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A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey”

New Spain never looked so good as in the 2004 film of Thornton Wilder’s novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. This is no doubt partly because it wasn’t filmed in New Spain but in Old Spain (specifically in Toledo and Málaga).

The Archbishop

The Viceroy

This post was published on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 7:46 pm. It has been categorised under Church Cinema Monarchy Spain and been tagged under , , , , .
28 Jun 2008 5:15 pm

I watched this film, per your recommendation. But I’m befuddled at some of the costume. In the pictures above, you show the purple, KKK looking characters. Who are they? And then, during the trial, the Archbishop is wearing a hat I have never seen before. Additionally, he wears purple throughout, something I found peculiar. Any ideas?

Andrew Cusack
28 Jun 2008 11:29 pm

First, I should note that I did not recommend watching the film! But to answer your questions:

1) The characters in purple are members of lay confraternities. In their traditional processional garb, they cover their faces as an act of humility.

In Seville, where they are most famous, they are known as Hermandades y Cofradias de Penitencia, brotherhoods and confraternities of penance.

As Wikipedia notes, “The brotherhoods, besides the day-to-day work in preparation for the processions, also undertake many other self-regulated religious activities, and charitable and community work. Many brotherhoods maintain their own chapel, while others are attached to a regular parish.”

There are 59 brotherhoods in Seville, and there are many more throughout Spain and Latin America.

2) The hat is just a form of the biretta popular during the period.

3) Purple is the color worn by bishops. (Black for priests, purple for bishops, red for cardinals).

29 Jun 2008 7:57 pm

I mistook your remark “New Spain never looked so good…” as an implicit endorsement.

I thank you for your explanation of the lay confraternities, however, I take umbrage that you dismiss my point about purple as an ignorance of basic clerical vestiture.

I realize that “purple” is the color worn by bishops, but it is Roman purple, quite different than the purple worn by Deniro’s Archbishop. And, to return the favor, cardinals wear scarlet, NOT red.

Andrew Cusack
30 Jun 2008 12:13 am

Picky, picky! You said you thought it was peculiar that he was wearing purple; I gave the obvious response anyone would give to someone who thought bishops wearing purple was peculiar.

I am no expert on the history of ecclesiastical costume, so cannot judge on the various shades of purple worn by bishops and when and how they have changed, if at all. You did not seem to be making a point, but rather expressing confusion.

It seems entirely possible to me that bishops at the time wore that shade of purple. It also seems entirely possible to me that they might not have, but that the film’s costume designers were imprecise.

Your comment that cardinals “wear scarlet, NOT red” is a bit confusing, considering that scarlet is a shade of red; a bit like saying “navy, NOT blue”. If cardinals wear scarlet, then by extension they wear red, but to each his own.

Mauricio Novoa
30 Jun 2008 11:30 pm

Dear Andrew, I’m afraid the film is set in the viceroyalty of Peru, not in that of New Spain (Mexico). The viceroy is Manuel Amat y Juniet (1704-82), who reigned Peru from 1761 to 1776. He was also one of the few viceroys who was also a knight of Malta. With the exception of the bishop The bishop during this period was Diego Antonio de Parada y Vidaurre (1698-1779). During his episcopacy (1761-79) the bishops were (sadly) expelled. It is a great pity that the Bridge of San Luis Rey was not filmed in Peru; yet, with the exception of fictional characters such as the Marquise of Montemayor, and the burning of the Franciscan in the stake, it is quite free of hints of black legend.

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