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Alphonso de Spina

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Spanish Franciscan, date of birth unknown; died about 1491. A convert from Judaism, he was for many years superior of the house of studies of the Friars Minor at Salamanca, and in 1491 was created Bishop of Thermopylæ in Greece. He was a man of great learning and attained considerable renown as a preacher, but his chief title to fame is the work entitled "Fortalitium Fidei" which Mariana (lib. XXII "De rebus Hispan.", c. xlvi) describes as "opus eruditum, splendido titulo, voce barbara, et divinarum rerum cognitione præstanti". As appears from the text, this work was written in 1458, but it was added to by the author at different times up to the year 1485. The first edition was issued about 1464-76; the edition published at Nuremberg in 1485 begins thus: "Incipit prohemium Fortalitii Fidei conscriptum per quendam Doctorem eximium ordinis minorum anno MCCCCLIX in partibus occidentis." The fact that the "Fortalitium Fidei" appeared anonymously gave rise to some difference of opinion as to its authorship. The reason why the work is included in the "Scriptores O. P." is that one edition of it appeared under the auspices of Gulielmus Totani, O. P., for its author was undoubtedly a Franciscan, as Echard himself notes (Script. Ord. Præd., ed. 1721, II, 61), and modern scholars are practically unanimous in attributing it to Alfonso de Spina. The "Fortalitium Fidei" deals with the different kinds of armour to be used by preachers and others in their warfare against the enemies of the Christian religion. It is divided into five books, the first directed against those who deny the Divinity of Christ, the second against heretics, the third against the Jews, and the fourth against the Mohammedans, while the fifth book treats of the battle to be waged against the Gates of Hell. In this last book the author dwells at length upon the demons and their hatred of men; the powers they have over men and the diminution of these powers, owing to the victory of Christ on the Cross, the final condition of the demons, etc.

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Besides the "Fortalitium", Alfonso de Spina published at least three other works:

  • (1) Sermones de Nomine Jesu Vigintiduos, issued about 1454 (erroneously confounded with the "Fortalitium" by Oudin);
  • (2) "Sermones plures de excellentia nostræ fidei", preached in 1459;
  • (3) a treatise on fortune, dedicated to John, King of Castile (1404-54).

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