Back to Index

SPAIN: The Residencia during the Civil War

I lived in the famous Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid before and during the first period of the Civil War. I visited it during the Franco period as did John Crispin, who writes. "The Residencia was never under clerical rule. It is true that the auditorium became a church, but the Residencia was officially, after the war, the Residencia del Consejo de Investigaciones Científicas for bureaucrats of the Consejo. [It was a national research council. Although officially not under the Church, there was considerable clerical influence over it and over the Residencia. RH].

I knew the Residencia in those years. The furniture and expensive rugs were in the Franco official style, and it had nothing of the spirit of the previous institution. [When I lived in the Residencia it was excessively austere. I had to but some furniture to make my room livable. The Fundación del Amo, built with a gift from a wealthy Californian, was better furnished, and was regarded as more conservative and snobbish. I do not know if it produced any famous people, as the Residencia did. Since it was in the University City area, I assume it was badly damaged in the fighting there. I have no news of it now. The Residencia was far away in the eastern part of the city, and so not exposed to the fighting.RH}.

During the war, Madrid remained in Republican hands [see above] so that the threat from personalities who took refuge in the Residencia came, of necessity, from leftist mobs (Anarchist) who suspected right-leaning occupants. For a time, while American students were still there in the summer, the American and British flags were flown over the house to insure diplomatic immunity. Later in the was, it became a school for young children, and after that a hospital for wounded troops. Ortega y Gasset did stay briefly at the Residencia, taking refuge there at the beginning of the war before escaping to France. "

My comment: The Residencia was unique. I can think of no similar residence in any capital to which foreign academics naturally gravitated. The well-known historian of modern Spain Stanley Payne comments " I wonder if the Residencia has changed in recent years. I last stayed there about 15 years ago, and found it very similar to my first period there in 1959, though not so ultra-right wing." The anti-Franco, anti-clerical intellectuals had fled from Spain. The old Spàin, bitterly divided between left and right, clericals and anti-clericals, has thank heavens, disappeared. The Lorca-Buñuel-Dali gang were essentially show-offs, and I think the Residencia is better off without them. I recommend the Residencia to academics who are thinking of going to Madrid. You can e-mail the director, Sr. José García-Velasco (

Ronald Hilton - 1/3/02