Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War

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Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
Born Various
Died 1934, 1936-1939
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified 29 March 1987
1 October 1989
29 April 1990
25 October 1992
10 October 1993
1 October 1995
4 May 1997
10 May 1998
7 March 1999
11 March 2001 by Pope John Paul II
29 October 2005
28 October 2007
22 January 2010
17 December 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI[1]
13 October 2013
1 November 2014
5 September 2015
3 October 2015
21 November 2015
23 April 2016 by Pope Francis
Canonized 21 November 1999 (Nine Martyrs of the 1934 Asturias uprising) in Rome[1]
4 May 2003 in Madrid by Pope John Paul II
Feast September 22 and November 6

Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War is the name given by the Catholic Church to the people who were killed by Republicans during the war because of their faith.[1] As of July 2008, almost one thousand Spanish martyrs have been beatified or canonized. For some two thousand additional martyrs, the beatification process is underway.


During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, and especially in the early months of the conflict, individual clergymen were executed while entire religious communities were persecuted, leading to a death toll of 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarists, 2,364 monks and friars and 283 nuns, for a total of 6,832 clerical victims, as part of what is referred to as Spain's Red Terror.[2]

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II beatified a total of about 500 martyrs in the years 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2001. Some 233 executed clergy were beatified by John Paul II on the 11th of March 2001.[3] In 1999 he also canonized a Christian Brother and the nine Martyrs of Turon, the first group of Spanish Civil War martyrs to reach sainthood. Regarding the selection of Candidates, Archbishop Edward Novack from the Congregation of Saints explained in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano: "Ideologies such as Nazism or Communism serve as a context of martyrdom, but in the foreground the person stands out with his conduct, and, case by case, it is important that the people among whom the person lived should affirm and recognize his fame as a martyr and then pray to him, obtaining graces. It is not so much ideologies that concern us, as the sense of faith of the People of God, who judge the person's behaviour [4]

Pope Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI beatified 498 more Spanish martyrs in October 2007,[5] in the largest beatification ceremony in the history of the Catholic Church.[6] In this group of people, the Vatican has not included all Spanish martyrs, nor any of the 16 priests who were executed by the nationalist side in the first years of the war. This decision has caused numerous criticisms from surviving family members and several political organisations in Spain.[7]

The beatification recognized the extraordinary fate and often brutal death of the persons involved. Some have criticized the beatifications as dishonoring non-clergy who were also killed in the war, and as being an attempt to draw attention away from the church's support of Franco (some quarters of the Church called the Nationalist cause a "crusade").[8] Within Spain, the Civil War still raises high emotions. The act of beatification has also coincided in time with the debate on the Law of Historical Memory (about the treatment of the victims of the war and its aftermath) promoted by the Spanish Government.

Responding to the criticism, the Vatican has described the October 2007 beatifications as relating to personal virtues and holiness, not ideology. They are not about "resentment but ... reconciliation". The Spanish government has supported the beatifications, sending Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos to attend the ceremony.[9] Among those present was Juan Andrés Torres Mora, a relative of one of the martyrs and the Spanish MP who had debated the memory law for PSOE .[10]

The October 2007 beatifications have brought the number of martyred persons beatified by the Church to 977, eleven of whom have been canonized as saints.[6] Because of the extent of the persecution, many more cases could be proposed; as many as 10,000 according to Catholic Church sources. The process for beatification has already been initiated for about 2,000 people.[6]

At the October 28, 2007 beatifications, Pope Benedict underscored the call to sanctity for all Christians, saying it was "realistic possibility for the entire Christian people".[11] He also noted, "This martyrdom in ordinary life is an important witness in today's secularized society." [11]

Pope Francis

Pope Francis beatified 522 martyrs on October 13, 2013, at Tarragona, Spain; among them was Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera from Manila, Philippines, who became the first Filipino martyr of the Spanish Civil War.

Francis also approved additional beatifications for Spanish martyrs that took place for a priest on November 1, 2014 as well as two sets of group martyrs on both September 5, 2015 and October 3, 2015. The pope also approved the beatification of 26 Capuchin martyrs, which took place on November 21, 2015.

The beatification for Valentín Palencia Marquina and his four companions took place on April 23, 2016 in Burgos.[12]

Individual cases

Martyrs of Turon

The martyrs of Turon were a group of eight De La Salle Brothers, and the Passionist priest who was with them, who were executed by striking miners at Turon in October 1934. Although this was nearly two years before the outbreak of the civil war, their deaths were part of the same violence and anti-clerical feeling of that period in Spain's history, and are regarded as martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 29, 1990, and were canonized by him on November 21, 1999.

Saint Innocencio of Mary Immaculate

Saint Innocencio of Mary Immaculate born Emanuele Canoura Arnau, was a member of the Passionist Congregation and martyr of the Spanish Civil War, born on March 10, 1887 in Santa Cecelia del Valle de Oro in Galicia, Spain; He died at Turon, with his eight companions, on October 9, 1934. He was beatified on April 29, 1990 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on November 21, 1999.

Saint Jaime Hilario Barbal

Jaime Hilario Barbal, born Manuel Barbal Cosán, was raised in a pious and hardworking family near the Pyrenees mountains. Entered the seminary at age 12, but when his hearing began to fail in his teens, he was sent home. Joined the Brothers of the Christian Schools at age 19, entering the novitiate on 24 February 1917 at Irun, Spain, taking the name Jaime Hilario. Exceptional teacher and catechist, he believed strongly in the value of universal education, especially for the poor. However, his hearing problems grew worse, and in the early 1930s, he was forced to retire from teaching, and began work in the garden at the La Salle house at San Jose, Tarragona, Spain. Imprisoned in July 1936 at Mollerosa, Spain when the Spanish Civil War broke out and religious were swept from the street. Transferred to Tarragona in December, then confined on a prison ship with some other religious. Convicted on 15 January 1937 of being a Christian Brother. Two rounds of volley fire from a firing squad did not kill him, possibly because some of soldiers intentionally shot wide; their commander then murdered Jaime with five shots at close range. First of the 97 La Salle Brothers killed in Catalunia, Spain during the Spanish Civil War to be recognized as a martyr. He was beatified on April 29, 1990, and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on November 21, 1999.

Saint Pedro Poveda

He was a priest, the founder of the Teresian Association and a Martyr of the Spanish civil war. He was beatified on October 10, 1993 and canonized on May 4, 2003.

Passionist Martyrs of Daimiel

They were a group of priests and brothers of the Passionist Congregation killed by Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 1989. Eyewitnesses reported that all of the Passionists had forgiven their murderers before they died. A witness to the murder of Father Niceforo reported that after being shot the priest turned his eyes to heaven then turned and smiled at his murderers. At this point one of them, now more infuriated than ever, shouted:

“What, are you still smiling?”[13]

With that he shot him at point blank range.

Blessed Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera

Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera (Jose Maria of Manila) was born on September 5, 1880 in Manila, Philippines. He was a Franciscan Capuchin priest. He died a martyr on August 17, 1936, in Madrid, Spain, during the Spanish civil war. He is venerated in the Catholic Church, which celebrates his feast on August 17. He was beatified on October 13, 2013.

Blessed Bartolomé Blanco Márquez

Bartolomé Blanco Márquez was born in Cordoba, Spain in 1914. He was arrested as a Catholic leader—he was the secretary of Catholic Action and a delegate to the Catholic Syndicates—on August 18, 1936. He was executed on October 2, 1936, at age 21, while he cried out, “Long live Christ the King!" Born in Pozoblanco 25 November 1914, Bartolome was orphaned as a child, and raised by family with whom he worked. He was an excellent student, studying under the tutelage of the Salesians.

Blessed Victoria Díez Bustos de Molina

She was a religious, the member of the same congregation and also a Martyr of the Spanish civil war. She was beatified on October 10, 1993.

Blessed Pedro Asúa Mendía

Pedro was educated by Jesuits. Trained as an architect, graduating in 1915. he worked on schools, churches and houses for religious. He was ordained priest in the diocese of Vitoria, Spain in 1924. He was executed on August 29, 1936. He was beatified on November 1, 2014.


During the 19th and the 20th centuries, the Catholic Church in the Spain supported and was strongly supported by and associated with the Spanish monarchy. The Second Spanish Republic saw an alternation of leftist and conservative coalition governments between 1931 and 1936. Amidst the disorder caused by the military coup of July 1936, many supporters of the Republican government pointed their weapons against individuals they considered local reactionaries, including priests and nuns.

A paradoxic case for foreign Catholics was that of the Basque Nationalist Party, at the time a Catholic party from the Basque areas, who after some hesitation, supported the Republican government in exchange for an autonomous government in the Basque Country. Although, virtually every other group on the Republican side was involved in the anticlerical persecution, the Basques did not play a part.[14] The Vatican diplomacy tried to orient them to the National side, explicitly supported by Cardinal Isidro Goma y Tomas, but the BNP feared the centralism of the Nationals. Some Catalan nationalist also found themselves in the same situation, such as members of de Unió Democràtica de Catalunya party whose most relevant leader, Manuel Carrasco i Formiguera was killed by the Nationalists in Burgos on 1938.


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 on 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 political, pro right-wing campaigns throughout the province, and had established close contacts with military officials such as general Joaquín Fanjul, a supporter of Francisco 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 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.[15]

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 persons 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!".[16]

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 defensive actions approved, because "it is not done in the service of anarchy, but in the benefit of order, fatherland and religion," a logical response to the Red Terror. Another statement was that given in November 1938 by Leopoldo Eijo Garay, bishop of Madrid-Alcalá, regarding a possible truce between Republican and rebel forces: “To tolerate democratic liberalism… would be to betray the martyrs.”[17]

The controversy surrounding the beatification of Augustinian friar Gabino Olaso Zabala, listed as a companion of Avelino Rodriguez Alonso, has been different. Friar Zabala was martyred during the civil war and was beatified. Attention was called to the fact that this priest had been formerly accused without conviction of carrying out acts of torture on Philippine friar Mariano Dacanay, in the days when friar Olaso was a missionary in the former Spanish colony during the time when the Katipunan was trying to wrest the islands from Spanish rule.[18] This, however, is immaterial, and ignores the fact that the Church proclaims that even sinners can repent and turn into saints, such as in the case of Augustine of Hippo.

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Butler, Alban and Peter Doyle Butler's Lives of the Saints p. 169 Liturgical Press (February 2000)
  2. Julio de la Cueva, "Religious Persecution, Anticlerical Tradition and Revolution: On Atrocities against the Clergy during the Spanish Civil War" Journal of Contemporary History 33.3 (July 1998): 355.
  3. New Evangelization with the Saints, L'Osservatore Romano 28 November 2001, page 3 (Weekly English Edition)
  4. martyr.
  5. Tucson priests one step away from sainthood Arizona Star 06.12.2007 Archived June 15, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 500 Spanish martyrs to be beatified Independent Catholic News 10 October 2007 Archived October 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Familiares de los curas vascos fusilados por Franco claman contra el olvido"[1] On-line edition of El País 27 October 2007(in Spanish)
  8. "Vatican's Plan to Beatify Spanish Clergy Divisive" by Jerome Socolovsky. Morning Edition, National Public Radio, 13 July 2007.
  9. Reijers-Martin, Laura Vatican honours Spanish war dead BBC October 28, 2007
  10. Mártires.- Unas 400 personas celebran la beatificación en la Embajada de España ante la Santa Sede, Europa Press, 28 October 2007.
  11. 11.0 11.1 WINFIELD, NICOLE Vatican Beatifies 498 Spanish Martyrs Los Angeles Times (AP) October 28, 2007
  12. "Archbishop will inaugurate the Year of Mercy with the opening of the Holy Door of the Cathedral". Archdiocese of Burgos. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Father Pablo García, C.P., Blessed Niceforo and Companions, Martyrs
  14. Stanley G. Payne, A History of Spain and Portugal Vol. 2 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973), 649.
  15. Pardo Lancina, Víctor. El País national newspaper digital edition, 29 October 2007 [2]
  16. Dimas, Floren: Letter from the President of the Association for Historical Memory to the Editor of LA VERDAD DE MURCIA [3]
  17. Casanova, Julián: Guerra Civil y Religión. El País, 14 of June 2006
  18. 20minutos newspaper, digital edition 17/10/2007