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


  1. Oh blessed martyrs of Spain, pray for us, for the Holy Father and the entire Church! O benditos mártires de España, rueguen por nosotros, por el Santo Padre y por la entera Iglesia!

  2. Sorry, Duarte, that kind of debate will lead to unwanted discussions here. If you wish to rephrase it, we will let it stand.

  3. From perhaps an unlikely source, Jordan Aumann, O.P., in his introduction to Fray Luis de Granada's Summa of the Christian Life, is the following edifying statement (in a footnote):

    "The three volumes of this
    were compiled by Fr. Antonio Trancho, O.P., of
    Almagro, Spain, using the of St. Thomas
    Aquinas as a framework for the spiritual doctrine of Fray
    Louis of Granada. Fr. Trancho did not live to see the
    completion of his work; with twenty-six fellow Dominicans,
    he gave his life for God and for Spain in the early days of
    the Spanish Civil War."

    All holy martyrs fallen for God and for Spain, pray for us!

  4. "Expropriated by the government . . ."

    Expropriated = stolen

  5. GQ Rep11:59 AM

    Glorious history of both the original Order of St. Jerome (Hieronomites), and the restoration by this brave and zealous layman . There are many extinct religious Orders which can and should be restored by young nuns and friars rather than founding new groups with peculiar and almost non-Catholic apostolates and traditions (The Community of the Beatitudes and the Jerusalem community to name but two)

    The Order of St. Jerome in Medieval times had three branches. One was the Spanish/Portuguese branch which became by far the largest and most famous. The other two were based in Italy, one in the region around Florence (Tuscany), and the other around Rome itself.

    The Spanish branch was supressed in the mid 19th century due to lack of vocations. The Italian branch in central Italy went extinct on it's own before the 18th century. The Roman branch of the Order of St. Jerome existed all the way up until the middle of the 20th century,around 1957-58.

    Before Vatican II, the restored Spanish branch re-founded by this heroic martyr had 3-4 monasteries and about 45 monks total. Unfortunatly, the liturgical disaster of Vatican II and it's other abuses caused the Order to loose many members, and vocations died away. Today, there is only 1 monastery...the original restored house...and only about 16 monks.

    Let us pray for a new surge of vocations to this great Order. Their situation is much like the TrappistAbbey of Mariawald....the old monnks cling to the abuses of Vatican II, the new wave of younger monks want tradition.

  6. A worthy post!
    Would I could let pass one word and a half!
    "Soviet-inspired Republican response to the alazamiento."
    Sadly, for all that Marxism has caused much evil without bolshevism, which has exacerbated it since the october revolution, and not to diminish the vast respnsability of The soviets in Spain, it was seeds sown in the french revolution which created a wholly Spanish murderous anticatholicscm and anticlericalism generations old, which marxism did but inflame. The Soviets did not INSPIRE this in 36,their inspiration would indeed have been identical!they abetted, encouraged, supported, maintained,spread, manipulated undoubtedly prolonged and made worse, something largely homegrown.
    Which so many martyrs knew and understood and died blessing their killers and tormentors.
    Well followed is this post by becket!

  7. Geroteo de Segovia3:51 PM

    My dear Brothers:

    I thank you so much for having published this memory of one of the many glorious martyrs of the always catholic Spain.

    The Order of Saint Jerome in Spain has been very glorious for its sanctity, principally through liturgical chanted prayer at choir, with the better and most fervent and devout solemnity possible

    Restoring this kind of life would be the dream of my life; I'm now 38, with studies and a certain religious experience, so, if God would ever suscitate vocations, I would be voluntary.

    The remaining monastery of El Parral, near Segovia, doesn't seem eager to come back toward what they have previously destroyed, so God knows how,where, when and with who this will be possible.

    Pray for us, please, and if you know someone interested, notice me, I beg you.

    God bless you forever.


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!