Moving frontiers: The Iberian Union, Rome and the notions of border in Southeast Asia

Kevin Carreira Soares (PIUDHist – ICS-UL) irá apresentar a comunicação intitulada “Moving frontiers: The Iberian Union, Rome and the notions of border in Southeast Asia” no workshop online “The Iberian East Indies. Frontiers, Actors, Dynamics”, no sábado, dia 6 de fevereiro, entre as 9:30 e as 17:15. (France time zone; GMT + 1 hr)


This presentation aims to understand the evolution of the notion of border in the territories of the Portuguese and Spanish Monarchies in Southeast Asia, through an analysis of its episcopal jurisdiction during the Iberian Union (1580-1640).

It is well-known that the borders of Portuguese and Spanish Empires referred initially to what had been defined by the Treaty of Tordesilhas (1494). In addition to that, the jurisdiction in Southeast territories would be directly dependent on the creation of political and ecclesiastic structures and territorialisation of political power. Archbishoprics and bishoprics were part of this process, and seven dioceses were created between 1558 and 1595: Malacca (1558), Macao (1572) and Japan (1588), all Portuguese and under the Archbishopric of Goa; Manila (1579) Nueva Segovia (1595), Nueva Cáceres (1595) and Cebu (1595), Spanish. Their borders, however, were frequently contested, especially during the Iberian Union. In this period, the meaning of the border between both empires in Asia became more fluid, and the creation of Propaganda Fide, in 1622, did not help to fix the jurisdictions of the dioceses under the Padroado and those under the Patronato.

In fact, any change on the hierarchies between these territories and how they were (dis)connected, could lead to major developments on the internal logics of the Iberian empires themselves. How serious was the proposals of placing all southeast Asia under Manila’s archbishop jurisdiction, as suggested by the Papacy and by some political circles in Madrid? What reasons and what groups kept this reform from happening? Was this discussion related to the fact that, in 1640, every Portuguese bishopric in the area was without bishop? These are some of the topics that will be central to the present discussion.

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Imagem: Indiae Orientalis nova descriptio by JANSSONIUS, Johannes. BNP – ca-20-129-a. Disponível aqui