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Modern History Sourcebook:
Mendez Pinto: The Woman with the Cross, c. 1630

CHAINED together as we were, we went up and down the streets craving of alms, which were very liberally given us by the inhabitants, who, wondering to see such men as we, demanded of us what kind of people we were, of what kingdom, and how our country was called. Hereunto we answered conformably to what we had said before, namely, that we were natives of the kingdom of Siam, that going from Liampoo to Nanquin we had lost all our goods by shipwreck, and that, although they beheld us then in so poor a case, yet we had formerly been very rich; whereupon a woman who was come thither among the rest to see us: "It is very likely," said she, speaking to them about her, " that what these poor strangers have related is most true, for daily experience doth show how those that trade by sea do oftentimes make it their grave, wherefore it is best and surest to travel upon the earth and to esteem of it as of that whereof it has pleased God to frame us." Saying so, she gave us two mazes, which amounts to about sixteen pence of our money, advising us to make no more such long voyages since our lives were so short.

Hereupon she unbuttoned one of the sleeves of a red satin gown she had on, and baring her left arm, she showed us a cross imprinted upon it like the mark of a slave. "Do any of you know this sign, which amongst those that follow the way of truth is called a cross? or have any of you heard it named?" To this, falling down on our knees, we answered with tears in our eyes that we knew exceeding well. Then, lifting up her hands, she cried out, "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name," speaking these words in the Portugal tongue; and because she could speak no more of our language, she very earnestly desired us in Chinese to tell her whether we were Christians. We replied that we were, and for proof thereof, after we had kissed that arm whereon the cross was, we repeated all the rest of the Lord's Prayer which she had left unsaid; wherewith being assured that we were Christians indeed, she drew aside from the rest there present and weeping said to us, "Come along, Christians of the other end of the world, with her that is your true sister in the faith of Jesus Christ, or peradventure a kinswoman to one of you by his side that begot me in this miserable exile"; and so going to carry us to her house, the hopes which guarded us would not suffer her, saying, that if we would not continue our craving of alms they would return us back to the ship; but this they spoke in regard of their own interest, for that they were to have the moiety of what was given us, and accordingly they made as though they would have led us thither again, which the woman perceiving, "I understand your meaning," said she, "and indeed it is but reason you should make the best of your places, for thereby you live"; so opening her purse, she gave them two taeis in silver, wherewith they were very well satisfied; whereupon she carried us home to her house, and there kept us all the while we remained in that place, making much of us and using us very charitably.

Here she showed us an oratory, wherein she had a cross of wood gilt, as also candlesticks and a lamp of silver. Furthermore she told us that she was named Inez de Leyria, and her father Tome Pirez, who had been great ambassador from Portugal to the king of China, and that in regard of an insurrection with a Portuguese captain made at Canton, the Chinese taking him for a spy and not for an ambassador, as he termed himself, clapped him and all his followers up in prison, where by order of justice five of them were put to torture, receiving so many and such cruel stripes on their bodies as they died instantly, and the rest were all banished into several parts, together with her father into this place, where he married with her mother, that had some means, and how he made her a Christian, living so seven and twenty years together, and converting many Gentiles to the faith of Christ, whereof there were above three hundred then abiding in that town; which every Sunday assembled in her house to say the catechism: whereupon demanding of her what were their accustomed prayers, she answered that she used no other but these, which on their knees, with their eyes and hands lift up to Heaven, they pronounced in this manner: "O Lord Jesus Christ, as it is most true that thou art the very Son of God, conceived by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of sinners, so thou wilt be pleased to forgive us our offenses, that thereby we may become worthy to behold thy face in the glory of thy kingdom, where thou art sitting at the right hand of the Almighty. Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen." And so all of them, kissing the cross, embraced one another, and thereupon every one returned to his own home. Moreover, she told us that her father had left her many other prayers, which the Chinese had stolen from her, so that she had none left but those before recited; whereunto we replied that those we had heard from her were very good, but before we went away we would leave her divers other good and wholesome prayers. "Do so, then," answered she, "for the respect you owe to so good a God as yours is, and that hath done such things for you, for me, and all in general."

Then causing the cloth to be laid, she gave us a very good and plentiful dinner, and treated us in like sort every meal during the five days we continued in her house, which was permitted by the Chifuu in regard of a present that this good woman sent his wife, whom she earnestly entreated so to deal with her husband as Eve might be well entreated, for that we were men of whom God had a particular care; as the Chifuu's wife promised her to do, with many thanks to her for the present she had received. In the mean space, during the five days we remained in her house, we read the catechism seven times to the Christians; wherewithal they were very much edified; beside, Christophoro Borbalho made them a little book in the Chinese tongue, containing the Paternoster, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and many other good prayers. After these things we took our leave of Inez de Leyria and the Christians, a who gave us fifty taeis in silver, which stood us since in good stead; and withal Inez de Leyria gave us secretly fifty taeis more, humbly desiring us to remember her in our prayers to God.


Source:

From: Eva March Tappan, ed., The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song, and Art, Volume I: China, Japan, and the Islands of the Pacific, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), pp. 149-152.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.


This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall, October 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu