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On October 28, 2007, the Roman Catholic Church in a historic Beatification, beatified the greatest numbers of persons ever in its 2000 year history, some 498 martyrs from the Civil War in Spain. They originated from all parts of Spain including the dioceses of Barcelona, Burgos, Madrid, Mérida, Oviedo, Seville, Toledo, Albacete, Cartagena, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Gerona, Jaén, Málaga and Santander. Their age ranged from 15 years to 78 old. Although almost 500 persons, they are a small part of the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.


Pope Benedict XVI was not the first pope to beatify large numbers of Spanish martyrs from the Civil War in that country. Pope John Paul II beatified some 500 Spanish martyrs in several beatifications since 1987. [1] In addition to the 498 beatified by Pope Benedict XVI, another 1000 martyrs are awaiting conclusion of their causes in the Vatican. It is estimated that in the course of the Red Terror 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy were killed. [2] Another source breaks down the figures as follows: Some 283 women religious were killed. Some of them were badly tortured. [3] 13 bishops were killed from the dioceses of Sigüenza, Lleida, Cuenca, Barbastro, Segorbe, Jaén, Ciudad Real, Almería, Guadix, Barcelona, Teruel and the auxiliary of Tarragona. [3] Aware of the dangers, they all decided to remain in their cities. I cannot go, only here is my responsibility, whatever may happen, so wrote the Bishop of Cuenca [3] In addition 4172 diocesan priests, 2364 monks and friars, among them 259  Clarentians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers, 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits were killed.[4] In some dioceses, the proportion of the secular clergy killed was high:

  • In Barbastro, 123 of 140 priests were killed. [3] about 88 percent of the secular clergy were murdered, 66 percent
  • In Lleida, 270 of 410 priests were killed. [3] about 62 percent
  • In Tortosa, 44 percent of the secular priests were killed. [2]
  • In Toledo, 286 of 600 priests were killed. [3]
  • In the dioceses of Málaga, Menorca and Segorbe, about half of the priests were killed" [2][3]

Individual fates

  • An eye witness to some of the persecution, Cristina de Arteaga, who was soon to become a nun, commented that they "attacked the Salesians, people who are totally committed to the poor. There was a rumor that nuns were giving poisoned sweets to children. Some nuns were grabbed by the hair in the streets. One had her hair pulled out ..." [5]
  • On the night of July 19, 1936 alone, 50 churches were burned.[6] In Barcelona, out of the 58 churches, only the Cathedral was spared, and similar atrocities occurred almost everywhere in Republican Spain.[7]
  • All the Catholic churches in the Republican zone were closed, but the attacks were not limited to Catholic churches, as synagogues were also pillaged and closed, but some small Protestant churches were spared. [8]
  • The parish priest of Navalmoral was put through a parody of Christ's Crucifixion. At the end of his suffering the militiamen debated whether actually to crucify him or just shoot him. They finished with a shooting.[9]
  • The Bishop of Jaén and his sister were murdered in front of two thousand celebrating spectators by a special executioner, a woman nick-named La Pecosa, the freckled one.[10]
  • The Bishop of Almería was murdered while working on a history of Toledo. His card index file was destroyed.[10]
  • In Madrid, a nun was killed because she refused a proposition of marriage from a militiman who helped storm her convent.[9]

Although rare, it was reported that some nuns were raped by militiamen before they were shot.[9] However, according to Antony Beevor, the 1946 nationalist indictment of Republican atrocities contained no evidence for any such incident.[11]

  • The priest of Cienpozuelos was thrown into a corral with fighting bulls where he was gored into unconsciousness. Afterwards one of his ears was cut off to imitate the feat of a matador after a successful bullfight.[12]
  • There are accounts of the people connected to the Catholic Church being forced to swallow rosary beads, being thrown down mine shafts and of priests being forced to dig their own graves before being buried alive.[13]

Saint Peter ceremony

The beatification of the 498 martyrs (list below) took place on Saint Peter's Square not in the Basilica itself, which can include only 60.000 persons. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins who gave the sermon during the beatification ceremonies, stated that these Martyrs all loved Christ and the Church more than their own life.[14] The Cardinal pointed out, that the victims of terror forgave their killers, such as Father Tirso de Jesús María in the letter sent to his family on the eve of his execution: "Pardon them and bless them and amen to everything, just as I love them and pardon them and bless them....."

The logo of the beatification, because of the very large number of new Blesseds, had as its central theme a red cross, the symbol of love taken to the point of pouring out blood for Christ. [15]

The Cardinal explained the difference between "Martyrs of Spain" and "Spanish Martyrs". Spain was the site of their martyrdom and the homeland of many of them, but there were also some who came from other nations, such as France, Mexico and Cuba. Catholic martyrs are not the exclusive patrimony of a single diocese or nation. Rather, because of their special participation in the Cross of Christ, they belong to the whole world, to the universal Church.

Part of a series of articles on
20th Century
Persecutions of the
Catholic Church

Cristero War  · Iniquis Afflictisque </div>
Saints  · José Sánchez del Río
Persecution in Mexico  · Miguel Pro

498 Spanish Martyrs
Red Terror (Spain) · Dilectissima Nobis
Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
Martyrs of Daimiel
Bartolome Blanco Marquez
Innocencio of Mary Immaculate

Mit brennender Sorge  · Alfred Delp</div>
Alois Grimm · Rupert Mayer </div>
Bernhard Lichtenberg · Max Josef Metzger
Karl Leisner  · Maximilian Kolbe

Persecution in China · Ad Sinarum Gentem ·
Cupimus Imprimis  · Ad Apostolorum Principis
Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei · Beda Chang
Dominic Tang
Stefan Wyszyński
108 Martyrs of World War Two · Policies
Poloniae Annalibus  · Gloriosam Reginam
Invicti Athletae · Jerzy Popiełuszko

Eastern Europe
Jozsef Mindszenty  · Eugene Bossilkov
Josef Beran  · Aloysius Stepinac
Meminisse Juvat  · Anni Sacri

El Salvador
Maura Clarke  · Ignacio Ellacuría </div>
Ita Ford  · Rutilio Grande </div>
Dorothy Kazel  · Ignacio Martín-Baró </div>
Segundo Montes  · Óscar Romero </div>

Persecution of Christians
Church persecutions 1939-1958
Vatican and Eastern Europe </div>
Vatican USSR policies
Eastern Catholic persecutions
Terrible Triangle
Conspiracy of Silence (Church persecutions)

Pope Benedict XVI stated that faith helps to purify reason so that it may succeed in perceiving the truth. The Cardinal invoked the intercession of the Martyrs beatified of Mary, Queen of Martyrs "so that we may follow their example". [15]

Spanish reactions

Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, the secretary-general of the Spanish bishops, replied to criticism that the martyrs were old fashioned conservatives: The first martyrs of the Church died, after they were labeled as traitors of the Roman Empire and during the French Revolution, Catholic priests were defined as enemies of the revolution. The Spanish victims were considered an obstacle to historical progress. [16]

The Spanish bishops stated that Spanish society is threatened by secularism. The 498 Martyrs were thus a reminder of other values. "their beatification intends first of all to render glory to God for the faith which conquers the world" The bishops organized a national pilgrimage to Rome, the place of the beatification of the 498 Martyrs, and the martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. [17]

498 Martyrs

  • The Vatican list starts with a priest, Lucas de San José Tristany Pujol, followed by, Virgen María del Monte Carmelo; Leonardo José Aragonés Mateu, a Religious, and Apolonia Lizárraga del Santísimo Sacramento, who was Superior of the Carmelites, and 61 brothers and sisters of the same order
  • The Marist Brother Bernardo Fábrega Julià, and Víctor Chumillas Fernández, Priest of the order of Little Brothers and 21 members of the same order. Antero Mateo García, a lay person was head of family and third order of Saint Dominic. He was slain with 11 others from the second and third order of Saint Dominic. Cruz Laplana y Laguna, was the Bishop of Cuenca, Fernando Españo Berdié, a Priest; Narciso de Esténaga Echevarría, Bishop of Ciudad Real, and ten companions; Liberio González Nombela, priest and twelve companions, all clerics archidioceses of Toledo;
  • Eusebio del Niño Jesús Fernández Arenillas, was a Religious priest, Virgen María del Monte Carmelo, and 15 companions; Félix Echevarría Gorostiaga, Priest, and six companions of his order; Teodosio Rafael, was Christian Brother priest and three companions from the same order; Buenaventura García Paredes, was a priest and Religious; Miguel Léibar Garay, Priest of the Compny of Mary, and forty members of that order. Simón Reynés Solivellas and 5 companions from the missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary and from the congregation of Franciscan sisters
  • Celestino José Alonso Villar and 9 companions of his order; Ángel María Prat Hostench and 16 companions of his order Hermanos de la Bienaventurada Virgen María del Monte Carmelo; Enrique Sáiz Aparicio and 62 companions of his Salesian order; Mariano de San José Altolaguirre y Altolaguirre and 9 companions of the order of the Most Holy Trinity. Eufrasio del Niño Jesús Barredo Fernández, Priest of the order Hermanos Descalzos de la Bienaventurada Virgen María del Monte Carmelo; Laurentino Alonso Fuente, Virgilio Lacunza Unzu and 44 companions of the Institute of Marist Brothers; Enrique Izquierdo Palacios, Priest and 13 companions of the order of Hermanos Predicadores;
  • Ovidio Bertrán Anucibay Letona, Hermenegildo Lorenzo Sáez Manzanares, Luciano Pablo García García, Estanislao Víctor Corsero Fernández y Lorenzo Santiago Martínez de la Pera y Álava, Religious, from the Institute of Christian Brothers, José María Cánovas Martínez, diocesan priest; María del Carmen, Rosa y Magdalena Fradera Ferragutcasas, Sisters of the Congregation Hijas del Santísimo e Inmaculado Corazón de María; Avelino Rodríguez Alonso, Priest, order of the Augustins and 97 companians from the same order; Six Diocesan priests, Manuela del Corazón de Jesús Arriola Uranga and 22 companions of the congregacion Siervas Adoratrices del Santísimo Sacramento y de la Caridad; [18]


A number of controversies have arisen around the beatification of some of these clerics, most of them opposing the notion of these priests being killed for mere religious hatred and, while not excusing their brutal murders, putting them in the context of the historical moment and questioning the appropriateness of their beatification.

One of the most notable of these has centred around Cruz Laplana y Laguna, bishop of Cuenca, a well-known supporter of the monarchic regime, who since the proclamation of the Second Republic had carried out a number of notorious political, pro right-wing campaigns throughout the province and had established close contacts with military officials such as general Joaquín Fanjul, who would lead the Madrid military uprising on 18 July 1936 in support of Franco's coup. The bishop of Cuenca is described by his biographer as "supreme advisor" to the general, as well as being closely involved with the fascist political party Falange. In 1936 he personally endorsed José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader of this party, as a candidate to the 1936 local elections. When the pro-coup uprising in Cuenca failed, the bishop was arrested by Republican militiamen for collaborationism. He was tried for conspiring against the Republican government and executed on 8 August[19].

Fulgencio Martínez, a priest in the village of La Paca in Murcia who was shot after the uprising, was reported by many locals to be closely allied to the local landowners. Over several days before the uprising, father Fulgencio met with these landowners in the village casino - the hub of social life for the local elites in rural Spain- to organise the support for the military coup by offering guns and money to any of those who would join an improvised militia. On 18 July, the day of the uprising, father Fulgencio was among the armed thugs who were going through the village streets on lorries rallying support for the uprising under shouts of "Long live the army!" and "Long live general Queipo de Llano!" [20].

Another priest from Murcia was murdered for his alleged molestation of a number of local young women. He was well known in the city of Lorca for practicing extortionate moneylending among the workers in the impoverished mining barrios, and who made business out of stocking food and reselling it at inflated prices at a time where one of the main causes of death among the worker classes was malnutrition [21].

Public statements by some of these clerics have also been widely publicised as a form of criticism against their beatification. Rigoberto Domenech, archbishop of Zaragoza, declared publicly on 11 August 1936 that the military uprising was to be supported, and its violent actions approved, because "... it is not done in the service of anarchy, but in the benefit of order, fatherland and religion". Another notorious and polemic statement was that given in November 1938 by Leopoldo Eijo Garay, bishop of Madrid-Alcalá, referring to the possibility of a truce or agreement being reached between the Republicans and the rebels; "To tolerate democratic liberalism… would be to betray the martyrs".[22].

The controversy surrounding the beatification of Augustinian friar Gabino Olaso Zabala has been different. Friar Zabala was murdered during the civil war and was beatified. However, attention was called to the fact that this priest had been formerly accused of carrying out acts of torture on Filipino friar Mariano Dacanay, in the days when friar Olaso was a missionary in the former Spanish colony and the Filipinos were trying to liberate themselves from Spanish rule "[23].

See also

External links


  1. Katholische Nachrichtenagentur, October 6, 2007
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 name="cueva355"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Jedin 617
  4. Beevor 2006, pp. ???
  5. name="mitchell17"
  6. Mitchell 1983, p. 45
  7. Mitchell 1983, p. 46
  8. Payne p. 215
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Thomas 1961, p. 173
  10. 10.0 10.1 Thomas 1961, p. 174
  11. Beevor 2006, pp. 83
  12. 12.0 12.1 Thomas, p. 173.
  13. Thomas 1961, p. 272
  14. IDI: DEZEMBER 2007 - Nº 457 | International Dominican Information
  15. 15.0 15.1 Mass for the Beatification of 498 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
  16. Zenit News Agency 10/26/2007
  17. Agenzia Fides 30/4/2007
  18. Beatificación de 498 siervos de Dios mártires en España
  19. Pardo Lancina, Víctor. El País national newspaper digital edition, 29/10/2007 [1]
  20. Dimas, Floren: Letter from the President of the Association for Historical Memory to the Editor of LA VERDAD DE MURCIA [2]
  21. Dimas, Floren: Letter from the President of the Association for Historical Memory to the Editor of LA VERDAD DE MURCIA [3]
  22. Casanova, Julián: Guerra Civil y Religión. El País, 14 June 2006 [4]
  23. 20minutos newspaper, digital edition 17/10/2007 [5]


  • Beevor, Antony (2006), The Battle For Spain; The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, ???: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, ISBN ??? .
  • De la Cueva, Julio Religious Persecution, Anticlerical Tradition and Revolution: On Atrocities against the Clergy during the Spanish Civil War, Journal of Contemporary History Vol XXXIII - 3, 1998
  • August Franzen, Remigius Bäumer, Kirchengeschichte, Herder Freiburg, 1991 (Church history) (cit Franzen)
  • Anastasio Granados, El Cardinal Goma, Primado de Espana, Espasa Calpe Madrid. 1969
  • Hubert Jedin, Konrad Repgen and John Dolan, History of the Church: The Church in the Twentieth Century Burn& Oates London, New York (1981) 1999 Vol X (cit Jedin)
  • 'Frances Lennon Privilege, Persecution, and Prophecy. The Catholic Church in Spain 1875-1975. Oxford 1987
  • Mitchell, David Mitchell (1983), The Spanish Civil War, New York: Franklin Watts, ISBN ??? .
  • Thomas, Hugh (1961), The Spanish Civil War, ???: Touchstone, ISBN 0671758764 .

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