Lucrecia de León: An Innocent Condemned by the Inquisition
This is the story of a woman who dreamed of things that came true. As humans, we’ve been captivated by prophetic dreams since ancient times. However, in the time of Lucrecia de León, this gift was related to magical practices, spells, and conjurations.
These types of people, although highly despised, also aroused the interest of kings, governments, politicians, and power institutions of all kinds. Indeed, magicians, alchemists, and even card readers have always been part of any royal court worth its salt.
The story of Lucrecia de León reflects three realities: her magical world of prophetic dreams, the way in which she was politically manipulated, and the tragic end that awaited her.
A special girl
Lucrecia de León was born in Madrid, in 1567, into a family of plebeian origin. Her education was based on religion and preparation for marriage. Nevertheless, thanks to her father’s work as a court lawyer, Lucrecia learned to read and write.
From childhood, Lucrecia de León had prophetic dreams. They aroused the curiosity of those close to the king. However, her dreams frightened her father to the point that he ended up abandoning her.
Dreams as divine messages
In Spain, at this time, the agreement reached on dreams by the Lateran Council had great influence. In fact, they concluded that prophetic dreams were messages that God sent through enlightened people.
For this reason, the Church was extremely interested in investigating these types of people and the interpretation of their dreams. They were generally used as a reinforcement of support for the monarch. Felipe II was known for many things, but his taste for the occult, magic, relics, rituals, and prophecies, was probably his darkest side.
King Philip II
The court of Philip II was, at the time a hive of intrigue and tension. The king had imprisoned his personal secretary and ordered other important members of his retinue to be poisoned and imprisoned as well. Corruption scandals were constantly made public and the Castilian people were forced to endure the wars and the delusions of grandeur of their king. Conspiratorial factions appeared everywhere.
Some extremely influential characters were related to certain of the events that took place in Lucrecia’s life. One was Miguel Piedrola, a descendant of the last kings of Navarre and a former foot soldier. He formed an important group of conspirators against the King.
The other was Alonso de Mendoza, brother of the Viceroy of Mexico. Mendoza was a cleric attached to the cathedral of Toledo. He aspired to be a bishop and belonged to the group of conspirators of Piedrola.
Mendoza was also obsessed with the world of prophetic dreams and spent huge amounts of money on his research. Both men were really impressed by Lucrecia’s dreams and decided to start taking a daily record of them and their own political interpretations.
Lucrecia predicted in great detail an imminent invasion of Spain by the French, English, Turks, and Moors, which would put an end to the king, his kingdom, and the Habsburg dynasty forever. Furthermore, she predicted that the only ones who would survive the invasion would be those who took refuge within the walls of Toledo or in the caves of Ocaña. She also predicted the defeat of Felipe’s Spanish Armada by the English.
It’s said that Piedrola built some caves in the vicinity of the Tagus River that would serve as a kind of bunker during the invasion. When the Spanish Armada was defeated, Mendoza himself ordered the expansion of the caves.
The Inquisition against Lucrecia de León
At this moment, the king ordered the Inquisition to open a process against Lucrecia and the other conspirators. As a consequence, the dream records were confiscated. During the interrogations, Lucrecia maintained that she wasn’t the one who’d been interpreting her dreams and denied that they had political content. In fact, she even maintained her story under torture. Despite this, she was convicted of making a pact with the devil and, from that moment on, she was doomed.
Lucrecia was a woman endowed with a special gift, known and respected in ancient times, although relegated to mythology. A kind of gift that men of that time both feared and longed for. However, when her special ability ceased to serve the machine of power, she was no longer known as an oracle and was labeled a witch.
Thus, once again, history tells a dark tale. The Inquisition was one of the institutions that took most lives and always did so under the guise of the protection of power. Lucrecia de León understood the protection of power and, later, the rejection for no longer being ‘useful’. Nonetheless, she remained faithful to her gift and her truth, even though it cost her her life.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Bulkeley, Kelly (2018). Lucrecia the Dreamer. Prophecy, Cognitive Science, and the Spanish Inquisition. Stanford University Press. ISBN: 9781503603868
- Budner, Sonia (2018). History Knitters. Collection in miniature of Great Women. Chapter 7. Independently published, ISBN: 978-1980572725
- Fernández Luzón, Antonio (2000) Profecía y transgresión social. El caso de Lucrecia de León. Historia Social. Fundación Instituto de Historia Social No. 38 (2000), pp. 3-15
- Israel, Jonathan. (2018). King Philip II of Spain as a symbol of ‘Tyranny’ in Spinoza’s Political Writings. Co-herencia. 15. 137-154. 10.17230/co-herencia.15.28.6.