Gante, Pedro de (c. 1480–1572)

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Gante, Pedro de (c. 1480–1572)

Pedro de Gante (b. ca. 1480; d. 1572), Franciscan missionary and educational pioneer in Mexico. Gante was originally from Ghent, Belgium, where he absorbed the refined choral style of the Low Countries. One of the first three Franciscans (all Flemish-born) to arrive in Mexico in 1523, he brought this musical foundation with him, later training the Indian singers employed by the cathedral in Mexico City. Although Gante never took holy orders, remaining a lay brother, his accomplishments and example did much to shape the Franciscan missionary enterprise. Like other early friars, Gante combined Christian fervor with Renaissance humanism. He assumed the inferiority of the indigenous cultures but believed the Indians fully capable of mastering European learning, and he made native education his life's work.

In 1526, Gante founded San José de los Naturales to teach Indian boys reading, writing, music, and basic Catholic doctrine. In addition, the school instructed Indians in Spanish artisanal skills, producing a generation of painters and sculptors who embellished the rapidly proliferating Christian churches (many of them built under Gante's supervision), and trained Indian catechists to aid the Franciscans' Christianization efforts. This institution became a model for the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, whose goal (later abandoned) was to create a native priesthood.

A superb linguist, Gante composed an early and influential Christian doctrine in Nahuatl (1528), the Aztec language. Gante also wrote regularly to the crown, condemning Spanish abuses and advocating reforms to benefit the Indians. Among other things, he successfully urged Charles V to found an Indian hospital in Mexico City.


Robert Ricard, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico: An Essay on the Apostolate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain: 1523–1572, translated by Lesley Byrd Simpson (1966).

Peggy K. Liss, Mexico Under Spain, 1521–1556: Society and the Origins of Nationality (1975), esp. pp. 69-94.

Lino Gómez Canedo, La educación de los marginados durante la época colonial: Escuelas y colegios para índios y mestizos en la Nueva España (1982); La música de México, edited by Julio Estrada, vol. 1, pt. 1, Período prehispánico (Mexico City, 1984).

Additional Bibliography

Edgerton, Samuel Y. Theaters of Conversion: Religious Architecture and Indian Artisans in Colonial Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.

Ramírez Vázquez, Pedro. Fray Pedro de Gante: El primero y más grande maestro de la Nueva España. México: M.A. Porrúa Grupo Editorial, 1995.

                                       R. Douglas Cope