Quill and Cross

Colonial-era theological writer Anna Nogar examines the literature, fables, and history surrounding the 17th-century Franciscan abbess and writer, Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda, in her book Quill and Cross in the Borderlands: Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda and the Lady in Blue, 1628 to the Present. Nogar shares some of her findings at the New Mexico Museum of Art (107 W. Palace Ave.) on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

A noted mystic who corresponded for 22 years with King Philip IV of Spain, Ágreda was thought to have the miraculous ability of bilocation, or being in two places at once — that is, while she was in her cloistered cell in Spain, she was also believed to appear in Texas, New Mexico, and other locales, particularly in missions in the Southwest. In this bilocated form, she’s believed by some to have taught the Catholic faith to Native tribes and urged them to be baptized by Franciscan friars. The tradition of painting doors and window frames blue, according to Nogar, may be attributable to the lore surrounding Ágreda.

Over time, the historical Sor María and her writings faded almost entirely from the consciousness of people in the American Southwest and borderlands. But the “lady in blue” remains a renowned folk figure even in the present day. Regionally, interest in the story of María de Ágreda is evident, recounted at places like the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, at its visitor center in Mountainair, New Mexico. The monument holds the ruins of a historic Pueblo and mission churches — Gran Quivira, Quarai, and Abó — where she was said to have appeared.

Nogar, who is an associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, is also the co-author of a bilingual young reader’s book, Sisters in Blue/Hermanas de azul (University of New Mexico Press, 2017), which interpreted Sor María’s travels. 

This New Mexico Museum of Art Winter Lecture, co-sponsored by El Rancho de las Golondrinas, begins at 6 p.m.; tickets are $10 at the door.

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