San Nicolás de Pátzcuaro (Michoacán), founded by Vasco de Quiroga in 1540, was the first seminary in the New World for the training of diocesan clergy, although the religious orders, especially the Franciscans, had already established houses of study to educate their own candidates for the priesthood. A royal decree of May 3, 1541, placed the seminary under the patronage of the Spanish king; hence its official title, Real Colegio.
With the removal of the diocesan see of Michoacán from Pátzcuaro to Guayangareo (later called Valladolid, and now Morelia), it was logical to transfer San Nicolás to the new ecclesiastical center. The seminary was fused with that of San Miguel (founded in Guayangareo during 1549), but it retained the name of the pioneer school.
In both Pátzcuaro and Valladolid, San Nicolás educated not only candidates for the priesthood but also non-clerical students (Spaniards, criollos, mestizos, and Indians). Thus it was an important complement to the small elementary schools conducted in the two “hospitals” established by Quiroga. The effective educational work of San Nicolás did not cease until the wars for the independence of Mexico made its continuance impossible.
The present monograph, written as a doctoral dissertation at the Roman Gregorian University, takes up much more than the title indicates, but also very much less. We learn somewhat more than was previously known about the personal life of Quiroga, oidor of Mexico and first bishop of Michoacán, as also about his parents and close relatives. The author makes out a good ease for 1488 as the year of Quiroga’s birth rather than the traditional 1470. The pre-Tridentine Spanish seminaries are given considerable attention as possible models which might have inspired San Nicolás. The author also effectively explains the status of the Mexican clergy prior to the founding of the seminary, thus underscoring the need for such a center to raise the level of clerical training.
Nevertheless, the volume is not a complete history of the seminary, as one might expect from the title. After relating in detail the establishment of San Nicolás and its transference to Valladolid, the author devotes only a few paragraphs to its subsequent history, with emphasis on the part played by the Jesuits.
He draws upon the standard printed sources, especially those of Julián Bonavit, Mariano Cuevas, Joaquín García Icazbalceta, Nicolás León, Juan J. Moreno, Fintan Warren, and Francisco Alegre. The last is cited from the incomplete and utterly unreliable first edition instead of the recent critical and annotated edition. Manuscript sources are limited mainly to the Archivo de Indias and the Real Academia; obviously missing are the more important Archivo General of Mexico City and the abundant documentation in Morelia and elsewhere in Mexico. It is hoped that the author in publishing a new edition will find time to incorporate some of the considerable documentation from Mexican sources, correct the numerous mistakes of spelling and accentuation, normalize the bizarre system of pagination, and add a much-needed detailed index.
The volume appeared in a limited multigraphed edition of 350 copies of which all but 100 are available only to purchasers of the entire Colección Sondeo.