1600 - 1700

from a perspective of women in the Church



before Christ

During this century much of our modern civilization emerged.

It was a time of lucrative colonial expansions by European countries such as Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, France and Britain. This brought riches and new knowledge.

A revolution occurred in science. Chemistry developed from medieval alchemy, and astronomy from superstitious astrology. Great scientists created new technology: Galileo Galilei (telescope, etc.) , Toricelli (barometer), Blaise Pascal (adding machine), Isaac Newton (spectometer), Anton van Leeuwenhoek (microscope), Christian Huygens (clocks) and so on.

It led to the first conflicts between the Church and science. Well known is Galileo's condemnation for proving the earth turns round the sun. Cardinal Bellarmine (1542-1621) played a major role in this.

More amusing is the story that Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) was urged to condemn coffee as Satanic, mainly because it was the favourite drink of Muslims. Fortunately he refused to do so. But Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) issued a bull in 1624 that made smoking tobacco punishable by excommunication. Pope Benedict XIII later repealed the ban.

Staying with Urban VIII, he fought wars to enlarge the Papal States. He fortified Castel Sant' Angelo as a personal stronghold. He lived in great luxury and practised nepotism on a grand scale: various members of his family were enormously enriched by him, so that it seemed to contemporaries as if were establishing a Barberini dynasty. Among the cardinals he created were his brother Antonio Marcello Barberini and his nephews Antonio and Francesco Barberini. It was this Cardinal Francesco who acquired in 1650 the 8th-century-old manuscript (Barberini gr 336) which contains a copy of the ancient ordination rite for women deacons.

from painting by Frans Hals

The theme of Mary’s priestly dignity
1600 - 1700

During this period the devotion to Mary as Priest flourished all over Europe. She was especially venerated in Italy, France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain.

All the traditional attributes of the priesthood were ascribed to her in eminent measure.

d. 1610 ‘Mary is a high priest, a bishop’
1615 ‘Mary, this sovereign pirestess’
d. 1628 ‘Mary possessed the dignity of the priesthood’
d. 1637 ‘Mary offers the Eucharist’
d. 1643 ‘the eminence of the priesthood resides in Mary’
1575 - 1646 ‘Mary possessed the highest degree of the priesthood’
1608 - 1657 ‘Mary occupies the highest hierarchical rank in the priesthood’
1585 - 1662 ‘Mary possesses the fulness of the priestly spirit’
d. 1666 ‘Jesus gave his mother a share in his priesthood’
d. 1671 ‘Mary performed her task as high priest’
1604 - 1675 ‘Mary was ordained a spiritual priest’
1599 - 1676 ‘Mary shares in Christ’s sovereign priesthood’
d. 1676 ‘Mary was a priestess’
d. 1692 ‘Mary became Jesus’ priestess’
d. 1694 ‘Mary sacrifices her son in the Eucharist’
1608 - 1697 ‘Mary the episcopal dignity’
1633 - 1715 ‘Mary is the priestess of our religion’

The Women's Quarrel 1600 - 1700

The “Women’s Quarrel”, which started from the outrageous claim that 'women are no more than animals' (see previous century) raged all over Europe.In some universities the thesis was publicly debated. It became the topic of numerous tracts and books. It was used to tease women at parties and other social events. While some men launched their attack 'tongue in cheek', the discussion seriously embarassed many women and infuriated others. Many men resented women who gained power and prestige.

Nell Gwynn (1650-1687), mistress of the English king Charles II, shines in her official portrait by Simon Verelst (left image). Peter Cross painted her as 'Cupid' exposing her as fragile and seductive.

1618, reprinted 1619, 1671, 1673 . . .

"A thorough and documented description, argument and conclusion, together with extensive replies about the Question Whether Women are Human Beings?!"


Women's Emancipation 1600 - 1700

Women continued to assert themselves in many spheres of life that had traditionally been closed to them. Often they had to overcome great obstacles.

Mary Ward was a real pioneer for women's leadership in the Church. She founded a religious institute that was engaged in education of the poor and social work. She claimed for the members 'freedom from enclosure, from the obligation of choir, from wearing a religious habit, and from the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop'. The authorities in Rome condemned her. Pope Urban VIII, in a papal bull of 1630, declared that Mary's religious order was a real threat to the moral and intellectual fragility of women. Itt resulted in the closure of the institute. Mary Ward herself was, for a time, imprisoned as a "heretic, rebel and schismatic."

One of the first medically trained midwives.


Foundress of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary


ca 1600-1671
Early American feminist and landowner.




Poet and translator.


Prolific writer.




‘Mother of Quakerism’ and author of “Women’s Speaking Justified”.


Decree by CharlesII


Professional playwright.


French still-life painter.


First professional female English painter


Spanish sculptress of the Baroque Era.


Foundress of Saint-Cyr-l'École, a school for poor girls of good families.


Traveller, naturalist and scientific illustrator.


English philosopher and writer.


The star rating indicates the importance
for the vance of women


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See our Documented Appeal to Pope Francis to Request the Re-instatement of the Ordained Diaconate for Women.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

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