Milan: 1616

Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts in the Archives and Collections of Milan 1385-1618. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1912.

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'Milan: 1616', in Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts in the Archives and Collections of Milan 1385-1618, (London, 1912) pp. 653-659. British History Online [accessed 18 April 2024]


Jan. 20.
G. 222 Inf.
fol. 187.
1050. Relation of the English Mission in the States of Flanders.
I have here, among other things, three houses and very numerous households, under my care, without remaining free of that of Spain. The first is a College of English religious of the Company of Jesus, at Louvain, where they teach scholastic theology and the scriptures to a good number of students, who after completing their studies and the usual probation are straightway called to the trials and persecutions of England. They also employ other learned men to confute the pernicious inventions and books which the heretics issue every day, and might do much harm to souls if not so confuted. These Catholic books penetrate where the priests and religious cannot enter and serve as precursors to undeceive many. This happens every day in the conversion of the leaders and chief preachers of the sects, and at present in both the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in some of the most clever and learned of our opponents, who have to resign their positions and find a livelihood among the Catholics.
The College at Louvain has some property from the liberality of an English gentleman who gave 40,000 ducats, invested for their use, although it does not suffice the masters, pupils and attendants. They live in a hired house with bare necessities, and that is the reason why I am trying to remedy matters if possible.
The second establishment is a noviciate or house of probation, which it was necessary to found for those of the same nation whom God calls to the religious life, and before they are admitted to the studies in the other College they must lay the foundations of mortification and virtue necessary for the life to come. They are trained as soldiers of the vanguard for in a little while they must offer their lives in defence of the faith and the service of the Catholic church.
Doña Luysa de Carvajal founded this house, giving all she had, so they have an income of 6,000 reals, which suffices for their needs after paying the expenses of their suits, the composition with their brother, the endowment of some handmaids called nuns and other dues which I had to pay when in England, so that they can never touch a penny of the property before they have satisfied these demands. I recently told some one who offered himself that I would rather go begging for God from door to door than use a single real of what he had given and that he was more bound to God than if he had sought to use his property.
For the alms and for the same effect the present Bishop of St. Omer, James Blasco, a Franciscan and one of the most grave bishops of the States, put the abbey of Vaten at their disposition. From this the novices draw another 8,000 reals a year and it is worth double, as they can live there, the bishop arranging it so. The King of England has a warlike and troublesome ambassador there, who since then. they say, has stirred up rebellion in France. He made so much fuss about the matter that they thought it best not to live at Vaten, where they have a very large house and church, and for the same reason they proceeded to Liége, an imperial city under the Elector of Cologne.
The building which holds them at Liége cannot be avoided. It will cost more than 8,000 ducats, without which, by our fault, half the cost will fall upon the novices and they will have to renounce taking others for the same reason. Such is the condition of these two establishments.
The third is the seminary of St. Omer where I am now, which is the nursery where we train in the first years those who are afterwards sent to the seminaries of Rome and Spain. The piety of King Philip II. founded this seminary in 1593, when Queen Elizabeth forbad the Catholics to let their sons leave England to be instructed in evil doctrine. It was one of the most pious works of that king and has brought forth the most plenteous fruit for the service of God. As the house is only one day from England it is the principal refuge from so large and so persecuted a realm, and it is impossible to avoid a heavier burden than its capacities allow. First to receive those sent thence from time to time under circumstances which do not allow the door to be shut against them without inhumanity, it has been necessary to enlarge the building. In addition there are the church and schools, built under the same necessity, involving more than 20,000 ducats of debt and 70 persons more than they can support, so that since the robberies committed by the ministers of King James upon the property of the Catholics and the recent proclamation which has cut off some of the supplies they used to receive from that kingdom, they are forced to make shift with the small income they have for their ordinary sustenance, a thing which cannot endure.
To these necessities are added other inavoidable ones, such as relief for the priests and Catholics who are banished or otherwise persecuted and to those on their way from Rome and Spain to their missions in England, to give them refreshment and provide for their landing in safety. In addition, there are the costs of printing, which are much greater but equally necessary for printing Catholic books for the purposes aforesaid. The seminary assists in all this and is bound to, as well as in other extraordinary matters, as due to Christian charity the dignity of the persons and the cause itself.
Blessed be the Divine liberality which provides so abundantly for all His creatures; and it is an act of faith to give of one's superfluity in order not to offend Him and leave the rest to die for His service when need arises.
I do not ask any one to serve the Lord in such matters with their property except they do it of their free will. Saint Chrysostome used to say that he did not ask alms for the pious works in his charge except from those who realised that they had received more than they gave. In the same manner, I do not appeal for these necessities except from those who have received from God, and who will receive in return a hundredfold in eternity. There necessities are suffered for such just, necessary and public causes, and under such circumstances, that even if they were thrown into a den of lions in the conflict in which they are embarked, I believe the Lord would send some Habbakuk to tell them to eat. In this faith we live not hesitating to describe our necessities to those whom we may reasonably expect to be most compassionate and disposed to help. We pray God to assist us, and if we hear we shall know he has moved you, if not we shall know He has reserved it for other good works, as the world is governed by His providence and without Him not a leaf falls to the ground. Glory be to His Holy name for ever and ever, Amen.
St. Omer, the 20th January. 1616.
Feb. 3.
G. 222 Inf.
fol. 182.
1051. Copy of Letter of the Bishop of St. Omer to the King of Spain.
Father Cresuelo, a Jesuit who has come to this city, has given us such good news of your Majesty and your Highnesses as to greatly rejoice your loyal subjects. The father told me that your Majesty would be glad to hear what is passing in this seminary of English Catholics supported by King Philip II. and your Majesty for the mission to England. In truth the work is such that your Majesty may be proud of the deed, and although my tongue fails me after so many years away from Spain, I will do what I can because I think the matter will please your Majesty.
A large number of the sons of the leading men of England live here under disguised names for the sake of their parents' safety. They are educated in all virtue and learning befitting their age and are so skilled in the Greek and Latin tongues that they dispute in them ex tempore upon any subject whatsoever which is given to them, so copiously and appositely as to excite the admiration of those who hear them, especially the learned, who appreciate the difficulties. In natural and moral philosphy, theology and the holy scriptures I have heard them deal with the most scholastic and subtle points and master them as if they had always studied them. This shows that God is master of all the sciences, and the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the just is more than the speculators.
Religious ceremonies are so well performed with such good music, both vocal and instrumental, which is also taught here that it gives great pleasure to the city and to the strangers who come from many parts to see the house. For these reasons I show them every possible favour as the sons of such good fathers and in hope of the conversion of that kingdom.
Some years ago, with the approbation of his Holiness and our rulers, I gave them the monastery of Vaten, only a league from here, with its church and lands, for the English novices to live there. They have since gone to Liége owing to the importunity of the King of England and his ambassador, who has been in France. But I hope in God that times will improve so that they may return to their house, since they are the soldiers who have to drive the devil from that kingdom. I wish our Holy Father and all Christian princes would understand this, and following the example of your Majesty put their hands to this universal work of the whole Catholic Church; for while that kingdom behaves as it does there can be little peace for Christendom, as we see by the present rebellion in France, begun by the same ambassador who drove his countrymen from Vaten; because of the past ills of their provinces and because they are so near our gates, as their chief object is to perturb their neighbours and excite subjects against their princes. Wherefore if your Majesty does not prevent it we may have the same here as we have suffered at other times at the first opportunity that offers. The charge of bishop and the love of a faithful subject have transported me from England to Flanders, and not without cause as all our miseries come thence.
I must take this opportunity to inform your Majesty of another pious work of great importance begun a short while ago in this city in imitation of the other. A matron of much virtue and discretion has gathered here a good number of noble virgins of England with the same intention to serve God. They have bought a house and live there as a community, affording example and edification to the whole city (fn. 1).
They propose to educate the daughters of their Catholic countrymen in all virtue and occupations of piety and the Christian faith befitting noble persons. Many have been sent over despite the prohibition of their king and the watchfulness of the heretics. I esteem it a special mercy of God that they have instituted this holy work in my diocese and I am rejoiced at seeing so many worthy people and doubtless your Majesty and their Highnesses will derive many benefits, both spiritual and temporal, for love of them. I pray for this and that God will give your Majesty many prosperous years.
St. Omer, the 3rd February, 1616.
Feb. 12.
G. 222 Inf.
fol. 185.
1052. Copy of Letter of Father Cresuelo to Cardinal Capata.
From the enclosed papers your Eminence will hear of my doings and of the enterprise upon which we are engaged. You ask me to go to Spain, but you will see that this cannot be in the present state of affairs, and therefore I ask if a remedy can be found. Most men grow lean working for their own particular ends and there are few who take up great and difficult works for God alone. But Dona Luysa de Carvajal, as a Spaniard and well born, has a generous soul and for that cause the Lord has made her more renowned than any of her house.
In Spain I knew the Bishop of Cadiz, Don Antonio Capata, who afterwards became Bishop of Pampluna and Archbishop of Burgos, and he seemed to me one of the prelates most capable of great things in that realm. I remember one day in his house in Spain, he offered me not only his possessions but even himself, if necessary, as always ready to serve our cause. He asked that, if I found myself in difficulties I should let him know and he would hasten to me, in whatever part of the world he might be.
He was afterwards in Rome and still fives there and will overcome every necessity if he only has the power. Although I have no power myself I shall obtain it through his friends, of whom he has many, as they preserve in Spain the pious memory of the Count of Punorrosto and of the holy bishops, Francisco Sarmiento and Francisco de Reynoso (fn. 2).
We have been for many years a burden upon Spain, which alone has sustained the weight of our persecution. Therefore as the cause is in some sense common to all the Catholic Church, we cannot reasonably pretend that she shall bear it alone.
England, which used to help us, is so robbed by King James and his ministers that they can scarcely keep up the expenses for the faith and the priests, and that land is so guarded by inquisitors and prohibitions, to deprive us of all succour, that we can expect nothing, as at other times. Flanders, where we live, is very sterile in that material, and so God obliges us to seek new remedies and new friends to keep up his service.
His Divine Majesty could easily remedy all without forcing us to these methods, but by this ordinary providence to prove His friends He allows some to suffer and others to console them. Doubtless there are prelates in Rome and princes in Italy who would like to share in this pious work if it was proposed to them. Anyone may please God by good works, direct and immediately for the augmentation of the Catholic faith and service of the Church.
Your Eminence will see an account of the College in the bishop's letter to his Majesty, but you can only judge by seeing. What I think most of is not what the bishop relates; it is the ripe innocence and tranquillity of manners among such lively spirits at such a tender age, which moves the leading persons of these States to ask leave eagerly to send their sons here. But if the gate was opened wider it would make control more difficult, and it would not be well to mix with them those who have not the same intent or passed through the persecution which mortifies human passions.
I was certain that the Divine goodness would not have to help for the half, as the infinite wisdom knows and has already deposited in the hands of His friends all that will be necessary for His servants; but such deposits should not be hidden where we know the Lord has given a generous spirit, charity and more than common understanding, to know how to distinguish between good works and give degrees. We cannot gather pears from elms or great things from poor spirits nemo enim colligit de spinis uvas nec de tribulis ficus.
Pope Gregory XIII. was fortunate in it and God rewarded him. His reward and glory become greater every day. Pope Sixtus V. was a great pontiff and did great works of another kind, but they do not increase like those of Pope Gregory. When I was in Rome I saw the palace he built next St. John Lateran, serving a very different purpose from what he intended.
I should rest and it would be desirable that the King of England should see at the present time how ill his false bishops and others advise him who invent these laws and proclamations against the seminaries. It may be that help from England fails us in order to open the purses of all faithful Catholics and friends of God, who for the reasons given would win the most honourable memory they can have among men. Because the quality and the circumstances of the work constitute all the notable events and succour of that material worthy of history which is not the case with private and ordinary works of piety. All is ordained by Our Lord for His greater glory and the welfare of His creatures. May He guard your Eminence and augment your divine gifts.
St. Omer, the 12th February, 1616.
March 2.
G. 222 Inf.
fol. 189.
1053. Joseph Cresuellus to …
Accepi literas vestras datas Ide Januarii, humanitatis et benignitatis plenas, gratissimas que multis nominibus, Audomari: Ubi habemus nobile Collegium, unius tantum diei itinere distans ab Anglia, qua cum exercemus frequens et utile commercium renitente diabolo: qui licet sagax sit et diligens in malo habet tamen superiorem potestatem Boni, cui, necesse est ut succumbat et cedat licet ad exercitium et Victoriam, illi permittantur multa, ad tempus.
Humillimas et quam maximas gratias ago Illmae. D.V. pro favori praestito D. Thomae Sacvilo. Est enim Vir dignus amicitia vestra ipsumque quod tractat negotium vestro patrocinio dignissimum.
Quid Divina inscrutabilis providentia de Anglia nostra statuerit, ignoramus. At, sperare jubet optima ex iis quae conspicimus. Demon frendet; Persecutores grassantur; Religio pessundatur: sed radices agit altas et e vepribus ac epinis, emittit quotidie in lucem, non tam flores quam gemmas.
Superant omnem opinionem et fidem, quae hie geruntur a puerulis, digna spectatore Illmo. Cardinali Federico Borromeo; qui juditium ferat, de acumine, de pietate, de elegantia eorum quae exhibenter quotidie.
Dum prandemus, exhibent nunc (ex tempore), graecis primo, et eodem mox latinis verbis, ut auditores addiscant, parabolam de Talentis. Bone Deus: quam multa, quam nova, quam devota, quam erudita, suggerit pueris ineruditis, ipsa pietas et candor defecatae mentis! Ut vera dixerit Episcopus hujus Urbis, gravissimus et doctissimus auditor, eorum quae scribit ex abundantia charitatis suae ad Catholicam et optimum Regem, ut gaudeat nobis cum de ingenti fructu liberalitatis suae; et mitto earundem literarum atque aliarum exemplaria, ut una gaudeat Illma. D. V. (tanquam amicus sponsi) de bonis sponsi.
Rex ex largitate sua suppeditat mihi in singulis annos aureorum quatuor milla, Archidux 2,000: Sed expendimus plusquam 13 aut 14 millia: Nec possunt minui expensae nisi cum dedecore, te jactura pietatis. Quid ne ergo sperabimus in Da bonitate! quae, suos habet thesauros in cordibus amicorum. Nam, licet posset aliunde subministrare (ex prova communi; qua etiam jumentis prospicit, et quod magis est malis et perversis hominibus ipso quod homines sunt): Amicis tamen non solet providere necessaria nisi per amicos. Nobilior enim est haec et divinior providentia, quae praeclara multa supponit, exercet involvit.
Ego hic tantisper haereo, inter summas consolationes et summas curas quae profecto, augerent, nisi juberer omnem solicitudinem projicere in eum, cui cura est de nobis. Hanc ipsam majestatem et benignam omnipotentiam precor ut Illam. D. V. incolumem nobis et Ecclesiae servet, diu.
Audomari, 2 Martii, 1616.


  • 1. The English Virgins or English Ladies, a society established at St. Omer by Mary Ward. See Venetian Cal., vol. xvii, pages 449, 450.
  • 2. Francisco Sarmiento de Mendoza, bishop of Astorga 1574–80, and Francisco Reynoso, bishop of Cordova 1597–1601.