because yesterday night I was working on this name.
First of all, at my knowledge (but I'm still searching) there is not any specific evidence of when or where the custom started and usually the onomastics books don't comment the question; the only reference is in García Gallarín's book where it is said that the use of Jesús is late and that in the 17th c. it was not in the baptismal books in Madrid.
According to the earlier references that I found it seems probable that Jesús started to be used as given name as devotional religious name in the compound form "de Jesús" (in Spanish, but also in Catalan). The most notorious case is saint Teresa
de Jesús (1515-1582), but I have also found early Catalan examples of this use: Joan
de Jesús Roca (16th c.-17th c.) and Bernat
de Jesús Maria
(c. 1559-1637), both Carmelitan religious. In 17th c. the use "de Jesús" is also found, at least in Catalan, among civil people: Nicolau
de Jesús Belando (1699-1747), writer and historian.
As in other cases of compound names (María del Pilar
, María de la Concepción...), the recurrent use of Jesús would finish with that being a "normal" given name. In the 19th c., the name was used regularly as independent given name.
This use of the name Jesus
in the compound form "of Jesus
" is also known in Portuguese (Lúcia de Jesus
), but perhaps because of a lesser use, the name has not independized yet.
One comment that I read in a board, suggested that the use started in 1571, when a papal bull (from Pius
V), gave to the Spanish the privilege of using Jesus
as reward for their victory on the Battle of Lepant. But I didn't find any papal bull from 1571 (or later) about this privilege or similar and it would be surprising because the Venetian Republic was crucial in that battle and they would merit the same privilege.
About the theory of Mexico (or any other American country) as origin of the custom, it seems another folk myth, because the first examples of use (in the form "de Jesús") are in the 16th c., when the conversion of the native Americans was starting at the most.
About the theory of the Muslims converts, the name Jesús (the same for María) was not used among the Moriscos:
nombre morisco, lejos de ser original, es característico de la sociedad de la época. Así, los nombres de Jesús y todos los derivados de María no aparecen en nuestro sondeo,
aunque existe un María de la Paz
en San Juan
de los Reyes
Anyway, the use of Jesús is not more common in Andalusia; curiously, it is more usual in Catalonia (6,65 o/oo) that in Andalusia (6,51 o/oo), for example. I checked where the use of Jesús is more common and it seems that it is in the Castilian provinces (Burgos #2, Palencia #1, Valladolid #2, Soria #1, Segovia #1, Ávila #1, Madrid #9 [that is normal, because Madrid is a very cosmopolite province], Guadalajara #2, Cuenca #2, Toledo #2, Ciudad Real #5) and northern areas (La Rioja #1, Zaragoza #2, Navarra #3, Álava #3, Lugo #4, A Coruña #5) while in the Andalusian provinces the popularity is lesser (Almería #19, Cádiz #11, Córdoba #12, Granada #12, Huelva #12, Jaén #11, Málaga #19, Sevilla #10).
So, the theory of the Muslim origin seems doubly wrong (because of the historical records, or in fact the lack of, and because of the geographical distribution of the popularity).
Since the devotion to the Sweet Name of Jesus
(started by the Council of Lyon in 1274 and promoted by saint Bernardin of Siena
in the 14th c.) was introduced as liturgical holiday in 1530 (conceded to the Franciscan by the Vatican), it seems logical that the starting point was the 16th c. and among religious people.
Right now, I don't have more specific data, but maybe I will find something later. In that case, I will let you know.