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Album: A Priest Who Performed Black Magic

Trial Records

16th-century trial records of a priest who claimed he had superpowers.

(Image credit: Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico), Ramo de Inquisicion, Vol. 40, Exp. 12 Folio 82r, image courtesy Professor John Chuchiak IV.)

A cover page for the Calderon trial documents. The priest claimed to be able to teleport between continents, make himself invisible, make women love him, turn metals into gold and find buried treasure, among other capabilities.

Priest With Superpowers?

16th-century trial records of a priest who claimed he had superpowers.

(Image credit: Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico), Ramo de Inquisicion, Vol. 40, Exp. 12 Folio 82r, image courtesy Professor John Chuchiak IV.)

Pedro Ruiz Calderon was a Catholic priest who claimed to have acquired superpowers by practicing the black arts. On Jan. 30, 1540, he was put on trial for it in Mexico City. The trial records, all in Spanish, run for over 100 pages, one of which is shown here.

The Archbishop

statue of archbishop in durango mexico

(Image credit: Image of the statue from Durango Mexico is courtesy Wikimedia, released into public domain.)

The man who prosecuted Calderon was Fray Juan de Zumarraga (his statue is shown here), the archbishop of Mexico and Apostolic Inquisitor of New Spain. For reasons unknown he gave Calderon a light sentence, prohibiting him from saying mass for two years and exiling him back to Spain.

Secretary of the Holy Office

statue of secretary of the holy office

(Image credit: Image courtesy Wikimedia, released into public domain.)

At the time of the trial Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was the Secretary of the Holy Office (an administrator). He would later lead an expedition to the Philippines and become a famous conquistador. At the beginning of Calderon's trial he denounced him in a speech. This statue of de Legazpi is near Cebu City in the Philippines.

Finding Treasure

a page from a book intended to help people find buried treasure

(Image credit: Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico), Ramo de Inquisicion, Vol. 40, book inventory, image courtesy Professor John Chuchiak IV)

The list of books goes on. Among them was a work by Dr. Arnaldo de Villanueva called the "Treasure of Treasures." As its name suggests it was supposed to help people find buried treasures.

Reading Ciphers

Included in the trial records is a list of books Calderon was found with. The most puzzling material was a group of archival letters written in a special cipher that Calderon claimed to be able to read, no one else could.

(Image credit: Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico), Ramo de Inquisicion, Vol. 40, Exp. 12 Folio 82r, image courtesy Professor John Chuchiak IV.)

Included in the trial records is a list of books Calderon was found with. The most puzzling material was a group of archival letters written in a special cipher that Calderon claimed to be able to read, no one else could.