Forbidden Prayers Library

This project receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (no. 839195) (2020-2022) and is directed by Marcela Londoño of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

This project uses comparative approach to study the phenomenon of prayers in the vernacular that were forbidden in Spain, Portugal, and Italy between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The catalogues of banned books issued by the Inquisitions during this period alone contained just over seventy prayers, all of them firmly rooted in the daily practice of piety and widely disseminated in books of hours and independent printed matter from the late Middle Ages onwards.

These prayers were used as a means of communicating directly with God, the saints, and the Virgin Marry to ask for the resolution of everyday life problems: the healing of sickness, protection against sudden death, protection for journeys about to be embarked on, and aid and comfort in childbirth. The prayers had a variety of possible uses, since they were effective whether the person read them personally or had them read, whether they were carried, worn in contact with the body, or simply placed on the sick part of the body. For this reason, they were accessible also to the illiterate and should be considered in the hybrid category of text-object.

Given the volume and nature of the forbidden prayers, the Catholic authorities sought to eradicate all objects, practices and forms of piety linked to prayers that contained vain observances and instances of superstition, in other words, those that included particular conditions of use to guarantee their effectiveness or promised the occurrence of contingent events. For regular users, however, prayers were an integral part of the religious experience that took place in the private sphere, whether as an act of reinterpretation of regulated forms of worship or an alternative to them.



To restore this devotional heritage to the community of specialists and the interested non-academic public by bringing together the texts of those prayers that have been preserved and attempting to reconstruct from indirect testimonies those erased from bibliographical memory as a result of censorship.


To analyse the impact of censorship policies aimed at regulating private devotional practices.


To understand and explore the symbolic dimension of prayers as objects related to popular forms of religiosity used by ordinary men and women living during the Counter-Reformation.