Liturgy, Devotion, and Religious Reform in Eighteenth-Century Mexico City

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Using pious directives recorded in a sample of almost 1,000 last wills and testaments written over the eighteenth-century in Mexico City, this article addresses the relatively understudied topic of lay, Spanish, urban religious practice. It contends that lay Spaniards participated in a largely performative religious culture highly influenced by the Catholic liturgy. The rites and rituals of the universal Church established the basic language of devotions, even informing many of those performed outside the confines of liturgical celebrations. This article also adds to the growing scholarship on religious reform in Bourbon Mexico. During the second half of the eighteenth century a group of reform-minded members of the clergy and laity attempted to eliminate what they considered "excesses" and "superstitions" from colonial Mexican piety – what later generations would call Baroque Catholicism. Among other practices, targets of reform included ornate adornment of sacred space, lavish liturgical ritual, exuberant and oftentimes raucous feast day celebrations, ostentatious funerary rites, excessive devotion to images and relics, and in general, the easy commingling of the sacred and profane common in Baroque Catholicism.