The Monks of St. Francis were celebrated alike for their sterling piety, great learning, and general benevolence. Their fault, if such it could be termed in a holy Catholic community, was their rigid exclusiveness regarding religion; their uncompromising and strict love for, and adherence to, their own creed; and stern abhorrence towards, and violent persecution of, all who in the slightest degree departed from it, or failed to pay it the respect and obedience which they believed it demanded. At their head was their Sub-Prior, a character whose influence on the after position of Spain was so great, that we may not pass it by, without more notice than our tale itself perhaps would demand. To the world, as to his brethren and superiors, in the monastery, a stern unbending spirit, a rigid austerity, and unchanging severity of mental and physical discipline, characterized his whole bearing and daily conduct. Yet, his severity proceeded not from the superstition and bigotry of a weak mind or misanthropic feeling. Though his whole time and thoughts appeared devoted to the interest of his monastery, and thence to relieving and guiding the poor, and curbing and decreasing the intemperate follies and licentious conduct of the laymen, in its immediate neighborhood; yet his extraordinary knowledge, not merely of human nature, but of the world at large—his profound and extensive genius, which, in after years was displayed, in the prosecution of such vast schemes for Spain’s advancement, that they riveted the attention of all Europe upon him—naturally won him the respect and consideration of Ferdinand and Isabella, whose acute penetration easily traced the natural man, even through the thick veil of monkish austerity. They cherished and honored him, little thinking that, had it not been for him, Spain would have sunk at their death, into the same abyss of anarchy and misery, from which their vigorous measures had so lately roused, and, as they hoped, So effectually guarded her.
When Torquemada, Isabella’s confessor, was absent from court, which not unfrequently happened, for his capacious mind was never at peace unless actively employed—Father Francis, though but the Sub-Prior of a Franciscan monastery, always took his place, and frequently were both sovereigns guided by his privately asked and frankly given opinions, not only on secular affairs, but on matters of state, and even of war. With such a character for his Sub-Prior, the lordly Abbot of the Franciscans was indeed but a nominal dignitary, quite contented to enjoy all the indulgences and corporeal luxuries, permitted, or perhaps winked at, from his superior rank, and leaving to Father Francis every active duty; gladly, therefore, he deputed on him the office of heading the Monks that day summoned to attend King Ferdinand.