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Rady Roldán-Figueroa

Greenleaf Visiting Library Scholar


Assistant Professor
Boston University School of Theology

Photo: Rady  Roldán-Figueroa

Dr. Rady Roldán-Figueroa received a Greenleaf Visiting Library Award in Summer 2013 to support research on Spanish Accounts of Christian Martyrdom in Tokugawa Japan, c. 1597-c. 1945: Ideational Representations and their Circulation in Spain, the Philippines, and New Spain. At the time of the award, he was an Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity at Boston University School of Theology.

As a historian of Christianity, Roldán-Figueroa specializes in early-modern global Christianity, global Catholicism, Baptists, and the history of Christian spirituality. He is the author of The Ascetic Spirituality of Juan de Avila (1499-1569)(Brill, 2010), co-editor of Collected Works of Hanserd Knollys: Pamphlets on Religion, Early English Baptist Texts (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2017), and co-editor of Exploring Christian Heritage – A Reader in History and Theology (Baylor University Press, 2nd rev. ed. 2017). His articles have appeared in European History Quarterly, Sixteenth Century JournalArchiv für Reformationgeschichte/Archive for Reformation HistoryThe Seventeenth Century, and History of European Ideas among others.



Title of Research : Spanish Accounts of Christian Martyrdom in Tokugawa Japan, c. 1597-c. 1945: Ideational Representations and their Circulation in Spain, the Philippines, and New Spain

While at UNM, Roldán-Figueroa drew upon library archives as part of a project tracing the literary representation of Christian martyrdom in 17th century Japan as it was articulated, disseminated, and published in Spain and its colonial territories, especially the Philippines and New Spain. The Christian Century of Japan (1548- c.1650) coincided with the eventual unification of the country under the Tokugawa dynasty, which defined the Edo period of Japan's history (1603-1867). Until 1614, Christianity flourished throughout the realm. Jesuits were for long the exclusive Christian missionary agents in the country since the arrival of Francis Xavier (1506-1552) at the port of Kagoshima in 1549. They were joined in the last decade of the sixteenth century by Spanish mendicants travelling from Manila. In 1614, Tokugawa Ieyasu proscribed Christianity and ordered the expulsion of European religious personnel. Consequently, an unprecedented persecution against Christians was unleashed throughout the country. In response, the missionary orders produced a unique body of religious literature, in the form of hagiographical and martyrological works, centered on the fate of European missionaries and their Japanese converts. The literature was also meant to advance the interests of the missionary orders in the Spanish court, as well as in peripheral centers of power within the Spanish empire. Religious orders not only had to earn the support of Madrid but also the patronage of political and commercial elites in Mexico City and Manila.In this context, print proved a fruitful means of advancing the interests of each religion, and the accounts of martyrs proved to be a moving topic. Interestingly, this body of religious literature engendered a secondary corpus made up of devotional works produced well beyond the seventeenth century and even beyond the colonial period of New Spain. Roldán-Figueroa’s research focused on rare printed items found in the special collection of the Center for Southwest Research that illuminate this interesting chapter of religious ideational history.