Religious Reform and Cultural Patronage in Fifteenth-Century Burgos: The Case of Mencía de Mendoza

Felipe Pereda Espeso, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid ,

In 1482 the Condestable de Castilla, Pedro Fernández de Velasco, left Burgos to lead the Catholic Monarchs' army against the Kingdom of Granada. The Condestable (d. 1492) would invest the last ten years of his life in the war, while his wife Mencía de Mendoza (1422-1500) ran the family’s household in the far-away Castilian town of Burgos. Before leaving for Andalusia, the Condestable hastily wrote a document that gave Doña Mencía remarkably full powers over the administration of their wealth. The daughter of the Marquis of Santillana, Mencía belonged to one of the most important lineages of Castile; her patronage became very active after 1482, and even moreso in the final years of her life. During those two decades, she vigorously supported the reform of the Franciscan Order in Burgos, built the most exhuberant funerary chapel of her time (the so-called Capilla de los Condestables) in Burgos Cathedral, and completely rebuilt her family’s urban palace (Casa del Cordón). The last two initiatives led to a judiciary process against her first-born son, who felt that his mother was overtaking his heritage rights; the resulting documentation offers extremely interesting information for understanding the significance of Mencia’s enterprise.

In this paper, I will analyze Doña Mencia’s patronage in Burgos, giving special attention to the female social network of her personal relationships: from her friendship with the abbess of the Monastery of Las Huelgas, her step-sister Leonor de Mendoza, to that of Beatriz Manrique, her step-mother and reformer of the Clarissan monastery of Medina de Pomar. The contemporary stories of Leonor and Beatriz, just like that of Doña Mencía, were cases in which religious reform and artistic patronage developed hand in hand.