South America
Dominicans in Potosi
Vincent of Bernedo


Brief history of Potosí.

The discovery of ore in silver-rich Cerro Rico (rich hill) by Indian Diego Huallpa in 1544, promoted the foundation of the city of Potosí on April 10, 1545, at the foot of the hill Cerro Rico. The city was born under the name of Villa Imperial de Carlos V, in honour of the Spanish King Carlos V. Its founder was Juan de Villarroel. Large-scale excavation began in the site immediately and the first of the silver was sent to Spain. On 14 September 1550, the miners on the hill saw at the doors of the church of Saint Francis the crucified Christ, a symbol of their heavy and unhealthy labour. Every year thousands of Indians died by the poisonous fumes of the melting down of the silver ore on the mountain slopes.
The Dominicans arrived Potosí, where they built a priory and church, before 1550, and protested against this exploitation to the Council of the Indians in Spain. In 1601 the King of Spain, Philips II, forbade the hard labour  in the mines. But insiders knew the secret instructions of the King, that labour under pressure was according to the production in demand. And so the owners of the mines had a  permit.

By the time of independence in 1825, the mines of the Cerro Rico were almost exhausted. In the mid 19th  century, a fall in silver prices hurt Potosí's economy in a way that it has never completely recovered

In December 11, 1987, the UNESCO declared the city of Potosí a 'World Heritage Site' in recognition if its rich history and its wealth of colonial architecture.


Brief biography of Vincent of Bernedo.


Vincent of Bernedo was baptised with the name Martin on 1 February 1562 in the church St. Pedro, in his hometown Puente la Reina, near Pamplona. He was the son of Juan Bernedo and Isabel de Albistur, and had two sisters and three brothers. Martin studied at the Latin School in Pamplona, and at the university in Alcalá de Henares, founded by Francis Jimenez de Cisneron, O.F.M. ,(+1517). He joined the Dominicans in Salamanca in 1580, and received the name Vincent (Ferrer). He was ordained a priest on 30 Mai 1586, and the magister, Sixtus Fabri, appointed him a preacher of the Rosary and as founder of the fraternities of the Holy Rosary.  

Towards 1597 or early in 1597, he made himself available for missionary work in the New World. He was engaged by the vicar-General of Perú, Gaspar Palencia, O.P. Towards 1600 Vincent Bernado arrived at the priory of Cuzco, and went on foot to Lima, where he arrived December 1600. After a halt, he went to Potosí, where he arrived in 1601. He had got on foot 6,000 kilometres.

He was a vicar of the Indian parish San Pedro, and lector in the Studium Generale of the Dominicans in Rio de La Plata (today Sucre). He wrote some works: Comentario a la Primera parte de la Summa de Santo Tomás y a la Secunda Secundae, 1617; Tratados singulares de varias materias, and Sermones. As an itinerant preacher, he stopped the night in caves, like near the city of Vitiche, 90 km south of Potosí, where a cave is known as The Cave of the Saint. Every year on the third Sunday of July a procession treks from Potosí to this cave chapel, founded by Vincent, as the story goes.  

He was very compassionate for the miners, and he supported them for better circumstances, but all in vain. He died in the priory of Potosí on 19 August 1619. The miners honoured him as a saint. The ArchBishop of La Plata, Hieronymus Méndez de Tiedra, O.P., initiated the ecclesiastical inquiry into a possible beatification of Bernedo in 1620.  The members of the General Chapter of the Dominican Order in Roma in 1629, declared: Frater Vincentius Bernedo, sacerdos, serio confectus, virginitate, abstinentia, et in sanandis infirmis, gratia prophetioque lumine insignis', (MOPH XII, 72). During the 18e century the Order took the first step toward his beatification, but without  result. Brian Farrelli, vice-postulator of the beatifications, supported by Innozenz Venci, O.P.,  got done that the virtues of Bernedo were declared by a papal decree  as 'heroic' on 22 January 1991.

After the declaration of independence from Spain by Simon Bolivar, 6 August 1825, the Dominicans had to leave Bolivia. The priory and church were confiscated by the State, and were designed for yale. Canisius Friedrich, O.P. of the province of Teutonia, exerted himself to bring the priory and church in possession of the Dominicans. The Bolivian National Congress ratified unanimously the decision to transfer the ownership of this heritage to the Dominicans on 19 March 1999.




The Crucifix and view of Potosi.


                                                Bolivia 1950, Mi 437-442, Sc 334-339.




Vincent of Bernedo, 1562-1619.

His year of birth is not 1544, like announced on the stamp, but 1562. 


Bolivia 1976, Mi 913, Bl 70,71; Sc bl 72, 73.






The Cerro Rico of Potosí and the priory
of the Dominicans in the 18th century.


Bolivia 1987, Mi 1062, Sc 763.







The city of Potosi today with the cathedral.

50th Anniversary of the Unesco, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization 16 nov. 1945.







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