Villarroel, Gaspar de
VILLARROEL, GASPAR DE
Augustinian bishop, writer, and defender of the royal prerogatives in the Spanish Empire; b. Quito, Ecuador, c. 1590; d. Charcas (La Plata or, more recently, Sucre), Bolivia, Oct. 12, 1665. His parents, though living in poverty, were born of aristocratic colonial families. His father, Gaspar de Villarroel y Coruña of Guatemala City, Guatemala, was a lawyer who had studied at Bologna, Italy, and who became a priest after the death of his wife. About 1591 the family moved to Lima, Peru, where Villarroel joined the Augustinians and made his religious profession in October 1608. After ordination he taught in the monastery of San Agustín, in the Colegio San Ildefonso, and at the University of San Marcos, where he obtained the doctorate in theology (c. 1620). He held several offices in his order, acquired fame as a gifted preacher, and in the late 1620s went to Madrid, Spain, as the procurator of the province of Peru. While in Spain, Villarroel began publication of his several works—the first two (a short book of sermons and a commentary on the Gospels) appeared at Lisbon in 1631. Appointed as court preacher to Philip IV and to the Council of the Indies, he became well known in official circles. In 1637 he was chosen to be bishop of Santiago de Chile, at that time a remote and difficult see. Having acquitted himself well in that post, he was advanced first to the See of Arequipa, Peru, in 1651, and then to the Archbishopric of Charcas, which he ruled from 1660 until his death. Villarroel proved himself a model bishop, one who governed wisely and who was devoted to the interests of his people.
His most notable work is the Gobierno eclesiásticopacífico y unión de los dos cuchillos pontificio y regio, written at Santiago in 1646 and published in two volumes at Madrid (1656–57; repr. 1738). It is primarily a collection, explanation, and justification of the royal cedulas pertaining to ecclesiastical affairs, but it contains also much information about political and social life in the Spanish colonies. In its defense of the so-called royal vicariate, this work is particularly significant in that it was written by a member of the hierarchy (see patronato real). In defending the powers of the King, Villarroel cited the regalist opinions of his friend Juan de Solórzano Pereira. Another of Villarroel's works is his Historias sagradas y eclesiásticas (Madrid 1660), three volumes of stories and legends about the Blessed Mother.
Bibliography: g. de santiago vela, Ensayo de una biblioteca ibero-americana de la orden de San Agustín, 7 v. in 8 (Madrid 1913–31) 8:303–314. a. de egaÑa, La teoría del Regio Vicariato Español en Indias, in Analecta Gregoriana 95 (1958) 156–162. a.j. gonzÁlez de zumÁrraga, "Fray Gaspar de Villarroel, O.S.A., Obispo de Santiago de Chile," Anuario de estudios americanos 14 (1957) 201–240.
[a. j. ennis]