Other Discussions on Spain


Recent memos have pointed out the symbolic importance of events in Spain. Now the Saints come marching in, or rather treading gently. The most notorious remark of Republican Prime Minister Manuel Azana was that Spain had ceased to be Catholic. The ensuing Civil War was largely a religious war, with the Catholics supporting Franco, the Republicans murdering priests. Azana was largely right, but the Church is still an important presence in the background.

This brings us to an annual custom introduced by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Again, yesterday, with much publicity, he flew by helicopter to the famous but isolated Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in Castile, his home region. There, with the 33 Benedictine fathers he ate in silence, listening to a sacred reading, followed by coffee and a social gathering with them.

In interpreting this gesture, we must not confuse our saints. There are three Saint Dominics, even though the exhaustive eleventh edition of the Britannica recognizes only one: the famous founder of the Dominican Order, born just south of the monastery and presumably named after the first Santo Domingo, who lived a century earlier. Since there are three Spanish Santo Domingos, and to distinguish him from Santo Domingo de Silos, he is known as Santo Domingo de Guzman. He has left a questionable memory, since he founded the Inquisition to persecute the Albigensians, now idealized as martyrs to Catholic intolerance.

We must assume that Spaniards do not confuse the three saints. Prime Minister Aznar was honoring the scholarly Benedictine, not the heretic chaser. He was telling Spaniards that his government supports a quiet, scholarly church, but not the church of the Inquisition. It was a sequel to the Almeria ceremony which stressed support for the constitutional monarchy,but not the absolute monarchy which scrapped the constitution.

Ronald Hilton - 08/25/98