Rorate Caeli

The Passion of Spain - 75 years

Exactly 75 years ago, the tensions within the Spanish Republic reached unbearable levels and the alzamiento of July 18 began. The greatest persecution of Catholics since late Antiquity was about to begin in the territory retained by the Communist-inspired forces, and would be particularly brutal in the first six months of the conflict - giving the Church thousands of martyrs (including 13 bishops), of which around 1,000 have already been beatified.

Five years ago, we began a special series of posts on the story of this relentless persecution, reverted only after Catholics joined the struggle for the faith: read it all in The Passion of Spain series. We also ask our readers to please share in the comments their favorite books, videos, online sources on this event, in any language - for instance, the Collective Letter of the Spanish Bishops (July 1, 1937); the response of several national episcopates, including the Bishops of Ireland; or the chilling images in the first and second annex on religious persecution of the Causa General.

(In the first image, Republican militiamen fire at the Monument to the Sacred Heart, in the Cerro de los Ángeles, province of Madrid -- the monument would be completely destroyed in the first months of the persecution. It would be rebuilt following the war. In the image below, a Russian Orthodox chaplain of the White Russian volunteers assembled by General Evgeny Miller, exiled in France, who would be kidnapped in French soil during the war, tortured and killed in his homeland - source. And in our header above, a Mass celebrated  near the Sierra Nevada, in Andalusia, for the Tercio Isabel la Católica, of Granada, one of the many Catholic groups fighting against the attempted extermination of the Church - source.)


As a final reminder of who represented what in that conflict, we once again recall the words of Pope Pius XII when victory was declared, in 1939:


(April 14, 1939)

With great joy We address you, most dear children of Catholic Spain, to express to you our fatherly congratulations for the gift of peace and of victory, with which God has deemed worthy to crown the Christian heroism of your faith and charity, tried in so many and so generous sufferings. Our Predecessor, of venerable memory, expected, with longing and trust, this Providential peace, which is undoubtedly the fruit of that copious blessing which he sent, in the very beginning of the struggle, "to all those who had devoted themselves to the difficult and dangerous task of defending and restoring the rights and the honor of God and Religion" [1]; and We do not doubt that this peace shall be the one that he himself foretold since then, "the sign of a future of tranquility in order, and of honor in prosperity" [2].

The designs of Providence, most beloved children, have once again dawned over heroic Spain. The Nation chosen by God as the main instrument of the evangelization of the New World and as an impregnable fortress of the Catholic faith has just shown to the apostles of materialistic Atheism of our century the greatest evidence that the eternal values of religion and of the spirit stand above all things.

The tenacious propaganda and the constant efforts of the enemies of Jesus Christ seemed to have desired to try in Spain a supreme experiment of the dissolving forces which they have at their disposal throughout the world; and even though it is true that the Almighty has for now not allowed them to achieve their goal, He has at least tolerated some of their terrible effects, so that the world could see how religious persecution, undermining the very bases of justice and charity, which are love for God and respect for His holy law, may drag modern society to unthinkable abysses of evil destruction and passionate discord.

Convinced of this truth, the sane Spanish people, with the two marks characteristic of their most noble spirit, which are generosity and frankness, rose up determinedly in defense of the ideals of Christian faith and civilization, deeply rooted in the Spanish soil, and, aided by God, "who does not abandon those who hope in Him" (Judith 13, 17), could resist the push from those who, deceived by what they believed to be a humanitarian ideal of the exaltation of the meek, truly fought only for Atheism.

This primordial meaning of your victory makes us dwell in the most promising hopes, that God in His mercy will deign lead Spain through the safe path of its traditional and Catholic grandeur; which will be the point that will guide all Spaniards, who love their Religion and their Fatherland, in the effort to organize the life of the Nation in perfect harmony with its most noble history of Catholic faith, piety, and civilization.

We thus exhort the Authorities and Shepherds of Catholic Spain to enlighten the mind of those who were deceived, showing them, lovingly, the roots of Materialism and Secularism from which their errors and wrongful acts came forth, and from which they could spring forth again. Propose to them the principles of individual and social justice, without which the peace and prosperity of nations, as mighty as they may be, cannot subsist, and which are those contained in the Holy Gospel and in the doctrine of the Church.

We do not doubt that it will happen thus, and the bases for Our firm hope are the most noble and Christian sentiments, of which the Chief of State and so many gentlemen, his faithful collaborators, have given unequivocal evidence with the legal protection which they have granted to the supreme religious and social interests, according to the teachings of the Apostolic See. The same hope is also founded upon the enlightened zeal and abnegation of your Bishops and Priests, tempered by pain, and also in the faith, piety, and spirit of sacrifice of which, in terrible hours, all classes of Spanish society gave heroic proof.

And now, before the remembrance of the mounting ruins of the bloodiest civil war recorded in the history of modern times, We, with pious regard, bow our head, above all, to the holy memory of the Bishops, Priests, Religious of both sexes, and faithful of all ages and conditions who, in such an elevated number, sealed with blood their faith in Jesus Christ, and their love for the Catholic Religion: «maiorem hac dilectionem nemo habet», "Greater love than this no man hath" (Jn 15, 13).

We also acknowledge our debt of gratitude towards all those who sacrificed themselves even unto heroism in defense of the unalienable rights of God and of Religion, either in the battlefields, or devoted to the sublime works of Christian charity in prisons and hospitals.

We cannot hide the bitter sorrow that the remembrance of so many innocent children, who, having been ripped from their homes, were taken to faraway lands, often in danger of apostasy and perversion: we desire nothing more ardently than to see them returned to the bosom of their families, where they will once again find the warm and Christian tenderness of their own. And those others who, as prodigal sons, wish to return to the house of the father, we doubt not that they will be welcomed with goodwill and love.

It falls upon You, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, to advise all, so that in their policy of pacification all will follow the principles taught by the Church, and proclaimed with such nobility by the Generalísimo: of justice for crime, and of lenient generosity for the mistaken. Our solicitude, also as a Father, cannot forget these deceived ones, whom a deceitful and perverse propaganda succeeded in enticing with praises and promises. Your Pastoral solicitude should be targeted at them, with patience and meekness: pray for them, seek them, lead them again to the regenerative bosom of the Church and to the warmth of the Fatherland, and lead them to the Merciful Father, Who awaits them with open arms.

Therefore, most dear children, since the rainbow of peace has returned to brighten the heavens of Spain, let us come together heartily in a fervent hymn of thanksgiving to the God of Peace and in a prayer of forgiveness and mercy for all those who perished; and, in order that this peace be fruitful and longlasting, We exhort you with all the fervor of Our heart, to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4, 2-3). Thus united and obedient to your venerable Episcopate, devote yourselves joyfully and with no delay, to the urgent work of reconstruction, which God and the Fatherland expect from you.

As a pledge of the copious graces, which the Immaculate Virgin and Saint James the Apostle, Patrons of Spain, shall obtain for you, and which the great Spanish Saints have merited for you, We bestow upon you, Our dear children of Catholic Spain, upon the Chief of State and his illustrious Government, upon the zealous Episcopate and their selfless Clergy, upon the heroic combatants, and upon all the faithful Our Apostolic Blessing.

[1] Speech to the Spanish refugees: AAS 28 (1936) 380.
[2] Speech to the Spanish refugees: AAS 28 (1936) 381.
[a RORATE CÆLI translation]


  1. Very timely and important to remember the heroic sacrifices made by Spanish Catholics in the fight against international communism, especially as a new economic and political meltdown in Europe appears ever more likely. Probably to be accompanied by attacks on the Church.

  2. Pace Orwell,Europeans like "Jack the Giantkiller", and side naturally with the underdog. Hypothesis : the loser is the saintly underdog. Demonstrably false: 1914 Germany, the groups known as " Republican Spain" 36-39.The anglosphere does need to learn just how evil these collection of mobs was, how misguided is their continuing "good "press", even here in Spain.
    "..../....As a final reminder of who represented the good side in that conflict.../..."
    Hypothesis : All as fights evil are therebye all simon-pure.
    Prove it.

  3. The hatred of the left makes no sense, that's for sure. It's not like they murder indiscriminately or just for power or wealth. They target that which is best even when their power would seem superabundant.

    They must hate themselves unto hopelessness and want to drag everybody else down with them.

    Come to think of it, I guess that's a pretty good description of hell.

  4. Gratias4:49 AM

    Thank you for reminding us. 75 years later history has been rewritten by the Socialist. The last statue of the Generalissimo was removed a few years ago. No memory remains in Spain of the thousands of priests and religious executed by the republic. My great uncle died defending the wrong side in this historical war. The Freemasons that gave us the French Revolution lost the war but re-wrote history. They always do. Since the Muslims exploded the high-speed trains in 2001 Spain, to its lasting shame, elected the Socialist government that governs to this day. Through them, Spain achieved divorce, abortion, homosexual marriage, and Catholic opprobrium.

    Pius XII was a great Pope. He has only been beatified recently. He should have been canonized for defending the Faith and saving so many Jews from Hitler. The
    Freemasons are implacable enemies, but they will lose the war. If not here, in Heaven.

  5. Gratias5:03 AM

    NC: the link to the previous a Passion of Spain posts did not work. It would be a good thing in memory of all that died to keep them liked permanently on the right hand side of your webpage.

  6. Adeodatus5:32 AM

    ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

  7. I am sorry, Mr. Hudson, but the propaganda that "both sides were to blame" will not be posted here. Might it have been possible for Catholics to remain neutral in this conflict and to fight in good conscience for both sides? Possibly, it has happened in almost all internal conflicts before and since - if one of the sides had not chosen from the beginning to identify its cause with that of the extermination of the Church.

    Regardless of each side in the political-military arena (the righteousness of the victory of one of those sides is clearly expressed by Pius XII, there is really nothing to add to that), what we remember here today is the memory of the thousands of Catholics killed for their faith alone, not for other reasons - and while Catholics certainly died in both sides, all killed exclusively for their Catholic faith were killed by one side only.

  8. @ Gratias: Pope Pius XII wasn't beatified. I only wish this was true. He was the greatest pope of the last 2 centuries. He was a true angel! Let's pray he will be beatified soon and after that canonised. What a great joy this will be!!!!

  9. Dear NC

    Answering to your question, I would suggest in Spanish all the books written by historians like Ricardo de la Cierva - - and Pio Moa. They are really good works.

    About the religious persecution, the reading of “La persecucion religiosa en España”, from the authorship of the Bishop of Badajoz, Montero Moreno, published by the prestigious Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos (BAC), is mandatory.

    In English, the most balanced works are written by Stanley G. Payne and Burnett Bolloten. “Spain Betrayed”, from Ronald Radosh, is also very interesting. Avoid anything from Paul Preston.

    In French, I would suggest the work of Robert Brasillach and Maurice Bardéche, “Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne”, written while the war was being fought. There is a Portuguese translation of it, now only available in second hand bookshops.

    Finally, in Portuguese, I would suggest the first chapters of “O Século do Nada”, from the great Brazilian traditionalist Gustavo Corção.

  10. M. A.2:29 PM

    The Last Crusade, by Warren Carroll is a book one can't put down until the last page is read. Especially moving is the narrative of the siege of the Alcazar and its triumphant relief by Franco's forces, something reminiscent of the accounts of El Cid and the Reconquista.

  11. It seems Dr. Carroll is no longer in this valley of tears. May he, who so vigorously defended the Church, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

  12. Anonymous2:58 PM

    The Cypresses Believe in God/One Million Dead by Gironella is one of the best account of the Spanish civil war. In fact, it is probably a continuation of the French revolution both inspired by ideologies, mostly Marxist. The Church was perceived by the leftists as the one institution that must be extinguished to reach uncontested power. In pursuit of the power all methods were employed.

    IMHO, Satanic inspiration played part in both the French and the Spanish rebellion alike.

  13. Anonymous3:23 PM

    Unfortunately the so called "values" of the west base on the ideology of those wicked revolutionaries who commited a sacrilege when they killed Louis XVI, an anointed king, and his consort. To conciliate with 1789 means to contract a friendship with the devil. Generalissimo Franco knnew this only too well. In one of his last great speeces, from the balcony of the royal palace in Madrid, General Franco beseechingly warned the spanish from freemasonry and its following.

  14. Anonymous3:57 PM

    Of your charity, pray for the repose of the soul of Warren H. Carroll, Catholic historian, co-founder of Christendom College and author of a book on this very period in Spanish history (The Last Cruasde: Spain 1936), who died yesterday.

    +Jesu, mercy ~ Mary, pray+

    --Benedict Ambrose

  15. A.M. Gerasah4:29 PM

    Could someone please direct me to authorities on Franco and Carlism?

  16. Kathleen9:22 PM

    A.M. Gerasah Quote:

    Could someone please direct me to authorities on Franco and Carlism?

    "The Last Crusade: Spain 1936," by historian Warren Carroll.

    It seems notable that Mr. Carroll died on the eve of the anniversary of the alzamiento.

    His history of the heroic Spanish Catholics is tremendously moving.

  17. With respect to authorities on Carlism, Google for Wlhelmsen and Carlism and you will find articles by both Fritz Wilhelmsen himself, who told me personally that he was an honorary Carlist requete (militiaman), and even more from his daughter, Alexandra, who is making something of a specialty in Carlism, I believe; last I heard she was still teaching at University of Dallas. As I recall it, some of the findins in her articles (possibly not available on the net)were really quite interesting, as e.g., the Carlists evidently held the theory that a legitimate monarch could lose his right to the throne by ceasing to seek the common good, and thus in effect "abandoning" the throne (presumably by abandoning his mission). And of course, Carlism had a disctinctly local, as well as Catholic, flavor, as exemplified by the Carlist war cry, Dios, Patria, Fueros [local rights], Rey!

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned the film "There Be Dragons", which, supposedly in order to "pass" in Socialist Spain, had to make the bad guy foil for Saint Josemaria a Nationalist. There is a scene purporting to show Army officers plotting the uprising, with one character looking suspicioulsy like General Franco, which would certainly not have been the case as he had been "exiled" to the Canary Islands by the Red government and only consented to join the uprising close to the very last minute.

    For resources on Franco, the biography by George Hills is the most favorable. There is also a short biography mostly from a military perspective in the Presidio Press series, I think, which is very interesting, as it shows how (a) Franco won every promotion from Lieutenant to General, except one, on the battlefield, in Morocco, and (b) his supposedly pedestrian war of slow advances in the Civil War was actually ahead of its day, and foreshadowed what actually happened in the Second World War, where what mattered was not who won the famous battles but who won the war.

  18. A.M. Gerasah7:57 AM

    To Kathleen and Woody, great thanks. I'm very keen to explore the Carlist understanding of subsidiarity.

  19. J G Ratkaj11:12 AM

    "Could someone please direct me to authorities on Franco and Carlism?"

    I found the reading of this two titles (both available via very expedient:

    1. Martin Blinkhorn, Carlism and Crisis in Spain 1931-1939, CUP, 2008

    2. Jeremy Macclancy, The Decline of Carlism, University of Nevada Press, 2000

  20. Anonymous1:23 PM

    "God is merciful with those who follow Him, strict but not overly so with those who ignore Him, but merciless to those who, having known Him, disregard Him. That is why He put in Catholic countries the tabernacles of His glory; that is why He condemned the pagan nations to the vicissitudes of their fortune; and that is why He reserves Socialism, the worst of social catastrophes, for apostate nations. Spain will either again become Catholic or will be, in the end, Socialist." -- Juan Donoso Cortes, Letter to the Queen Mother Maria de Borbon, Nov. 26, 1851

  21. The narrow and veiled view of rabid myopic political anti-Catholic bigotry is such that when communists decry what they perceive as fascism, they are unable to see the hypocrisy in their own perceptions since communism is equally fascistic but it forbids private property and any religious freedom.
    It is utterly incredible that communism still persists as a mode of political belief & analysis considering how subjective all of its terms of reference such as alienation, legitimation and proletarianisation are. Not one of its so-called principles can be operationalised except for its adoption of capital punishment for all perceived enemies. This is one statistic that will never go away. We can acually measure its intolerance quantitatively.

  22. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Mike Cliffson:

    Germany in 1914 was the "evil" side?!?
    So you prefer Freemasonic France and England to a great Christian monarchy?
    The failure of the Schlieffen Plan in September 1914 was one of the greatest tragedies of world history. Had Imperial Germany won then, the results would have been, amongst others, the end of the French Republic and the restoration of the traditional monarchy in France, the quick defeat of Russia in the East (which would have assured the continuation of Russia as a Christian Empire), the smashing of the Serbs and the consolidation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    In short, Christendom would still exist. Oh, one other small matter: the Communist Empire would never have come into being.
    The wrong side won the First World War - only a Leftist could think otherwise.

  23. What is it with the Spanish? Can't they make up their minds to be faithful or fascist? Catholic or communist? saintly or sinister? civilized or barbaric? How can one country go from being such a great defender of the Faith by driving out the muslim horde to embracing the worst trends of the 20th Century - abortion, sexual perversion, communism and irreligion?

    The Spanish seem to be a microcosm of the world - at war with itself, the frontline in the battle between good and evil. I hope for their sake that they find a way back to God before the toll on their country becomes even more devastating.

  24. Anonymous2:38 AM

    torculus -- As Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics, the corruption of the best is the worst.


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