Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Francisco Lopez de Gómara

100206Catholic Encyclopedia — Francisco Lopez de GómaraCamillus Crivelli


Born at Seville, Spain, in 1510; studied at the University of Alcalá, was ordained priest, made a journey to Rome, and upon his return in 1540, entered the service of Hernándo Cortés as private and domestic chaplain. He accompanied Cortes on the Algerian expedition and, after the death of his patron, it is known that he was at Valladolid in 1556 or 1557, after which he is supposed to have retired to his native city of Seville where he probably died. With the information given him by the conqueror and other persons who had returned from the New World (he himself cites Gonzalo de Tapia and Gonzalo de Umbria) he wrote his "Hispania Victrix; First and Second Parts of the General History of the Indies, with the whole discovery and notable things that have happened since they were acquired until the year 1551, with the conquest of Mexico and New Spain", a work published at Saragossa in the year 1552. It was translated into French by Martin Fumée and published at Paris in 1578; Augustin Gravaliz translated it into Italian and published it at Venice in 1560; lastly, Juan Bautista de San Anton Chimalpain Quanhalehuatzin translated it into Mexican. The author relates in the first part, which is dedicated "To Don Carlos, Emperor of Romans, King of Spain, Lord of the Indies and New World", the whole discovery and conquest of the Antilles, Peru (up to the pacification effected by Gasca), Chile and Central America, also the voyage of Magellan and the discovery of the Moluccas. In the second part he tells of the conquest of Mexico, and it is dedicated "To the very llustrious Lord Don Martin Cortés, Marques del Valle" — the son and heir of the conqueror.

Whether through the desire to aggrandize his patron, or through relying on the first-hand information which the latter gave him (it is to be noted that Gómara was never in America) or from malice, or for some other reason Gómara fell into serious errors and in many instances sinned gravely against historical truth. It was perhaps for this reason that Prince Philip (afterwards Philip II), in a decree issued at Valladolid, 17 November, 1553, ordered all the copies of his work that could be found to be gathered in and imposed a penalty of 200,000 maravedis on anyone who should reprint it. This prohibition was removed in 1727 through the efforts of Don Andreas Gonzalez Martial who included Gómara's work in his collection of early historians of the New World (Coleccion de historiadores primitivos de las Indias Occidentales). The "Verdadera historia de la Conquesta de Nueva Espana" (True History of the Conquest of New Spain) of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a companion of Hernando Cortes, was written to refute Gómara. The latter's style is concise and agreeable, the narrative running on rapidly and gracefully, all of which has had the effect of attracting readers to the work. Among other works of his which have remained unpublished are "Batallas de mar de nuestros tiempos" (Contemporary Naval Battles) and "Historia de Harrue y Harradin Barbarroja".

Camillus Crivelli.