plebeians in one of the largest and most ethnically diverse cities in Europe.


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