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Passing on and Forgetting

Letters from Pater Martin Schmid

Pater Martin Schmid's story is still told today because his descendants have carefully preserved his letters from Bolivia. Additionally, various authors write books about him. Each of them paints a different picture of him.

After Schmid's death, fellow missionary José Manuel Peramás writes his first biography. He is described as a Jesus-like figure, never showing any temper. At the beginning of the 20th century, Jesuit Joseph Spillmann from Zug writes an adventure novel about Schmid. In the 1940s and 1950s, Jesuit Felix Plattner glorifies Schmid as «God’s mercenary» and «genius in the jungle.» Well into the 21st century, Schmid is treated as a gifted architect and musician. Schmid becomes a canvas for the projection of various ideals that are continually reinterpreted over the centuries.

Letter number 21: Pater Martin Schmid to his brother Franz Silvan Schmid, Chiquitos, September 28, 1761.

Received letters. Mother’s death. Church building in San Rafael. Calling to San Xavier and Concepcion. Settlement of wild Indians in San Juan and missionary work. Life of the forest Indians. Altar buildings in Concepcion, San Miguel and San Ignacio. Answer to questions from nephew Franz Christoph in 1752: cattle, eating habits, brandy and potatoes, corn. Prayers. Greetings. Newspaper reports about war in Europe, Paraguay,
Expulsion of Jesuits in Portugal. Addendum (in the envelope).

Letter number 22: Pater Martin Schmid to his brother Fr. Franz Schmid OFM Cap, Chiquitos, October 5, 1767.

Expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish colonies. Old and sick missionaries are allowed to stay, including Father Martin. Surrender to God's will. Ask for prayer. Letter bearers Fr. Julian Knogler and Br. Andreas Roth. (Envelope and address have not been preserved.)

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