Extreme Unction

Luis de Granada was a Dominican friar from Granada in southern Spain. Of prayer and meditation is a translation of his Libro de la oración y meditación, originally published in Salamanca in 1554 and revised in 1566. This began as a small tract on the method of prayer for a student who had written to him for advice. Its unexpected success led to his ascetic classic The Sinner’s Guide (La Guia de Pecadores), published in 1555. Luis is admired for the pure and harmonious style of his Spanish idiom as well as for his devotional clarity, and he was sometimes compared with Thomas à Kempis. Although Luis never travelled beyond Spain and Portugal, he became a European writer, translated into multiple languages, including Italian, Latin, French, German, Greek, and Polish. In England, his books were bestsellers: numerous clandestine Catholic editions were imported across the Channel from the Low Countries, while other versions by London publishers and booksellers circulated within the Protestant mainstream. This Paris edition includes a number of detailed engravings setting out the correct performance of Catholic ritual. ‘Extreme Unction’ was one of the seven sacraments, and included both prayers for the dying person, a final confession, and a last Mass, ensuring the preparation of the soul for death. In the image here, the dying man says the rosary while the priest performs the sacrament. A crucifix is placed before the deathbed, as was traditional. An angel cuts down the devil to the left. While synonymous with Catholicism, a version of the rite (called ‘The Visitation of the Sick’) survived in all editions of the the Book of Common Prayer from 1549 to 1662. BC

Of prayer and meditation (Paris: Thomas Brumeau, 1582).

CUL: Syn.7.58.104, f. 198v

Further Reading

Alexandra Walsham, ‘Luis de Granada’s Mission to Protestant England: Translating the Devotional Literature of the Spanish Counter Reformation’, in Teresa Bela, Clarinda Calma and Jolanta Rzegocka (eds), Subversive Publishing in Early Modern England and the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (Leiden, 2016), pp. 129-54.

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580, 2nd Edition (New Haven and London, 2005), pp. 274-87.

Extended captions