Fastiginia, or A Wondrous Account by Tomé Pinheiro da Veiga

Translation by Rui Carvalho Homem
Notes by Berta Cano-Echevarría

Fastiginia Or,
A Wondrous Account
Retrieved from Merlin’s Tomb,
Complete with the Quest for the Holy Grail,
By the Lord Archbishop Turpin. Discovered, and brought to light, by the famed Lusitanian
The Friar Pantaleon of Aveiro,
Who found it in a Monastery of Caloyers,
With its Itinerary.
Sub signo cornucopiae Cornuariae
in foro Boario.
Excudebat Cornelius Corneles,
ex genere Corneliorum,
at the expense of Jaume de temps perdut,
purchaser of books of chivalry

Guevara’s Proemium

Since in the pragmatics of courtesies and those veiled devices that bear the name of Letters the Author forgot to prohibit books from having proemia, I have been forced, like all other sinners, to roam the ways of God’s faithful and seek a friend, lettered enough in the sayings of the Seven Sages of Greece and the arts of Damsel Theodora, who could craft a proemium that I might put under my name, and compose a sonnet of mine to put it under another’s name, as everybody currently does. And with such a plot do I now bring to light my adoptive proemium, that you shall herewith behold.

My friends, the he-reader and the she-reader:

Angelo Poliziano, famous grammarian from the times of our forebears, responding to a friend who was aggrieved that he had not written to him for lack of a subject, replied in the following fashion, verbatim: Questus es quod non scripserim; jam scribo. Vale. Which, when reduced to a sound vernacular, becomes: ‘You have complained that I have not written; now I have. The Lord keep you etc’. I had nothing to write a proemium about, but, since there is no pageant without a commendation, no banquet without an appetizer, no post without a postillion, no Castilian without a Don, and no book without a proemium, I will be in conformity with Poliziano; and, since it is customary to make the proemium into a letter, I will make this letter my proemium: Plaudite, seu explodite; in utrumque paratus.

And here I am, made all sly and elated by my proemium. Rascals aplenty have claimed that it looks abortive or untimely; to shut their mouths I have slid into my doublet and hose, and, rummaging through the archives of my memories, have I reformed it even as I wrote it, adding it as a codicil to my preliminaries – and the said proemium has come to light as follows.

My leisured Sir and easeful Madam,

How much the better you might be, Sir, if you were to take up your book or rosary, or your spindle or distaff, Madam, than to spend so much time reading such trifles and inanities from another rambler, as idle as yourselves; and if you were to realize, dear reader, how little you owe to me. And this because, firstly, I am not such a republican as the Codruses and Decii and other such simpletons who, in order that one might say of them that they died for their fatherland, allowed themselves to be buried alive; nor am I so keen on vainglory or such a scrutinizer of the secrets of Nature that, to foster a memory like that left by Empedocles, or to discover the nature of Vesuvius, I should let its blaze destroy me, like Pliny; since, on my part, neither will I exchange present tranquillity for a hope in what may come, nor will I engage in a certain travail for the sake of doubtful thanks. All the more so since mighty little will come from inquiring into whether the straps that fastened the breeches of the count of Puñonrostro, fifth grandson to the Gran Capitán, were the colour of straw or nacarat – for such is the sum total of this sermon. Alas, I confess that I am not so generous that, in order to provide a theme for your variations, I will start composing epitaphs with which you may inscribe my tomb. All the steps I have taken aimed at my entertainment and the welfare of the body God has given me, without ever pondering whether you were dead or alive. Should the result please you, God be praised for it; should it not, we shall remain friends. In one thing you will grant me a favour: do not now begin to play the Censorinus; if you are pleased, let us all be pleased; but, if you go for mockery – what if I had not had my merriment beforehand?

You owe me nothing; and nothing will I demand of you: neither have I sought those pastimes for the love of you, nor will I expect you to go to any trouble for love of myself. For my enjoyment have I seen them, for my amusement have I related them. Neither excuse my faults, nor unduly commend my labour: we are not such close friends that I would have burned the midnight oil in order to make you show your gums.

I can see you argue that it is unseemly for a man to be so enamoured of his own judgement; I will account for that to God and my confessor, dear reader – for what do I care whether you think ill or well of me? And yet, as a safeguard against knaves, I will have this to say:

It was my intent that, when my grandchildren, sitting out in the sun, were to read these memoirs they might say: ‘in the days when Prince Philip Dominic was born was our grandfather, who now lies in cold earth, watching such festivities at court without a farthing in his purse; in those God-appointed times he, a man of worth, experienced much hunger, and countered the rumbles of his stomach by composing sonnets and chronologies in this fashion.

And they shall not remember the pushing and shoving I had to endure during the recital, nor the new woollen cloak of sixty-nine threads (that I will ever remember) that I saw torn to rags on the day of the christening, when I left more than half of it at the door, like Saint Martin, as if to provide a livery for others. And how pleased would I have been to see them take all of these things for gospel truth, not minding that two thirds of it are fine lies.

When readers show a critical disposition, chroniclers often ask them to amend their faults; I will advise you to amend nothing, since I am punctilious in my final polish, and all will look courtly and very well written. Should you say it is not, I will say it is; and before two such testimonies more faith will be placed in a royal chronicler, like myself, than in an impertinent curious censor of idleness and lies, such as yourself.

I will not exert myself over the likes of Momus, Zoilus, or Xenophanes, and other weevils in other men’s cornfields; if you enjoy them, my friends, say what you will, and I will declare that you lie and are brazen idle-headed knaves; and, being given the lie, you will remain suspected; and if you count yourselves aggrieved, then come and meet me on the Magdalen Green, if my wrath be not appeased, or wait for me by the Lime Kiln, like the bugbear.

Satis de quaerere. Vale et iterum vale.


Tomé Pinheiro da Veiga

On the Solemnities that occurred during Holy Week, 1605

Since the Castilians this year (on account of the birth of their Prince on Good Friday) have brought forward their flowery Easter, confounding Holy Week and Christmas, I shall offer an account of some of the particularities I have noted in the management and ceremony proper to the services this week, that differ from church custom in Portugal.
When they reserve the Blessed Sacrament they do not leave it in a monstrance, for all to see, but rather enclose it in little coffers that they keep for this purpose, in the presence of a secretary or clerk, with witnesses summoned for the occasion; and, upon locking the coffer, they hand the key to a gentleman of prominence in the parish, who will stamp it with his signet; and the clerk will put it on record, upon his faith; and in like fashion will they proceed when they expose it again, in all respects alluding to the procedure of the soldiers of Pontius Pilate in the sepulchre of Christ Our Lord, as we read in the Gospels – Signantes lapidem monumenti – and is thoroughly proven by Baronio in his Annals from the year 34. I attended the reservation at El Carmen, where they handed the key to the ambassador of France, thus appointing the thief as guardian – even though he appeared to be a most Christian gentleman.
All the churches apparel themselves in brocade, double cloth and embroidered damask, even the humblest of hillside shrines seemed to me a thing of great majesty, and one sees in this the wealth and greatness of Spain; since the churches are so many, as I am still to describe, and they rise in the pride of their bodies, and for that no gentleman has to discompose his own houses, since there is so much abundance of them. In all the rest there is little order and spectacle, and even less wonder; while the tombs in Lisbon and other parts are in all respects of greater note for the invention, wonder and devotion that went into their making.
Ordinarily they go around the churches by day, since, as even the most cloistered of maidens have the whole days to themselves, they have no wish to brave the evening dew; and as the devout have little devotion, and those who are not have no need to avail themselves of these occasions to come out of their homes (their door being always open), they withdraw early. And so, when night falls, I have found most churches left only to the sexton, and on the streets only a few mad gentlemen are to be found, who go around disciplining themselves, with twelve or fourteen black torches burning ahead of them, and they in their white shoes and shirts of brown Holland, and their devices and pointed hoods, as even tonight I have glimpsed the count of Saldaña, younger son to the duke of Lerma; and further on we encountered a team of Genoese with ten black torches, and those were the masters, while those who were flogging themselves were two servants of theirs, who would surely deserve it for being such good thieves as their masters, if one is to credit the curse laid in mirth by him who stated, in one of the pragmatics he wrote on good governance at court:
“We order and command that whomsoever be found at night with rope, crowbar or Genoese, as instruments of harm to the coin and currency of Spain, shall be flogged, as gravely suspected by the royal powers of Castile, etc.”
And with much reason, since Flanders in war and Genoa in peace have been destroying Castile. As claimed by the lampooner, arms and letters used to enrich and ennoble kingdoms; while the arms of Flanders and the letters of credit from Genoa had ruined the monarchy of Spain. And all this considering that the millions that come to His Majesty from the Indies every year, with a revenue from his kingdoms of some thirty-four millions (that in most cases cannot be matched by the Grand Turk), they say that he could have paved half the roads of Castile in silver, were it not for these two hellmouths.
But let us turn again from cursing to praying, and say that their Maundy processions are many and in much finer order than ours, so much so that the meanest of them is more remarkable than the best one could hope for in Lisbon during Holy Week.
The first sets off from Trinity: at the front, a standard in black damask with two tassels, borne by two brethren in black; these standards, instead of featuring the little oranges that commonly top our flagpoles, are topped rather by the badges of the confraternities, gilded, with great perfection. This one showed Our Lady by the cross, covered with a black transparent veil; heralded by two distempered trumpets, the players with their faces covered, in mourning, moving viewers to much compassion and sadness; right after, a confrère carrying a cross made of thin wood, all gilded, its inside hollow – which makes such crosses easy to carry – flanked by two torches. There followed four hundred penitents in two rows, in procession, two hundred on each side, in full order, each in his appointed position; after them, four hundred confrères, their robes made of black tarlatan, each of their torches with four wicks, again in due order, and, in their middle, the first pageant; because, instead of our painted banners, they carry sizeable, well-proportioned pageants, the most beautiful one can imagine. Indeed, these in Valladolid are the best in all Castile, in the proportions of the bodies, the handsome features of the faces, in their apparel, all made of the same paste of cardboard and linen; and, when they include a robe, cloak or cap, it is all in brocade or canvas, of fine appearance. This pageant featured the Prayer in the Garden of Olives, with the disciples and the Angel.
There followed another four hundred penitents in the same manner, and some of them with a thorny point (that they call abrojo) cutting into their back. And I can say that I have seen some with more than a pound, or a pound and a half, of curdled blood, which seemed too much cruelty, and I found it a scandal that such excess should be permitted.
After them came one hundred and fifty brethren, carrying torches, and, in their middle, another pageant, that of the Prison. In the latter part of the procession there were six hundred penitents and three hundred brethren, with torches and in black robes, and the station was that of Our Lady by the Cross, with Christ our Lord in her arms, together with the other Marys; behind it all, a Corregidor, or magistrate from the royal court, to ensure that no disorder occurred. In sum, the procession included one thousand and four hundred penitents and six hundred and fifty brethren, since no outsider is allowed to take part. This is the smaller of the processions; it goes from Trinity to the Palace, and returns along the Platería and the Plaza.
Once this is done, another procession leaves from Saint Francis’s to the Palace, along Platería and Cantarranas. This one was nearly twice the other, counting two thousand penitents and over a thousand brethren, robes and torches, all in identical manner and procedure, and the pageants many and mighty handsome. They are set up on tables, or little tabernacles, some as big as ordinary houses, also carried by the brethren; and, as the figures are made of cardboard and linen, they are very light; but I can confirm that I have never seen more perfect images, not even in the most renowned altars in Portugal.
The first pageant was that of the Supper, most exquisite in everything. The second, that of the Arrest in the Garden of Olives, with an Angel on a tree, plenty to be seen, including soldiers, and how Malchus’s ear was cut off. The third, the pageant of Saint Veronica. The fourth, how He was crucified. The fifth, Longinus with his spear, on horseback, piercing His side. The sixth, the Descent from the Cross, natural in appearance like no other, with the gravity and melancholy of the Holy Elders. The seventh, Christ Our Lord in the arms of the Virgin, and with this the procession ended; which, despite its fast pace, lasted more than three hours, when watched from where we stood.
On Friday morning another one will leave from La Merced, with many other pageants. I saw this one go past the Palace, with His Majesty the King behind the window panes, accompanied by the Infanta; it featured some thousand penitents and six hundred torches. They say the queen was there, though I did not see her.
The same morning another one sets off from Saint Augustine’s, featuring only black crosses carried by members of that confraternity each of whom gives two reales in alms to repair the crosses; and it’s a total of seven hundred brethren in black robes, carrying as many crosses and standards.
The afternoon sees the main procession set off, the one they call de la Soledad, the most famous of all. It left from Saint Paul’s, which is also a Dominican monastery, opposite the palace; it had the same organisation and harmony as the others and lasted more than three hours and a half, ending when it was already getting dark; but it carried more standards and torches, and it is a confraternity of people of greater gravity. What is most to be praised is the order and propriety of it all, since from the moment it sets off until the moment it returns no one changes place, no persons step in or out, since, as have said, no one takes part besides the penitents and torch brethren, and the justices, who keep everything in good order.
The reason why there are so many penitents, and no absences, is that they are all brethren and confrères with that obligation. Some are known as Hermanos de luz (light brethren), because they have a duty to carry a light, a four-wick torch; others as Hermanos de sangre (blood brethren), because they have a duty to discipline, or rather flog themselves, and, when they cannot, they provide a servant or friend or person hired to do so, and there is no scarcity of such Simons of Cyrene for eight reales or less who, were it not for their devotion, would sell their souls (let alone their blood), and with such provision there will never be a lack of brethren. Ledesma alludes to this custom and commitment in a verse in which, when Simeon utters his prophecy of the Child Jesus’s future ordeal, he closes with the lines:

Con ser hermano de luz,
lo seréis de disciplina
By being a brother of light,

you will be one of discipline

I was in the King’s chapel that same Friday for the service of the Cross, when His Majesty appeared at the curtain and the Queen was on the balcony, but covered. The service was led by the Master Chaplain, in conformity with Roman ceremony. I found much to admire and praise in the custom they have for pardons, and indeed, when the King was on his knees to kiss the cross, a steward arrived with three bundles of ribboned papers and, kneeling as well, said: “Vuestra Majestad es servido perdonar, por razón del santo tiempo en que está, a estas personas, a que en su Consejo ha parecido?” [On account of this holy season, will Your Majesty care to pardon these persons, as sanctioned by your Council?] The King said yes and then kissed the cross, and after him the grandees who were present – and these were: the duke of Infantado, the duke of Sessa, the King’s Constable, the marquess of Pescara; who were merely seated on a bench on the same side of the curtain as His Majesty, and have no set precedence, other than the rule that whoever arrives first will take the top end of the bench and the others after him, in their order of arrival.
After the grandees, the cross was kissed by the King’s Chief Steward, who is the marquess of Velada, and by the Queen’s, the duke of Sessa; and then by the King’s lesser stewards – the count of Nieva, the count of Barajas, the count of Medellín, the count of Cuba, in Portugal; and by the Queen’s – Rui Mendes de Vasconcelos, the count de los Arcos, and I trust also Don Henrique de Guzmán, de la llave dorada; the remaining lords would not go up and kiss, on account of their pretensions and sense of precedence; though when it comes to grandees all else is put on hold, because at every stage they claim preferment and will not suffer company; and, since I have mentioned them, I will name those to be found in Castile. Firstly, all dukes from Spain, since those from Italy and other provinces will not be grandees without some special favour.

Among the marquesses, the grandees are:
The marquess of Sarria.
The marquess of the Vélez.
The marquess of Villena.
The marquess of Mondéjar.
The marquess of Denia.
The marquess of Astorga.
The marquess of Malagón.
The marquess of Pescara.
The marquess of the Vasto.
The marquess of Castel Rodrigo.
Edward, marquess of Flechillas.

The count of Lemos, marquess of Sarria.
The count of Miranda.
The count of Benavente.
The count of Oropesa.
The count of Fuentes.
The count of Alba de Liste.

Our counts and marquesses claim that they are grandees, because they covered their heads when in front of kings, but they are not admitted to the presence; so much so that they would now have the count of Monsanto made marquess of Alenquer, and promptly inscribed in the charter that he would not have the privilege of a grandee; and, as he argued by citing the case of Don Cristóvão de Moura, who covered himself and sat when in front of the king, they replied that he might have a special charter, and yet, were he to return here, should not cover himself. This was reported to me by a person of credit; I tell it as I heard it.
The sermons this week are countless, under various titles: Descendimiento de la Cruz [The Descent from the Cross], Soledad de la Virgen [The Solitude of Our Lady], Entierro [The Burial], El buen Ladrón [The Good Thief], Lágrimas de las Marías ye de la Magdalena [The Tears of the two Maries and Magdalen], and many others.
On Monday, there is always a sermon in the Church of the Magdalen for the public women (I wish it were for the whole Court), to which on this occasion eleven were brought on a judicial order; when we arrived, at eight o’clock, it was impossible to go into the church; but none of the women were converted, they rather tend to frown and grimace, and misbehave, giving scandal rather than earning a benefit. Whenever one of them is converted, the ladies present will take her in to get her married, or find her a livelihood, although we would say that the ladies employ such women as their ushers.
On such occasions there occur very solemn farces, and I have been told that, a few years back, an old Franciscan was preaching, holding a cross and a skull, and noting that a girl was showing tender feelings but a ruffian was twisting his whiskers and threatening her, he cried out: “Puto ladrón, quítate delante; dejadme dar con el infame en el infierno, qui ponit obicem Spiritui Sancto” [Damned thief, out of my sight; let me send to hell this rascal, who is hindering the Holy Ghost]. And he threw the skull and cross at the man’s head, and with this jest brought the sermon to an end.
One other preacher, seeing an old woman who was pulling another one by her cloak, got into such a rage that he removed his beret and threw it at her, shouting: “Puta vieja, raída, quítate delante, sino juro a Diós, cara de mona, que te tire el pellejo” [You foul old whore, out of my sight, or I swear to God, you monkey face, that I’ll rip your skin off]. And this with such thrust that he caused the pulpit to tumble, and then he pulled at her hair so hard that he may still be at it as I write.
And no wonder, since in sooth they are very discomposed on the pulpit and preach like comedians; and, if one ponders the manner of preaching, the discourse, order and division of the sermons, as also the matters they choose to address, one sees that they rather annotate the Gospels than preach a sermon in the right form and by discoursing, in the manner that is currently established. And undoubtedly good Portuguese preachers have such an acknowledged advantage over the best of Castilian preachers that they bear no comparison, especially in their gravity and modesty, in the composure of their actions and much more in their diction; since here they are loose like charlatans in their words, and much more so in their reasoning. And likewise in saying mass and ministering the sacraments; and I thus remember that, when I went to mass at the Cathedral on Ash Wednesday this year, with the church full of people, a canon came out to say mass at the altar to the right of the crossing and, his missal stand not being there, he took the hat of a pageboy, propped the missal up against it, and said mass, the hat serving him for a stand all the while. And on the 9th July I watched a clergyman saying mass at the Church of El Carmen who was lame and had a beard and whiskers like a cart driver, and could not say half of it because his eyesight appeared to be weak; and when he raised the Host it was upside down, or with its image skewed, without his noticing it. He said mass in an instant; but, when it got to the closing prayers, as he had not marked the pages he took a long time to find them; and, this being noted by a Castilian knight close by, who was of a mordant temper, he edged close to me and said: “Juro a Dios que es lástima que echó a perder la mejor misa que he oído en días de mi vida, según era de abreviada” [I swear to God what a pity it is that he has now spoilt utterly the best mass I had heard in my life, by virtue of its shortness].
Of further particularities they have in ecclesiastical matters I will deal at the end; for now, content yourselves with a relation of the monasteries, parishes and hospitals that Valladolid contains, of which many I will have overlooked:

Monasteries of friars, starting from the Puerta del Campo

1. Agustinos Recoletos.
2. El Carmen.
3. La Trinidad.
4. San Francisco.
5. San Benito el Real.
6. San Agustin.
7. El Colegio de San Agustin.
8. San Pablo (Dominicans).
9 San Gregorio, His College.
10. San Jose, Descalzos de San Diego.
11 La Victoria, of San Francisco de Paula.
12. Los Martire (of the Basilians).
13. San Jeronimo.
14. La Merced.
15. Los Teatinos (professed house).
16. El Colegio.
17. Los Clerigos Menores.
18. Los Ingleses.
19. Carmelitas Descalzos.
20. La Hospedaria (of the Bernardines).

Monasteries of nuns

1. Corpus Christi (Dominicans).
2. Jesús María, de la Anunciación (Franciscans)
3. Sancti Spiritus (Augustinians).
4. El Sacramento (Augustinians).
5. Las Huelgas (Bernardines).
6. Belén (Bernardines).
7. San Quirce (Bernardines).
8. Santa Isabel (Franciscan Widows).
9. Santa Catalina (Dominicans).
10. San Damian, la Aprobacion.
11. Porta Coeli, de la Concepción (Franciscans).
12. La Penitencia (Dominicans).
13. El Colegio de Daza (Damsels).
14. Santa Cruz, Comendadoras de Santiago.
15. Las Descalzas (Franciscans), at the Chancilleria.
16. Santa Clara.
17. La Concepción (Franciscans).
18. Las Carmelitas, Descalzas, by the bridge.
19. La Madre de Dios (Franciscans).

Hospitals, Colleges and Congregations

1. S. Juan de Letrán (of old farmers).
2. Hospital de la Resurrección.
3. Hospital de los Desamparados.
4. Hospital de Corte.
5. Hospital de Esgueva.
6. Los niños de la doctrina.
7. Los niños desechados.
8. Hospital de San Antón (of the invalid).
9. Hospital de San Lázaro (of the incurable).
10. Hospital de San Bartolomé (caloyers).
11. Hospital de San Damián.
12. Hospital de los Orates.
13. Hospital de las Angustias.
14. Hospital de la Trinidad, by San Martin.
15. Hospital de la Trinidad.
16. Hospital de la Cárcel de Corte.
17. Colegio del Cardenal.
18. Colegio de la Iglesia Mayor.

19. University and its confraternity.
20. Hospital de D. Pedro Miago.
21. Hospital de Portugueses, by la Cruz.


1. La Iglesia Mayor.
2. La Antigua.
3. Nuestra Señora de San Llorente.
4. Santiago.
5. San Salvador.
6. El Sacramento.
7. San Andrés.
8. San Esteban.
9. San Juan.
10. San Pedro.
11. La Magdalena.
12. San Benito el Viejo.
13. San Nicolás.
14. San Julián.
15. San Martín.
16. San Miguel.

Chapels and hermitages, with plenty of masses and clergymen

1. La capilla del Rey.
2. Santa Cruz, by the Plateria.
3. Nuestra Señora del Valle.
4. El Humilladero, by the Puerta del Campo.
5. San Sebastian, by the bridge.
6. El Humilladero, leaving town.
7. San Mames, by Prado.
8. La Quinta Angustia.