The members of the mendicant orders generally came from the middle to lower classes of Spanish society, since entry into these orders did not require proof of nobility, but only evidence of limpieza de sangre. Individuals of aristocratic origins tended to gravitate towards the monastic orders and, in particular, towards the Hieronymites. The regular Spanish clergy was perhaps best typified by the lively body of Franciscan friars, who were thriving according to the 1787 census, with a total of 15,000 members inhabiting 700 of the 2,000 convents of male religious still in existence at that time. Another important group, especially in Castile, were the discalced or 'barefoot' religious, who followed a severe rule within the various orders. These included, in addition to the discalced Franciscans, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Trinitarians, and the Mercedarians. Such movements often provoked strong tensions within the original orders, as can be seen in certain Carmelite monasteries linked to the figures of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross.
The Society ofJesus deserves a separate discussion. Its expansionin Spain was impressive and by the reigns of Philip III and Philip IV its numerous religious houses held some 2,000 members. However, relations between the Jesuits and the other religious orders - and in particular with the influential Dominicans -were not always cordial. But whether Jesuits or Dominicans, Augustinians or Carmelites, the regulars succeeded in creating a 'Spanish model' of religious and spiritual culture which by the early seventeenth century had established itself throughout the whole of Europe and beyond - before being overtaken and eventually giving way to a 'French model'.
The central crisis for the regular clergy in eighteenth-century Spain would come with the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. The members of this order were subjected to a highly secular polemic regarding their moral doctrines, the presumed or real extent of their wealth, and their missionary methods in the colonial territories. Their expulsion accentuated a widespread hostility against the monastic orders in general. Only the mendicant orders seemed not to have experienced such traumatic effects, thanks to their wide popularity in Iberian society.
The female convents, which numbered approximately 1,000 in the 1787 census and contained some 25,000 religious, were mostly 'open' institutions, in which post-Tridentine cloistered life was either not practised at all, or only practised with difficulty. The majority of these convents were controlled by their respective male orders. But in addition to the women religious, a phenomenon particular to Spain was the presence of the beaterios, groups of unmarried women and widows living as a community within the parish, and governed by the Augustinian rule. The concept of a 'less regular' religious life
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