Rorate Caeli

Manuel Sanz Domínguez, Restorer, Martyr

Fr. Manuel Sanz Domínguez, Martyr
In the agitation that followed the promulgation of the decree recognizing the "heroic virtues" of a recent pontiff, many great names remained somewhat in the shadow, including a long list of new martyrs now recognized, who were killed by the Spanish Republican forces in the greatest anti-Catholic persecution of the 20th century.

Keeping our long-held devotion to this blessed multitude of martyrs, we will present some of those who will be beatified in the upcoming months, beginning on this feast of the Holy Innocents.


Spain and Portugal brought countless millions to the Church of God - a work of great missionary orders. But back home, many religious men and women stayed "behind" helping with their cloistered prayers the expansion of the Catholic faith through the great enterprise of the Discoveries. Among these was one particular order that is quintessentially Iberian, and whose houses were always greatly favored by the Iberian royal houses: the Hieronymites (the Jerónimos).

In Lisbon, the greatest national monument is their splendid Monastery, in whose abbatial church the great navigator Vasco da Gama is buried: Santa Maria de Belém. (Below, the leaders of the European Union sign the Lisbon Treaty in front of the Monastery - expropriated by the government in the 19th century.)

Cuius regio, eius religio.

In Spain, the Jerónimos were also everywhere: their well-deserved fame of sobriety and religious seriousness led them to receive intense royal support. It was in their Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Cáceres, in 1486, that Christopher Columbus first tried to persuade Queen Isabella that his design could have great religious consequences for Castille.

Abp. Hernando de Talavera
It was the Queen's confessor and main spiritual advisor, Fray Hernando de Talavera, Prior of the Jerónimos of Valladolid, who would convince her to support the adventurous Italian. It was also to the same Royal Monastery that Queen Isabella would return to give thanks to God and the Virgin for the reconquest of Granada, in 1492, having Talavera appointed first Archbishop of Granada.

Cloister, Royal Monastery of
Santa María de Guadalupe, Cáceres

It was in the Hieronymite monastery of Yuste that Emperor Charles V chose to remain in the last few years of his life. It was in the San Jerónimo Monastery of Madrid that he would have his son Philip proclaimed Prince of Asturias in front of the Cortes. It was for the Jerónimos that King Philip II would build one of the greatest religious bulidings of all time, the Royal Monastery and Palace of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. As in Portugal, in Spain a liberal monarchy would also expel the Jerónimos from their houses in the 19th century, though most Spanish religious buildings were later returned to the Church.

While the feminine branch of the Order managed to survive the ordeal in Spain - but not in Portugal - the monks were disbanded, apparently forever.

Until, that is, a 37-year-old layman tried and managed to do the impossible, reconstitute the most significantly Iberian monastic order: and he did in under 12 years, right in the middle of the most troubled time in Spanish history.

Moved by Providence and encouraged by the remaining feminine houses, Manuel Sanz Domínguez, a high manager in a bank, left his life as a banker and went to Rome in 1923-24, persuading the Curial authorities that he had what it took to restore the Order. And he established it in 1925, in the ruined remains of the Hieronymite house of the Royal Monastery of Santa María del Parral, just outside Segovia.

The troubled years of the Second Spanish Republic, founded in 1931, did not hamper his work - but the restorer, ordained to the priesthood in 1928, was caught in the anti-Catholic wave that swept through Spain in the 1930s, and grew much worse during the Soviet-inspired Republican response to the alzamiento of July 18, 1936. It was not only the active religious who were threatened, the contemplative orders were persecuted with particular ferocity. And Fr. Manuel Sanz was captured, imprisoned, murdered and buried in the greatest open-air reliquary in the world, the Field of Saints that is in Paracuellos de Jarama, outside Madrid. (Previous post on the Paracuellos massacre here. Note: the Augustinian friars who were placed in charge of El Escorial in the 19th century were also almost entirely annihilated at Paracuellos. El Escorial remains an Augustinian house.)

The Monastery that remains today is only one, El Parral, but it stands - as always, the nuns have expanded much more. Only six members were left alive following the Republican persecution. The Hironymites were also, of course, hit by the modernizing trends of the 1960s: Father Manuel Sanz would never recognize the liturgy forced upon Spain after the Council. But considering the war and the Council, the fact that they are still there is nothing short of amazing. He did his part, and was called by God to receive his glorious crown in 1936. With such a powerful intercessor, it is unlikely that the Jerónimos and Jerónimas are going to disappear anytime soon.

Cementerio de los Mártires, Paracuellos de Jarama, Madrid