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Manuscript Signed by “the Patron of the State of Texas”

137. MARGIL DE JESÚS, Antonio. Manuscript dictum written in Latin, signed by Margil in full and with rubric, as Guardian of the College of Guadalupe of Zacatecas, May 4, 1724. 4 pp., folio folder, written on p. [1] and with contemporary file note on p. [4], folded to measure 31 x 21.7 cm, overall 31 x 43.3 cm, with exceptionally beautiful embossed paper and terracotta wax seal with cut decorative paper, for the College of Guadalupe of Zacatecas lettered “SIGILLVM COLLEGII D.N. GVADALVP. ZACATECANENSIS” with illustration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, laid paper with watermark of armorial device with a cross surmounted by a crown with cross and initials CP below. Minor edge wrinkling, otherwise fine. Documents signed by Margil are rare.

     Father Margil informs the friars that, under the papal bull of foundation of the College of Santa Cruz of Querétaro of Innocent XI in 1682, the friars doing missionary work do not need licenses from the local prelate to preach or administer the sacraments. The College of Santa Cruz was the sponsoring institution for the College of Guadalupe, and Margil reasons that the concessions granted to the former apply perforce to the latter.

     Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús was born in Valencia in 1657 and came to the newly founded College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro as a missionary to the Sierra Gorda in Querétaro in 1683. He subsequently served as a missionary to Yucatán, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, returning to Santa Cruz as guardian of the college in 1697. In 1702 he went to Zacatecas where he founded the College of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1707. From there, between 1716 and 1722 he worked in the mission field of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Texas, founding Our Lady of Guadalupe at Nacogdoches in 1716, San José in San Antonio de Béxar in 1720, and San Miguel de Adaes at Nachitoches in 1721. In 1723 he was elected guardian of the Our Lady of Guadalupe of Zacatecas, serving in that post until just prior to his death in 1726.

     Margil was known for his personal sacrifice and walking tirelessly throughout Central America, southern and central New Spain, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Texas. Margil is known by many names, including “Apostle of Texas,” “Patron of the State of Texas,” “Giant Northern Pilgrim,” “Apostle of Guatemala,” “Apostle of America,” “Friar of Winged Feet,” and, finally his own self-effacing label for himself, “Nothingness Itself.” He travelled with such speed in his forty-seven years as a missionary that it is estimated there are no less than 2,500 crosses marking his path from Chiapas to Panama alone. He is equally celebrated in Central America and Texas.

     This remarkable Franciscan friar was missionary, priest, sacred orator, theologian, philosopher, polyglot, administrator, and missionary. His heart was open and his mind elevated. He possessed no national prejudices and ignored the rivalry between France and Spain. He ministered to all, from the highest to the lowest, including, remarkably, even the detested French. Father Margil was not the first missionary in Texas, but he certainly was the first to make a real difference, and his labors endured. He was preceded by abortive attempts by both the “French Thorn” and subsequently the Spanish. None of the East Texas missions Margil founded succeeded in converting very many Indians to Christianity, but they played a significant role in retaining the area for Spain. Despite the languishing of the East Texas missions, Margil’s San Antonio venture was a success. During his six years spent in the mission of Texas, a startling transition took place. No lasting mission had been founded in 1716 when he entered Texas, but when he left in 1722, a well-established chain of missions stood as outposts of the Spanish empire in the vast land of Texas. He is considered the Patron of the State of Texas because his labors with his co-founders (Fr. Isidro Félix de Espinosa and Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo) resulted in the first permanent civil settlement of Texas. Margil is “arguably the most famous missionary to serve in Texas [and] remains under consideration for sainthood by the Vatican” (Handbook of Texas Online: Margil de Jesús, Antonio).

     Letters and documents by Junípero Serra, Eusebio Francisco Kino, and other missionaries of the Spanish Southwest come on the market from time to time, but manuscript material by Margil is incredibly rare. ($10,000-20,000)

Sold. Hammer: $10,000.00; Price Realized: $11,750.00

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