Roman Catholicism in Spain
Author: Anonymous
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcribed from the 1855 Johnstone and Hunter edition by David Price, email


* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *




INTRODUCTION—Variableness of outward practice of 7 Christianity—The like as to that of Mahometanism—Roman Catholicism most subject to that modification—Excesses of Roman Catholicism in Spain accounted for by Spanish history—The Goths and Moors of Africa—Their conversion to Christianity—The aborigines of America—Traditional coincidences with scriptural truth—National character of the religion of Spaniards—Religion of the affections—Santa Teresa—Amatory propensities in connection with religion—Knight-errantry—Motto of Spanish nobility—The four primitive orders—Loyola—Religion the pretext for wars of Spain—Three distinct features of the national character of Spaniards, illustrated by Isabella the Catholic, Charles V., and Philip II.


THE SPANISH CLERGY—Their primitive state—Their 31 subsequent organization—Barraganas—Immoral practices of the clergy—Their wealth, and its sources—Their territorial possessions—Their influence and incomes—Their opposition to the sciences—Their ultramontane principles—The "pass" of the Spanish sovereign necessary to the validity of the Pope's bulls—Doctrine of the Jansenists favoured by the ministers of Charles III.—Port-Royal and San Isidro—Parish priests—Sources of their income—Many of them good men, but deficient in scriptural knowledge and teaching—Their preaching—Abolition of tithes by the minister, Mendizabal—Effects of that measure—Poverty and present state of the clergy—Their degraded character and unpopularity—Their timidity in recent times of tumult—Ecclesiastical writers of the Peninsula—Power of the Inquisition curtailed by Charles III.


MONACHISM—The superiority of the monastic over the 47 secular clergy—Reasons for it—Orders of Monks—The Carthusians—Their advancement in agriculture, and love of the fine arts—Their seclusion and mode of living—Only learned men admitted to their order—Their form of salutation—Curious adventure of a lady found in the cell of a Carthusian—The Hieronimites—The Mendicant orders—"Pious works"—The Questacion—Decline of Spain accounted for—Vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience—How vow of poverty eluded—La honesta—Vicar-general of the Franciscan orders—His immense income—Religious orders have produced many great and good men—Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros—His celebrated Bible—Corruption of monastic orders—Insubordination of friars to the bishops—The Jesuits—Deplorable reputation of their literature—Pascal, Escobar, Sanchez, and Mariana—Suppression of the Jesuits by Charles III.—Their subsequent expulsion by Espartero under Isabella II.—Nunneries, though spared on suppression of religious houses, utterly useless—The Pope's attempt to perpetuate them by concordat—The lives of the nuns described—Their means of subsistence is now precarious—Convent de las Huelgas.


CELIBACY AND MORALS—Illicit relations formed by the 73 clergy—Shameless avowal of their fruits—Ferocious character of love in the cloisters—Three flagrant cases—Murder of a young lady by her confessor, the Carmelite of San Lucar—His trial and sentence—Murder by a wife of her husband under the direction of her confessor, the Capuchine of Cuenca—His trial, imprisonment, and escape—Murder of a lady by the Agonizante of Madrid—His trial and execution—Scandalous occurrences in the Convent of the Basilios of Madrid—Forcible entry of the civil power—Murder of the abbot—Suppression of inquiry—Shameful profligacy of the Capuchines of Cascante and the nuns of a neighbouring convent—Mode of its discovery—Imprisonment of inmates of both convents—Removal of prisoners—Their mysterious escape—Exemplary performance of vows in some cases—Dangers of celibacy—Spanish women and their influence on society


THE MASS—Its introduction but modern—The Spaniard Lainez 87 opposed it—On what grounds—Description of the ceremony—Its religious and secular peculiarities—Sacerdotal vestments worn while celebrating it—High and Low Mass—Both performed in an unknown tongue—Consequent indifference of the congregation—Mercenary character of the mass—"Masses for the intention"—Masses for the dead—The solemn mass on Christmas eve, or Noche buena—Its profane accompaniments—Passion week—Thursday—Good Friday—Adoration of the Cross—Processions—Anecdotes of Isabella II.—Brilliant rites and ceremonies on the day after Good Friday—Uproarious conduct of the faithful on that occasion—The mass as celebrated at Toledo—Judicial combat, or judgment of God


DEVOTION of Protestants scriptural and reasonable—That of 102 Roman Catholics poetical and affectionate—Religious enthusiasm leads to insanity—Mental devotion as distinguished from physical—Nature of Roman Catholic devotion accounted for by the worship of images—Intercession of saints—Saint Anthony—The illiterate guided by bodily vision rather than spiritual discernment—Horace confirms this—Illustrated by popular errors—Sensual and poetical elements were introduced to devotion by the Greeks—Destruction of images by the Emperor Leo the Iconoclast—Opinion of Pope Leo the Great—Images adorned like human beings perplex the mind between truth and fiction—Familiar examples—Money-contributions for adornment of images—Belief that saints can cure certain complaints—List of those—Saint Anthony of Padua's miracles—The fete of San Anton Abad—Virgin Mary, and her innumerable advocations—A list of several—The Rosary—Statues of the Virgin—Immense value of their wardrobes and trinkets—The most ugly of those statues excite most devotion—Virgin of Zaragoza—The heart of Mary—Month of Mary (May)—Kissing images—Anecdote of the Duke of A—- and his courtezan—Habits and promises—Penance


FEAST-DAYS—Processions and Novenas—Corpus Christi—How 122 performed in Seville, and the sacred dances of los seises—How in Madrid—Procession of Holy Week—The Santo Entierro—Clerical processions—Procession of the Rosary—Rites of Roman Catholicism—Jubilee of forty hours—Romerias or pilgrimages


PURGATORY—Deliverance from by devotions of 142 survivors—Those devotions described—Difference between dogma of purgatory and other dogmas—Modes of drawing out souls—Masses for the dead—Legacies to pay for them—External representations of images and pictures—Day of All Souls and its practices—The Andalusian Confraternity of Souls—Mandas piadosas—Debtor and creditor account between the church and purgatory—How balanced—Bull of Composition—Soul-days—ResponsesCepillo, or alms-box—Financial operation—Origin of bills of exchange and clearing house—Wax Candles—Their efficacy—Cenotaphs—Summary of funds, and reflections on their misapplication


AURICULAR CONFESSION—A sacrament inseparable from that of 152 communion—Obligatory on all once a year—Plan of discovering defaulters—How punished—Evils of confession—Power of the priest—Four evils pointed out—Discoveries in the Inquisition in 1820—Facility of obtaining absolution—Louis XIV.—Robbers and assassins—The confessional—Practice, how conducted—Expiatory acts—Refusal of absolution—A husband disguised as his wife's confessor—The injunction of secrecy on part of confessor—Advantages of the knowledge he gains—Jesuits advocate the confessional—No fees for confession, but gratuities are generally given


FASTS AND PENANCES—How observed—Indulgences—Spain is 170 privileged by the Bull of the Holy Crusade—Description of that bull—Prices of copies—Commissary-General of Crusades—His revenues—Their shameful application—Copy of that bull—Other acts of penance—The Disciplina or whipping—Cilicios


FALSE MIRACLES, RELICS, AND RELIGIOUS 187 IMPOSITIONS—Veneration of crucifixes and statues or images—Their power of healing—Picture at Cadiz—Lignum Crucis—Veronica—Bodies of saints—How procured—Inscriptions—Lives of saints—Maria de Agreda—St Francis—Scandalous representation of the appearance of the Virgin to a saint—Fray Diego de Cadiz—Beata Clara—Her fame and downfall—The nun, Sister Patrocinio—Her success, detection, confession, and expulsion—She returns, and is protected by a high personage—She is again expelled, but again returns and founds a convent—Its disgraceful character and suppression—Her flight towards Rome—Occurrences on the road—Her return to Spain



Variableness of outward practice of Christianity—The like as to that of Mahometanism—Roman Catholicism most subject to that modification—Excesses of Roman Catholicism in Spain accounted for by Spanish history—The Goths and Moors of Africa—Their conversion to Christianity—The aborigines of America—Traditional coincidences with scriptural truth—National character of the religion of Spaniards—Religion of the affections—Santa Teresa—Amatory propensities in connection with religion—Knight-errantry—Motto of Spanish nobility—The four primitive orders—Loyola—Religion the pretext for wars of Spain—Three distinct features of the national character of Spaniards, illustrated by Isabella the Catholic, Charles V., and Philip II.

Christianity, although of divine origin, and, consequently, like all that participates in the essence of Divinity, immutable in its doctrines and creeds, submits itself nevertheless, in outward practice, to the incidents common to all human institutions, and receives an impression from the particular character of the people who observe its rites, and subject their conduct to its precepts. Every religious idea lays hold on the heart and understanding: consequently the state of the affections and the intellectual bias of each nation must communicate to the worship it professes a particular influence, which is seen, not only in the way in which ceremonies are practised, or in the organization of the hierarchy, or in the style and language which man uses in addressing the Deity, but in the entire system of actions, relations, and thoughts, which constitutes what is called worship.

Worship participates in the impulse which a nation has received at its origin,—from its historical antecedents,—from its political system,—and from the peculiarities which predominate in the formation of its intelligence. The Greek polytheism did not distinguish itself from the Roman either in its theogony or its rites; but there is no doubt that the former was more poetical, more artistic, and more scrupulous than the latter. The Romans, being brought into close contact with all the nations of the earth, and having become subjugated by the insolent despotism of the Caesars, opened the doors of their Pantheon, not only to the Goths of Egypt and of Gaul, but to monsters of cruelty, and to men sunk in every class of those vices which had stained the throne of Augustus. The Greeks, lovers of science, had placed their city of Athens under the protection of Minerva; but Rome was too proud to humble herself by playing the inferior part of the protected. In order to provide for her own security, she declared herself a goddess, and erected her own temples and altars. The Roman priests were warriors and magistrates; those of Athens were philosophers and poets. The same observations apply to Mahometanism. In India it has always shown itself more contemplative, more tolerant, than in Arabia, Turkey, or on the northern coast of Africa, and when it propagated itself in the southern regions of Europe, its stern inflexibility was not able to resist even the influence of clime; the perfumed breezes of the Betis and the Xenil despoiled it, in part, of the austere physiognomy which had been impressed on its whole structure by the sands of Arabia. Even the severe laws of the harem were relaxed in the courts of Boabdil and of Almanzor, for the wives of those two monarchs, openly, and without shame, took part in the pompous fetes of the Alhambra and of the serrania of Cordova.

Of all the religious systems hitherto known, none allows itself, with so much docility, to be modified by external circumstances which constitute the national character as does Roman Catholicism; and there are many causes for this: Roman Catholicism exercises an infinitely greater dominion over the senses than over the reason and intelligence; the objects of its veneration, of its meditations, and of its devotional practices, are infinitely more various and numerous than those of any other sect of Christians; it introduces itself, so to speak, to all the occupations of life, in all hours of the day, in the trades, professions, amusements, and even gallantries of individuals; it fetters their reason, and deprives it of all liberty and independence; and, above all, it raises up in the midst of society, a privileged and isolated class, superior to the power of the law and the government; into the hands of that class it puts an absolute and irresistible authority, which is exercised by invisible means, but means far more efficacious and terrible in their effects than those of the civil power. From this universal and irresistible predominance it results that the entire existence of the Roman Catholic is a continual observance of the worship which he professes, and consequently, that Roman Catholicism, at the same time that it entirely modifies man, must of necessity, in its turn, receive, in some degree, the impress of that temper which nature has bestowed upon him. Thus we see that Roman Catholicism is more zealous, more enthusiastic, more turbulent, in Ireland, more artistic in Italy, more philosophic in Germany, more literary and discursive in France, more idolatrous in the States of South America, more reserved and modest, more decent and tolerant, less ambitious in its aspirations, and less audacious in its polemics, in England than in any other part of the world.

As to Roman Catholicism in Spain: we see thrown in its face its cruel intolerance, its puerile practices, its profane language, its blind submission, or rather the absolute slavery in which it places the believer with respect to the priest. There is much truth in these charges; but all of them are accounted for by an observance of history, and by a knowledge of the natural character and circumstances which have contributed to foster and strengthen religious sentiments in Spain.

The intolerance of Roman Catholicism in the Peninsula, carried to tyranny, and, frequently, even to ferocity, has been a consequence of the religious wars of six centuries,—wars which the Goths sustained with unwearied perseverance against the Moors of Africa. The Goths had embraced the Christian religion with all the ardour and sincerity peculiar to a nation but recently delivered from a violent and savage state; for, although a generous race, they were ignorant and coarse in their habits. Their conversion to Christianity not only entirely modified their moral and religious notions, and introduced among them a greater elevation of feeling and an amplitude of ideas, but associated, intimately, the religious with the poetical sentiment, in such a manner that, in their eyes, every enemy of Christ was the enemy of the whole nation; difference of creed, therefore, according to their rude code of international laws, was a legitimate cause of war. In their eyes the unbeliever was a political enemy. Mere contact with an unbaptized person was considered a pollution. They believed that all who did not worship Christ were worshippers of the devil, and that Mahomet and the Moses of the Jews were nothing more than the representatives and agents of the fallen angel. Whilst those ideas were gaining ascendancy, the clergy, the only depositaries of letters and of knowledge, were rapidly possessing themselves of power, riches, and influence, and endeavouring to conserve and confirm those advantages by all possible means. Of those means none was so convenient, in times of continual violence and warfare, to the habits of a nation just emerging from a savage state, and which recognised no other merit than physical force and warlike valour, as that of encouraging those sanguinary and ruthless propensities, sanctifying them in some way or other by religious sentiment, and stirring up and inflaming the passions of the nation, with a view of exterminating all persons who did not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the church and the power of its ministers. Thus it happened that Christianity, from a very early period after its introduction to Spain, was deprived of that spirit of meekness, suavity, and tolerance, impressed upon it by its Divine Founder, and became possessed of a spirit of the most implacable resentment against every person who had not gone through the baptismal ceremony; and thus, also, it was that the religion of the country degenerated into a violent and revengeful sentiment, and took part in all the excesses and all the aberrations of the human passions; thus it was, in fine, that the national spirit became predisposed to the persecution of the Jews, Mahometans, and Protestants, by means of that execrable tribunal, the Inquisition.

Immediately after the conquest of Granada, in which these cruel and destructive habits were openly displayed, an occasion presented itself for giving still greater scope to their exercise. The subjugation of the Continent discovered by Columbus was a war of religion no less than of ambition and of conquest. The mere circumstance that the aborigines of America had not received the light of the gospel was sufficient to induce Spaniards to regard them as so many enemies of God, and as slaves and worshippers of the devil. In the various forms of religious worship which prevailed in those vast territories were embodied certain principles which might, if carried out, have been of great service to the conquered nation. In nearly all of those forms, the unity of God was acknowledged, and also, in many of them, the necessity of a spiritual regeneration. In Mexico, and that part of the country now called Central America, was preserved a traditional remembrance of a severe chastisement inflicted by the Supreme Creator on rebellious humanity, but accompanied with a promise that the species should not be annihilated. That tradition taught that God had sent into the world his Son, called Teot-belche, in order to repeople the earth;—that this personage had been shut up in a floating house during the time of the great flood, and was afraid to venture out, until he had seen an eagle bringing in its mouth a branch from a tree—a sign that the waters had abated, and that vegetation had re-appeared. Other great coincidences with revealed truth discovered themselves in the religious creeds of the people of Mechoacan, Guatemala, and in those also of the inhabitants of Peru, where the dogma had acquired a certain degree of elevation and purity, very different from the sensual ideas so common among the ancient Asiatics. The conquerors, therefore, whilst attempting to make proselytes to the true faith might have availed themselves of those antecedents, and could easily have corrected such notions, although founded on a tradition having the weight of ancestral authority. The right moral ideas found already impressed on the minds of these aborigines, especially those of Peru, might have been encouraged and amplified. Instead of embracing the system indicated by the mild and conciliatory spirit of Christianity, the Americans, en masse, were considered, from that moment, as enemies of God, and compelled, sometimes by force, to receive baptism, without any previous explanation of the origin and design of that rite; at other times they were tortured with the greatest cruelty, under a notion that in the extremity of their agony they might be induced to renounce the only creed which had come to their conviction. Many thousands of that unhappy people were exterminated, for they did not even understand the language in which doctrines the most sublime and marvellous in history were attempted to be enforced.

It has already been observed that this rancorous extravagance of the religious spirit in Spain had its origin in a political and patriotic struggle; but long and sanguinary as that was, it could not eradicate the primitive type of the nation, nor prevent its characteristic qualities from reflecting themselves in worship, devotion, and every thing else that constitutes a national religion. Thus it was, that, with those intolerant and persecuting propensities, were also associated, in Spanish Catholicism, the gorgeous, romantic, and poetic, which are still preserved among that semi-oriental race. The Spaniard, endowed with a lively imagination, appears to identify himself with the objects of his endearment; his soul is transported by them, and he dresses them up in his imagination till he fancies they reciprocate his own affections. This vehement expansion of sentiments frequently opposes his reason, and transforms his real existence into a perpetual vision. Hence also we find that his devotion is not only tender and sympathetic, but passionate and warm. His fervour in prayer arrives at such a pitch as to produce copious tears. The language of Spain's mystical writers, especially that of the elegant Santa Teresa de Jesus, contains the same expressions as those which are used in addressing profane objects of the affections. One of her most celebrated spiritual songs differs in nothing from those which might have been written by Ovid or Tibullus. Its burden is this:—

Cubridme de flores, Que muero de amores. {15}

The word amores, in the plural, does not signify merely the abstract feeling of love, the application of which is as various as are the objects which inspire it; for example, the divine love, the parental, the filial, and the sexual. Amores signifies courtship, flirtation, interchange of sentiments between two lovers; and yet we find this word, at every turn, in the prayers and ejaculations of devout Spaniards.

The distinguished woman to whom we have alluded carried, even to an incredible excess, this mixture of the sacred affections with the profane. In her voluminous writings, unrivalled in purity of language and elegance of style, she considers herself, always, as the bride of Jesus Christ, to whom she addresses herself with the same transports of love, and with the same demonstrations of tender submission and endearing respect, that might be used by an affectionate and dutiful wife to her husband. It requires but little knowledge of the human heart to see, at once, that in this mixture of two sentiments so opposed to each other as are that of the love profane and that of the love divine, the latter is liable to succumb to the former; and, in truth, this danger can only be averted by minds as favoured and as pure as was, without a doubt, the mind of that extraordinary woman. It is generally the case, and commonly observed in Spain, that the sensual element dominates over the mystical, and corrupts it. The common mass of mankind employs devotion as an instrument favourable to worldly views and to the material interests of life. In Andalucia, enamoured girls confide to the Virgin their ardent sorrows and desires, as the following couplet will show, and which is sung with frequency and is very popular in that province of the Peninsula:—

La Virgen de las Angustias, Es la que sabe mi mal, Pues me meto en su capilla, Y no me harto de llorar. {16}

With these amatory propensities was naturally bound up that spirit of knight-errantry which so much distinguished the national character of Spaniards among all the other nations of Europe; a spirit which neither the course of centuries, nor intestine nor foreign war, nor even revolution itself, although it has transformed in a few ages the temper of modern nations, has been able to blot out. The Spaniard was completely carried away in a transport by his religious practices, his gallantry, loyalty, bravery, exalted notions of honour, and other qualities of the mind, impregnated as they were with that poesy and wild romance which are delineated with so much propriety and skill by the immortal Cervantes.

The motto of the Spanish nobility has always been, "My God, my king, and my lady,"—a very significant one, and one which described in a lively manner the predominating sentiments of the nation and the equal degree of veneration and enthusiasm which those three objects excited in the minds of the people. The Spaniard is always as disposed to brandish the sword in defence of the religion which he professes, as in that of the king whom he serves or of the lady whom he loves. The processions and all the feasts of the church are invariably accompanied by a military show. The four primitive orders of the nation, viz., Santiago, Alcantara, Calatrava, and Montesa, were, in their origin, institutions as religious in their character as the order of the Templars and as that of St John of Jerusalem. Even in the present day, though they have degenerated, they preserve still much of their primitive character. The knights, it is true, do not observe celibacy, as in ancient times; but they still have churches in which they celebrate sumptuous festivities; they take an oath to defend the Catholic religion and the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin, and to each of these orders there still pertains a certain number of convents of nuns, who wear the habit and carry the cross of their respective orders. These nuns are called Commendadoras, and none can be admitted into their numbers but ladies who are descended from an ancient nobility, preserved for many generations from any mixture of plebeian blood.

The celebrated Ignatius de Loyola, founder of the order of the Jesuits, carried this singular amalgamation of piety and of a belligerent spirit to such an extreme as, in our times, cannot but appear ridiculous. On the day on which he was made a knight, it being then the custom that a candidate for such an honour should choose for himself a lady to whose service he might consecrate his arms, and whose image should be constantly before him, his election fell upon the Virgin, as in the same manner did that of Durandarte on Belerma, and that of the celebrated hero of La Mancha on Dulcinea.

In all wars which have been waged by Spaniards, from the times of Pelayo down to those of Espartero, religion has been one of the motives which have impelled them to arms. In the war of succession of 1770, which gave the throne of Castille to the grandson of Louis XIV., the dispute was between two nations equally Roman Catholic—Austria and France. Nevertheless, the circumstance that Great Britain had embraced the cause of the archduke was sufficient for considering the war as a religious one; and those who fought for Philip V. regarded the extirpation of the heretical subjects of the House of Orange as the consolidation of the Bourbon dynasty. In our own times we have seen these same sentiments predominating in the civil war of Don Carlos, whose partisans considered their enemies as impious and as atheists, words which in their dictionary were synonymous with "constitutional and liberal." Most of the proclamations emanating from the press of Onate spoke of the dangers which threatened Roman Catholicism, in case the Christine party should triumph.

Thus far we have spoken of the influence exercised by the national character on the religion of Spaniards. That influence has not been lessened by the circumstance that some of their monarchs have exercised it, and, among others deserving particular mention, the three gigantic models, viz., Isabella the Catholic, Charles V., and Philip II. Each one of the distinctive features which we have hitherto noted in the religion of Spaniards is represented in history by one or another of those three sovereigns: Isabella represented the tender, affectionate, and correlative; Charles, the knight of chivalry and the warrior; Philip, the cruel and sanguinary persecutor.

Isabella united to her eminent qualities, to her profound policy, to her unrivalled valour, to her constancy in the prosecution of her designs, and to the elevation and grandeur of her views, a heart full of tenderness and benevolence, and an ardent disposition to contribute, by all possible means, toward the good of her fellow-creatures. Persuaded that religion was the greatest good which it was possible for man to enjoy, all her anxiety was concentrated in extending that benefit to the greatest number of human beings. It was this which induced her to show herself benevolent and compassionate toward the Moors of Granada after the conquest of that city; it was this, also, which induced her to lavish her gifts upon, and afterwards to take under her protection, such of those Moors as submitted to baptism. All the incidents of her private life, all her letters, many of which are still extant, show that she was actuated by the most ardent spirit of Christian charity.

History accuses Isabella of having established the Inquisition in Spain. This great blot in her character, the origin of many of the misfortunes and of all the intellectual drawbacks which that nation has experienced, explains, if it cannot justify, itself, by the circumstances in which, at that time, the people of the Peninsula were placed. After the surrender of Granada, there remained in the kingdom a great part of the Mussulman population. The queen fostered the hope of their conversion to Christianity and omitted no means to realise it. But the Moors, with very few exceptions at the beginning, resisted every effort whether by persuasion or by promises; they became but the more firmly addicted to their own faith, and being prohibited the public celebration of its rites, they practised them in secret, with all the zeal and enthusiasm which the rigours of intolerance invariably produce in the persecuted. The clergy, who imagined they saw in the religion of Mahomet the worship of Satan, nay even warriors themselves who had wrought prodigies of valour and shed their blood in order to exterminate that religion, could not regard its prevalence with indifference, nor endure the thought that it should survive the ruin of the capital of the Saracenic empire. Bitter complaints were made to the queen on account of the impunity with which such excesses against her authority were committed. To her indulgence the principal persons of the state attributed the obstinacy of the Moors who persisted in their errors, and the perfidy of the converted who were accused of continuing in them after having submitted to the ordinance of baptism. Religious phrenzy had arrived at its climax; men's only occupation seemed to be that of building churches, destroying mosques, and ostentatiously displaying the triumphs of the new creed over that which for many centuries had polluted the soil. It was impossible that Isabella could long resist these continuous remonstrances. The institution of the Inquisition was proposed to her as a last resource to maintain the purity of the faith, and that woman, superior to the age in which she lived, and naturally affectionate and charitable, had the unpardonable weakness of ceding to the councils of the implacable Torquemada.

Among the qualities for which Isabella was remarkable none were more admired by contemporary writers than her humility. In proof of this we have but to follow the line of conduct pursued by her during the whole course of her existence. She humbled herself before the church, whose voice she believed she heard through the lips of her confessor.

We have referred to the cruel character of Roman Catholicism in Spain: is not the Inquisition a proof of it? Experience shows how easily habit familiarises us with spectacles most revolting to those feelings of pity and compassion which Nature has bestowed upon us. Habit always destroys the essential qualities of our moral constitution, sometimes associating ideas of pleasure and enjoyment with those of blood and destruction; as, for example, it happened in the games of the circus under the Roman emperors; nay, some have even looked upon homicide and torture as religious duties, and a part of the worship due to the Divine Being! Fanaticism naturally engenders that sacrilegious alliance, and man, under its irresistible influence, becomes more frightful in his hatred, more cruel in his hostilities, than the beasts of the forest.

The Inquisition inaugurated, in Spain, a sanguinary fanaticism which consecrated, as religious virtues, the blackest crimes that man can commit against his fellow-creatures; and although it must be admitted that many thousands of human beings perished in the flames for their religious opinions under the reign of Isabella, yet the natural suavity of her mind, influenced as it was by the tender and passionate, repressed, to a considerable degree, those intolerant impulses with which Torquemada was wont to impose upon the good sense of Spaniards. Isabella was liberal, even in the sense which that word conveys according to the language of modern politics. {22} She, doubtless, consented to the formation of the bloody tribunal; and hence the annals of even her reign are stained with some of those hecatombs which were more frequent in a subsequent era, and banished from the Spanish peninsula those mental energies which, at that time, were enabling human reason to recover her rights, and Spain once more to occupy that eminent position assigned her, by Providence, in the scale of creation.

History cannot accuse the Emperor Charles V. with having lent himself, as a docile instrument, to the intolerant devices of the clergy. Charles was never the sincere friend of the court of Rome. On the contrary, no Christian monarch ever treated that court with greater contumely, or in a manner more hostile and effectively prejudicial to its prosperity and influence. The war which he made against the Pope, and which terminated by the invasion of Rome itself, involved that court in all the ills of a destructive conquest. The pillage and burning of the public temples and of private houses, the violation of the nuns, the massacre of the citizens, were not enough to satisfy the fury of his soldiers. Released suddenly from that respect which, from childhood, they had been accustomed to show towards the practices and ministers of religion, they now openly ridiculed them in the streets of Rome, representing mock processions, dressing themselves up in the splendid and ornamental attire of cardinals and bishops. Their spirit of profanation and impiety arrived at the extreme pitch. They composed satirical and other songs against the Pope—one of these in the form of a parody on our Lord's prayer—and sung them in the public streets, and even under the windows of the pontifical palace.

To those deeds, which proved how little the heart of the emperor was disposed to favour the doctrines of Roman Catholicism, we could add many others which the patient investigation of German writers have discovered in the archives of Italy. A tolerable knowledge, however, of the occurrences of that reign will be sufficient to convince us that Charles V. was not sincerely religious until age, infirmities, and misanthropy, had brought upon him the misfortunes which attended the last years of his life, and induced him to abdicate the crown, and retire to the solitudes of Yuste. It is already known that, at the beginning of Luther's rebellion against the Roman church, Charles resolved to avail himself of the terror which the name of that celebrated reformer inspired in the hearts of Roman Catholics, in order to intimidate the court of Rome and humiliate its pride. It is not therefore to be wondered at, that, with this vacillation of principles and declared antipathy to Rome, Charles should have regarded, in his dominions, if not with manifest favour, at least with cold indifference, the propagation of what were then called, by Spaniards, the new doctrines.

Under his reign, notwithstanding the austere character of his minister, the Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros, the Inquisition dared not, in Spain, commence a system of intolerance.

One proof of this assertion is to be found in the progress which, at that time, Lutheranism made in the Peninsula. To those days belonged, in truth, the illustrious victims who were subsequently sacrificed on the altar of fanaticism, and whose names may be found by the reader in the celebrated work of M'Crie, or in that of De Castro. {25}

Philip II. ascended the throne, and the whole aspect of the unhappy nation, delivered over by Providence to the hands of that implacable enemy of humanity, was entirely changed. Philip's inclination was to hate and persecute; and religion, in name, afforded him the pretext for giving vent, with impunity, to those propensities, and covering with a sacred veil all the excesses of a bloodthirsty and revengeful heart to which he could abandon himself. Some writers have doubted the sincerity of his religious sentiments, considering them as mere pretexts, of which he availed himself in order to suggest false motives for his bitter spirit in the war which he carried on against Henry IV. of France. And, in truth, what sincerity could there be in the religion of a man who lived in perpetual adultery; who seduced the wives of his most faithful servants; who paid assassins to get rid of men he disliked, and afterwards relentlessly persecuted these same persons hired by him to commit such crimes? How could faith, devotion, hope, charity, and self-consecration to God, exist in combination with vices the most degrading to human nature, and a system of conduct diametrically opposed to the letter and spirit of the gospel? But, without discussing those questions which more properly pertain to the severe tribunal of history and will be found fully examined in the works cited, it is sufficient, for the present purpose, to indicate the reign of Philip II. as that epoch in which an intolerant fanaticism extended its roots wide and deep in the hearts of Spaniards,—a fanaticism which, until but a few years previous to our own times, formed one of the most conspicuous elements of the national character. The frequent repetition of the autos de fe, in which the terrible spectacle of burning human victims alive was countenanced by the presence of the court,—the furious harangues of the friars,—the excommunications fulminated from the pulpit against all those who did not prostrate themselves as slaves before the power of the church,—and, above all, the example of the monarch, who was always ready to exalt the clergy above other classes of the community, and whose domestic and foreign policy was founded, invariably, on the principle of the identity of the altar and the throne, were circumstances more than sufficient to mould the genius, the habits, the affections, and even the literary tastes and domestic intercourse, of any nation in the world. Hence the entire existence of the nation was, so to speak, exclusively religious. The mass, confession, processions, and novenas, {26} were the occupations which consumed all the days and all the hours of life. The priesthood was the grand social supremacy. All the riches of the nation were in its hands. All consciences ceded to its voice, and were directed by its influence. The king favoured all its pretensions, enlarged its privileges, and put into its hands the highest dignities and employments. The bishops occupied the principal posts in the councils of Castille, of the finances, and of the Indies; to many of these bishops embassies and vice-regal appointments were confided; and, in the provinces, the civil authority was eclipsed before their influence, for they became usurpers of its most important functions. Those were the palmy days of the Inquisition, when, secure of the monarch's favour and co-operation, it gave itself up, without restraint, to that spirit of hatred which constituted the chief ingredient of its institution, and covered the Spanish peninsula and its colonies with suffering, with tears, and with blood.

As those ideas and sentiments entirely absorbed the minds of Spaniards; so, on the other hand, all public action was concentrated in the king, he having silenced the voice of the Cortes and abolished the charters (fueros) of the municipalities, to which had pertained all the political and civil legislation of Spain from the foundation of the monarchy; in fine, as the severity of the fiscal laws opposed an insuperable barrier to all sorts of industry and enterprise, it is not surprising that it should have transformed, as in effect it did, the national character, or that the whole social and domestic life of Spaniards should be nothing short of an entire and absolute consecration to the church and its ministers, to religious ceremonies, and to the exercises of devotion and penance. In all the hours of his life, in all professional and lucrative occupations, in all functions incident to public employments, nay, even in his very amusements, the religious idea is always present to the eyes of a Spaniard; sometimes, indeed, severe and gloomy, at others majestic and solemn, but always overwhelming him with the weight of its preponderance, and assuming the rule and arbitrament of his thoughts and actions. The following pages will offer to the reader sufficient proofs of this truth; and in each of the scenes which they present will be discovered, without difficulty, the features of the sketch which, in this introduction, we have endeavoured to trace. We have written them without anger and without partiality, and we propose to insert in them no facts, or even statements, but those gathered from personal observation, and which no Spaniard will dare to deny; facts which many sensible and upright men in that nation worthy a better condition, do most bitterly lament.

It may be right to add, as an undoubted fact which cannot be too often referred to or too widely made known, that among all classes of Spaniards, and even among the clergy themselves, are to be found men eminently pious; men who, although outwardly submitting to the exigencies of the worship which they are bound by their present laws to profess, are not ignorant of the true spirit and doctrines of Christianity, and who, perhaps, only need a more intimate acquaintance with scriptural truth in all its purity to be transformed into a visible part of the faithful and chosen flock of Christ, and enabled to adopt, in all its latitude, the true gospel as the rule and standard of their faith and conduct.

The publication of this work, at the present juncture, has no other object than to accelerate that desired transition, the influence of which may give fecundity to the noble qualities of a nation under all aspects interesting, worthy, and capable of figuring in the foremost rank of the polished and regenerate.


THE SPANISH CLERGY—Their primitive state—Their subsequent organization—Barraganas—Immoral practices of the clergy—Their wealth, and its sources—Their territorial possessions—Their influence and incomes—Their opposition to the sciences—Their ultramontane principles—The "pass" of the Spanish sovereign necessary to the validity of the Pope's bulls—Doctrine of the Jansenists favoured by the ministers of Charles III.—Port-Royal and San Isidro—Parish priests—Sources of their income—Many of them good men, but deficient in scriptural knowledge and teaching—Their preaching—Abolition of tithes by the minister, Mendizabal—Effects of that measure—Poverty and present state of the clergy—Their degraded character and unpopularity—Their timidity in recent times of tumult—Ecclesiastical writers of the Peninsula—Power of the Inquisition curtailed by Charles III.

Among the northern nations which invaded Europe, on the fall of the Roman Empire, the Goths were those who most distinguished themselves by the promptitude with which they embraced Christianity, and by the sincerity and constancy with which they observed its precepts and adhered to its dogmas.

When they founded the Spanish monarchy, they were in a complete state of ignorance and barbarism; and as the clergy were at that time the sole depositaries of the little that was known of the dead languages, science, and literature, they were the counsellors of the sovereigns, the directors and prime movers of the public power, and the oracles of the court, the nobility, and the people. The Councils of Toledo, which were true legislative bodies, better and more methodically constituted than the assemblies of the great barons, not only legislated in religious and ecclesiastical matters, but in all political branches of the administration and of the government. To these celebrated assemblies is owing the Fuero-Juzgo, the most ancient of the codes promulgated in the new monarchies founded on the ruins of the empire. But what gave most renown to these assemblies was the system which they embraced with respect to the relations between the court of the Gothic kings and the pontifical see. In no Catholic nation was the ecclesiastic independence consolidated with greater vigour than in the Spanish church of those times. In truth the Pope, as such, exercised no authority whatever, directly or indirectly, either in the discipline or the administration of that church. He was acknowledged as the first of its bishops, but only as equal in power to each of them. Thus it was that the bishops of the Spanish peninsula had formerly no need of recourse to Rome for the presentation of candidates, the investiture of ecclesiastical dignities, or for matrimonial and other dispensations. Spain presented, at that time, an edifying spectacle of pure and evangelical Christianity, resembling that which prevailed in the primitive ages of the church, when neither councils nor traditions, nor the motu propria of popes, had corrupted the dogma and the ritual. In the fourth Eliberitan council, celebrated in Granada, not only the worship but even the use of images, pictures, and sculpture, was prohibited in the temples, a prohibition before unheard of in the annals of that age,—an age in which the practice of invoking saints had become familiar, and more importance was beginning to be attached to the pomp of rites than to true piety and sincere devotion. The Spanish clergy, it is true, were then powerful, and could do much; but there is no reason to think that they abused such power, or that their conduct was regulated, at that early period, with a view to their temporal interests. That golden age, however, was of short duration; at least there are strong grounds for believing that, under the reign of Alfonso the Wise, the manners of the clergy had become greatly corrupted, and still more so under that of John II. Their ambition had so far increased as to provoke the rigour of the laws and of the civil authority. It is proved by the codes of that time, by several chronicles, and a variety of other documents worthy of credit, that the greater number of the clergy were living openly in a state of concubinage. The term barraganas formed part of the ordinary language of the people, as well as of that used in legislation, and was applied to designate the paramours of the ecclesiastics: indeed, these barraganas were commanded by certain sovereigns to dress in a peculiar manner, so that they might be distinguished from virtuous women; while other sovereigns insisted on their also living in separate buildings, called barraganerias, one of which, according to tradition, was situated in that spot in Madrid now called Puerta del Sol. In one of the ancient codes is to be found a regulation, in virtue of which it was ordered that no clergyman should have more than one barragana!

Many of the bishops were accustomed to take these creatures with them on official visits to their dioceses. This scandal began to disappear under the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, "the Catholic sovereigns," and from that time the clergy, by slow degrees, began to give to their body a more compact organization, and to introduce among their ranks a stricter discipline. Those amendments, however, did but tend to augment their influence and their power. But what most contributed to the aggrandisement of that privileged class was the wealth which rapidly accumulated in their treasury and in all their establishments.

This wealth flowed from a variety of sources. The church took its tithes and first-fruits; and this income, slender and precarious as it was during the wars against the Moors and the lengthened dispute between the crowns of Castille and Arragon, increased, afterwards, to such an extent as to produce most incredible amounts so soon as order had once become consolidated under the firm rule of Isabella; for, then, all kinds of useful labour began to fructify, especially those of agriculture, which had to sustain the weight of these onerous burdens.

But besides that source of income, the churches were daily enriched by the donations which they received from the munificence of kings and magnates. The most meritorious act of devotion and of religion, according to the popular notion of those times, was the endowment of a church with lands, flocks, and plate. These fits of generosity were held to be sufficient to absolve the donors from all their sins, and at the hour of death, when the terror of future punishments burdened the soul of the ambitious politician, of the assassin, of the adulterer, and of the usurper of others' goods, a very handsome legacy, and sometimes the abandonment of all he possessed, was considered as a safe passport to the enjoyment of treasures in heaven. The priest, called to administer the last consolations to the patient, never lost an opportunity of exacting these imprudent donations; and so long did this abuse endure, and to such an extent did it arrive and predominate in the public customs of the age, that, under the reign of Charles III., the Council of Castille promulgated a royal order, declaring that all such testamentary dispositions made at the hour of death, in favour of chapels, churches, convents, and other religious establishments, should be null and void.

The opulence which the Spanish clergy enjoyed from the conquest of Granada until the period of invasion by the French, cannot be reduced to calculation, nor even to any accurate conjectures. It was said of England that, previous to the Reformation, the clergy possessed a fifth part of the whole territory within the British Isles; of Spain it may be said that the proportion amounted to one-third. The lands most productive, and the estates in the most choice situations, certainly belonged to the Spanish clergy; and there were cities, such, for example, as Toledo, Cuenca, Leon, and Santiago, in which nearly the whole territory belonged to their respective cathedrals.

Several other circumstances tended to strengthen the imperium of the church. Many young men of noble families took holy orders, with a view of aspiring to the rich prebends belonging to the cathedrals; in the universities and in the colleges the best organised and most popular study was that of theology, in which many Spaniards excelled. At the same time, by means of the confessional, the clergy got power over the conscience; they knew all the secrets of families as well as those of the state, and there was no grave matter, concerning any class of society, which was not submitted to the decision of some dignitary of the church. The magnificence of the edifices consecrated to worship, the frequency and the pomp of religious ceremonies, the alms which the bishops distributed, the public works which they paid for, and the absolute direction of all charitable establishments, of which they had taken the command, were so many other favourable supports to that supremacy which they had assumed and maintained in society.

During the reigns succeeding that of Philip II., the condescendence of the government, the submission of the people, and the acquisition of riches by cathedrals, colleges, and parish churches, were greatly augmented.

The incomes of the archbishops, bishops, and canons, rose to an incredible amount. The sees of Toledo, Seville, Santiago, and Valencia, were endowed with much greater revenues than even some of the states in Germany. Great as have been the efforts to investigate and ascertain with exactitude the precise returns of these sees, it has not been found possible to obtain any data worthy to be relied on: and in truth, all years were not equally productive; for those revenues depended in a great measure on the abundance or scarcity of the crops. It is, however, certain that the archbishop of Toledo, in particular, did not receive less, annually, than 150,000 pounds. Some prebends, particularly those called archdeaconries, were estimated at 6000 pounds a-year, and these were sometimes disposed of, by the crown, in favour of a cardinal or foreign prince.

Besides the clergy employed in the cathedral and parish churches, there were many in orders without income or benefice of any kind, and who yet contrived to get a very decent and comfortable living by means of the influence which they exercised in rich houses, where their presence was regarded as a blessing from heaven. There was scarcely a family of consideration and of wealth in any town in Spain that was not under submission to some individual of the clergy. In this way, and deeply interested as they were that the people thus prostrate at their feet should not have their eyes opened, the clergy made war against the cultivation of the sciences and the propagation of useful knowledge.

The Spanish church, however, produced many and very eminent writings on those particular sciences which, at that time, formed part of the general course of their studies. It also sent forth many distinguished poets, orators, and learned men, but never was disposed to protect or to cultivate those sciences which give to man a power over nature: thus it was that mathematics were most shamefully neglected; in physics the absurd doctrines of the Peripatetics predominated; and the name of philosophy was given to a puerile and complicated dialectic which had neither the merit of ingenious classification, nor that subtlety of argument which distinguished the school of Aristotle.

It is easy to conceive from this situation in which the clergy was placed, that, in point of ecclesiastical discipline, Spaniards were extreme ultramontanes. The clergy acknowledged the Pope, not only as the vicar of Jesus Christ,—not only as the head of the visible church, but as superior to all councils and kings, as the possessor of the keys of heaven and as the absolute legislator in all matters of faith and conscience. On many occasions the bishops and the cathedral authorities consulted the court of Rome as to whether they ought to obey or disregard the authority of the monarch; at other times they disobeyed it openly; and, in spite of the efforts made by the Chamber of Castille to maintain the cause of the throne and of the law, the fear of provoking a revolution on the part of the lower classes, entirely the creatures of the clergy, paralysed, on more than one occasion, the zeal of the magistrates and the action of the military chiefs.

The Spanish laws required that, in order to give validity to a pontifical bull, it should have the approbation, or, as it was called, the pass of the crown. Sometimes, and by virtue of the representation of the Chamber of Castille, the government refused that pass, and on such occasions the clergy became greatly irritated, the bishops energetically insisting upon its being given, but urging their demands with such vehemence, as even to threaten the monarch himself with the terrible penalty of excommunication.

The clergy sustained the excesses of the pontifical authority, and acknowledged the principle of the universal sovereignty of the Pope. All notions or opinions that proposed to re-establish the discipline of the first ages of the church and to defend the rights of the bishops, considering their authority as equal to that of the Pope in jurisdiction, and inferior only in dignity in the hierarchy, were considered as dangerous and as heretical as that heresy most opposed to the articles of the faith. Yet, at the beginning of the reign of Charles III., the progress of Jansenism in France had a considerable influence on the opinions of the Spanish clergy. The ministers, Campomanes, Aranda, and Floridablanca, embraced with ardour the doctrines of Port-Royal; the canonries of the collegiate church of San Isidro, in Madrid, which had belonged to the Jesuits, were all conferred on wise and virtuous clergymen who were generally known as confirmed Jansenists. Indeed there were very few of the Spanish clergy who assisted in that establishment that were not addicted to the same doctrines.

Hitherto no mention has been made of the parish priests. In the ancient organization of the clergy these ecclesiastics participated, in some dioceses, in the tithes; but the principal part of their incomes arose from the surplice-fees, called in Spanish, de pie de altar, which were those payable on baptism, interment, and marriage. The quota from these sources varied according to the pomp and luxury of the ceremonies performed. In baptisms, this augmentation of splendour consisted chiefly in music, flowers, and lighted candles, in the chapel where the rite was performed. But the extravagance of the rites of interment extended itself to a wider range; for the idea was deeply rooted in the public mind, that the greater the expense incurred in a funeral, the greater would be the efficacy of the service in favour of the soul of the departed. The sums which were wont to be spent in this ceremony are incredible; and from their results many families have been entirely ruined. This subject will, however, be more particularly considered in a subsequent part of this work.

In the yearly receipts of those parish priests there is an enormous difference, which depends on the number, the class, and the wealth, of the parishioners living within the parish. There are some cases in which those receipts amount to nearly 2000 pounds per annum; whilst in some others the sum total is hardly sufficient to sustain an existence of misery and penury. Notwithstanding this deplorable condition, there have been, it must in candour be said, notable examples of charity, zeal, and self-denial, among the inferior classes of the parochial clergy. The poor have frequently found in their priests consolation in their afflictions and succour in their miseries. In small towns the priest is the first personage of the place. But still it cannot be concealed that there is a sad deficiency in the inculcation of the fundamental principles of scriptural truth in the exercise of his ministry; this same deficiency is equally observable in other Catholic countries. As a general rule, the only instruction which children receive from the priest is the learning to repeat from memory a very incomplete and superficial catechism. Preaching has rarely any other object than the explanation of some article of the faith, or a panegyric on the life of some saint. There are no interpreters of the gospel to be heard from the Spanish pulpit, except during the period of Lent. The preachers like rather to refer to and expatiate largely on miracles, than to unfold the morals of the New Testament; and, in general, it may be taken as a fact that the immense majority of the Spanish population, and especially those of the poorer class, have the most incomplete and erroneous ideas of the life and doctrines of Jesus Christ.

The greatest part of what has been advanced hitherto touching the Spanish clergy applies to that epoch which preceded the preponderance of liberal ideas. Since the abolition of tithes, under the minister, Mendizabal, who replaced them by moderate fixed salaries to the priests, now paid by the state, like other public functionaries, the situation of the Spanish clergy has entirely changed its aspect. No man of any respectable family now enlists himself under the banners of the clergy, whose influence is only kept up in some of the smallest and obscure towns;—in the cities it has entirely disappeared: nor does there remain in that body sufficient energy to make the least attempt to recover it. There have always been in Spain, in former epochs, some ecclesiastics, eminent for their virtues and their learning, who have commanded the respect of all classes of society, and whose word was so powerful that criminals of the most hardened description have fallen down at their feet; and even their appearance, in a town of some importance, has been followed by numerous conversions, and a great amendment of the public manners. Since the abolition of tithes, however, there is not a name in all the ecclesiastical state which has the least celebrity. There is now no such thing ever heard of as an eloquent speaker, a writer notable for his theological learning, or for works of piety and devotion. The bishops, whose titles, generally, are owing to their political sympathies, now live like courtiers and take part in the dissensions of parties; and the people regard them with an indifference corresponding to the few benefits received at their hands. There are various honourable exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions are scarce; and if there has been of late years a bishop of Cadiz, an admirable model of all Christian virtues, there are many others, such as that of Barcelona, impregnated with the maxims of the most absurd ultramontanism, and who are the declared enemies of all that contributes to make human society moral and enlightened.

It is very common to see priests begging in the streets. Few of them are now permitted to visit in respectable families, or even to mix in general society; and the strangest of all things connected with such a change is, that the clergy themselves know the state of degradation into which they have fallen—the total loss of their influence and of their importance—without making the least effort to raise themselves from that state of humiliation and abasement.

On two recent occasions have been seen evident proofs of the utter prostration of that class which once domineered over the entire nation. When the famous Merino attempted, in the summer of 1851, to assassinate Isabella II., and also during the political convulsions of July 1854, from the results of which the liberal party remained triumphant, so fearful were the clergy of exciting the popular indignation, and so persuaded were they that public opinion was against them, that their prelates advised them not only to abstain from appearing in the streets in their clerical costume, but even to discontinue the use of the church-bells, with which they had been in the habit of calling their congregations to the mass and other religious exercises. This advice was followed with as much eagerness and precipitation by the clergy, as though they wished to hide themselves from public notice, or as though they had been guilty of some illicit and scandalous offence.

It is clear that, to some extent, such a transition is the result of that state of poverty to which the secular clergy have been reduced; and hence it is that many priests, particularly those in the country, have given themselves up to a variety of secular pursuits and speculations, which are expressly prohibited by the canon laws, and which appear incompatible with the dignity and character of their ministry. Some of them have become publicans, others coach-proprietors, and not a few of them smugglers on the coasts and frontiers,—a propensity, however, to which they have always been addicted, even in the times of their greatest prosperity.

We have spoken of the ultramontanism of the Spanish clergy. Never had those doctrines more fanatical defenders, nor sectarians more fiery partisans, than the ecclesiastical writers of the Peninsula; the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope, the superiority of his jurisdiction with respect to the bishops and to the general councils, was propagated not only in books but in the pulpit and the confessional. Nevertheless the enlightened ministers of Charles III., Aranda, Campomanes, and Floridablanca (the first initiated in the school of French philosophers of the eighteenth century, and the last two in that of the learned and pious recluses of Port-Royal), after having procured from the king the abolition and banishment of the Jesuits, desired to foment in Spain the opinions which those eminent ministers of the crown maintained against falsifiers of Christian truth; and, to that end, they founded a collegiate church in the principal convent which those fathers had in Madrid, conferring its canonries upon ecclesiastics who professed the same doctrines as themselves, and who were, besides, generally venerated for the profundity of their scientific knowledge, as well as for the sanctity of their lives. The canons of San Isidro, to whom allusion has already been made, were Jansenists; and, consequently, they professed opinions diametrically opposed to those of the Spanish clergy. According to them, as has already been intimated, the episcopal dignity was equal in all those who possessed it, and the pope was no more than the first among equals—primus inter pares; the right to confer dispensations was not vested exclusively in the court of Rome, but each bishop could exercise it with equal authority in his diocese; external discipline of the church belonged of right to the regal authority, as also did that of presentation to benefices; the bulls and other papal precepts were not to be obeyed without the indispensable requisite of the monarch's approbation; and, finally, the Pope, as well as the rest of the bishops, was inferior in authority to the general council, in which was concentrated the legislative power of the church, whether with respect to the dogma or discipline and administration.

The boldness of these tenets excited the displeasure and irritation of the Inquisition; but the power of that formidable tribunal had already notably declined. Charles III. had taken two means calculated to militate against its preponderance, to humble its pride, and deprive it of the faculty of exercising its sanguinary vengeance. In the first place, the penalty of death was prohibited, and it could only impose the punishment of confiscation, imprisonment, and banishment. In the second place, he ordered that one of the judges of each tribunal of the Inquisition should be a secular person; and, for the discharge of the duties of these functionaries, men were selected in whom was reposed all the confidence of the ministers. The inquisitors knew that, once committed to those coadjutors, they could not expose themselves to the beginning of a struggle in which all inferiority was on their side. The canons of San Isidro were not, ostensibly, persecuted; but no means were spared to discredit them in public opinion. Thus it was that they lived isolated, and were regarded with mistrust by all the clergy; and with them disappeared from the Peninsula the only element of opposition to the tyranny of Rome, which had been notorious in the Spanish Church from the times of the Gothic monarchy.


MONACHISM—The superiority of the monastic over the secular clergy—Reasons for it—Orders of monks—The Carthusians—Their advancement in agriculture and love of the fine arts—Their seclusion and mode of living—Only learned men admitted to their order—Their form of salutation—Curious adventure of a lady found in the cell of a Carthusian—The Hieronimites—The Mendicant orders—"Pious works"—The Questacion—Decline of Spain accounted for—Vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience—How vow of poverty eluded—La honesta—Vicar-general of the Franciscan orders—His immense income—Religious orders have produced many great and good men—Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros—His celebrated Bible—Corruption of monastic orders—Insubordination of friars to the bishops—The Jesuits—Deplorable reputation of their literature—Pascal, Escobar, Sanchez, and Mariana—Suppression of the Jesuits by Charles III.—Their subsequent expulsion by Espartero under Isabella II.—Nunneries, though spared on suppression of religious houses, utterly useless—The Pope's attempt to perpetuate them by concordat—The lives of the nuns described—Their means of subsistence is now precarious—Convent de las Huelgas.

All the power, all the influence, and all the riches of the secular clergy, such as we have described them in the preceding chapter, would not have been sufficient completely to enslave the Spanish nation under the baneful dominion of Rome, if its unwearied ambition for command and power had not found out an instrument, much more efficacious, in the institution of Monachism, the establishment of which propagated itself on the Spanish soil with more rapidity and in greater numbers than in any other Catholic nation.

The superiority of the monastic clergy in comparison with the secular, as to popularity and numbers, was owing to many causes. In the first place, to become one of the clergy, two things were necessary, and neither of these were within the reach of the lower classes of the people, viz., theological attainments and a congrua, which latter word comprehended the property, income, or pension, indispensable to ensure to the aspirant a proper and competent maintenance. In many rich families there was, besides the entail (el mayorazgo) pertaining exclusively to the eldest son, another inheritable portion—the mortmain (main-morte), as inalienable as the entailed estates themselves, and designed for that individual of the family who might desire to adopt the ecclesiastic state. These inheritable provisions were called capellanias, and generally the brother, or cousin, or nephew, to whom this right, separated from the chief inheritance, belonged, took holy orders, but might or might not practically follow the vocation, by the exercise of those functions, the discharge of those duties, and submission to those privations, imposed on one who takes upon himself so high and responsible a calling. Although there was much laxity in the observance of those requirements, there were not wanting bishops who insisted on their most rigorous execution; so that in many dioceses there was great difficulty in gaining admission to the ranks of the clergy. But none of those obstacles presented themselves in seeking admission to the monasteries, or convents. Their doors were constantly open to the poorest and the most ignorant. In their interior organization there was a sufficient variety of employment for every class of human beings; the mason, the carpenter, the simple journeyman, possessed of no other instruments than his muscular force, was eligible to become a useful member of the holy community; and, as in the act of taking upon him the habit of the order, he had guaranteed to him a subsistence and all the conveniences of life, and at the same time that the habit itself opened to him the doors of great houses and palaces and placed him on a level with the most elevated circles, so also these two powerful allurements attracted innumerable persons to the cloisters, and multiplied in a most surprising degree the numerical force of the monastic orders.

These orders divided themselves into two great ramifications, the monks and the friars, and composed what may be called the aristocracy and the democracy of monachism. The monks were distinguished from the friars by their immense wealth, by the possessions of their monasteries, which were generally situated out of, and at a great distance from, towns, by the dignity of their manners, and by certain peculiarities in their internal government, over which there reigned a certain spirit of retirement and love of seclusion, that separated them from worldly things and the interests and passions of profane society.

The principal orders of monks established in Spain were the Benedictine, the Bernardine, the Carthusian, and the Hieronimites. The last two were superior to all the rest in number, importance, and wealth, and it is only respecting them that we shall treat in this chapter.

The Carthusians were opulent landowners; they lived in the midst of their possessions, and, to a considerable extent, cultivated their own lands. In these operations they rendered great service to agriculture; they practised the science with great care and knowledge; they brought their productions to great perfection. The breed of the Carthusian horses of Xeres was notoriously the best in Europe. In most of the Carthusian establishments they had schools in which education was given gratuitously to the children of their tenantry, and to those of the poor of the neighbouring towns. Under this point of view, it is certain that the monasteries of the Carthusians contributed greatly to the extension and improvement of agriculture and education in Spain. They were also notable for the stimulus which they gave to the fine arts; for their churches and monasteries were true museums of sculpture, painting, and architecture. In that of Granada, all travellers admire the beautiful paintings of its cloisters and refectory, the magnificent marbles of its chapels and sacristy, and the good taste and richness of the ornaments which cover all parts of the edifice.

The Carthusians observed, as fundamental rules of their order, silence and seclusion. They had but few acts which they performed in common, and these only on holidays. Each Carthusian lived in his cell, but each cell was a house, full of conveniences, with an extensive garden, in which they cultivated with the greatest care fruits and vegetables of the most delicious kinds. They were forbidden to give presents or even alms; but they allowed visitors to take from their gardens whatever they pleased. In Granada there was a famous Father Reyes who devoted himself to the cultivation of flowers, and from his garden all the elegant ladies of the city were furnished with the choicest descriptions. Their male friends were sent to gather them, nor was the reverend father altogether ignorant of the fair uses to which they were about to be applied.

The Carthusian dined alone in his cell, into which his food was conveyed by means of a torno, a kind of revolving cylindrical cupboard with shelves, into which were put the numerous and abundant dishes composing the dinner. The torno being then spun round on its axis, the shelves were unloaded of their sumptuous contents by the Carthusian himself.

As these monks were prohibited the use of meat, they kept up in their monasteries a great stock of live fish and a number of turtles; these latter being a delicacy they greatly prized. The place in which they killed these turtles was called the Galapagar. They fed them in a curious manner: at night there was thrown for them, into a large dry tank, the carcase of a cow or a calf; and such was the voracity of the amphibious animals, that, in the morning, nothing remained of these carcases but the bones.

The dinner of the Carthusian generally consisted of eight or nine distinct dishes, and their friends were accustomed to pay their visits about the hour of dinner; for, as invitations were not allowed, they were dispensed with. The wines they grew were always those of the best quality, and there were no persons in all Spain who fared so sumptuously and deliciously as did those devoted recluses.

None but presbyters were admitted to the Carthusian order, and even these were generally only such as had exercised some dignity in cathedral or collegiate churches; hence nearly all of them were learned men—men of good morals and great experience in the affairs of the world. Sometimes a military man of good attainments, a person high in the ministerial office, or a member of the higher courts of justice, sought admission within their walls; and although such acquisition was considered as very useful and very honourable, they were admitted only after having for some years belonged to the secular clergy and taken holy orders.

In a kind of life so extraordinary, so distinct, and so marked among all human associations, they were unable to form relations of friendship, even among individuals of the same community. They, therefore, seldom saw and scarcely knew each other. Their salutation, when they met, was brief but expressive; the senior began with Morir hemos, {52a} and the junior answered, Ya, lo sabemos. {52b} Beyond this the conversation did not extend. Once a-year the chapter met together to decide on the urgent and important matters of business of their society; and once in three years to elect a prior and a procurator, who were the only two persons authorised to treat with the world without, and direct the material interests of the establishment.

There is recorded of one of those Carthusian monasteries a narrative of a circumstance which at first was attempted to be concealed by all possible means, but at last came to be made known and fully authenticated. The case is shortly told. There was in that monastery a monk, who, for many years prior to his entering on a monastic life, had encouraged a vehement passion for one of the principal ladies of the city. The flame was mutual; but the lovers finding great obstacles in the way of their union, agreed to wait, in the hope that time might afford a favourable opportunity of realising their wishes. The father of the lady offered her hand to a gentleman very high in the hierarchy. She, not having sufficient courage to resist the parental authority, obeyed the mandate, thus sacrificing herself on the altar of filial obedience. The lover gave himself up a victim of despair, abandoned the world, and retired to the monastery. A few months after the marriage the husband died. The lady's affection revived; the flame was kindled anew in her heart; and she formed the resolution of uniting herself with the object of her first love, and of overcoming all obstacles which stood in the way of her determination. In male attire she wandered long in the neighbourhood of the monastery, informing herself most minutely of its internal position, and reflecting on the means of introducing herself to the cell of her beloved Carthusian. The stream of water which served to irrigate the gardens of the monastery, entered a wall by a large semicircular arch or opening near the garden itself. The lady, prodigal in the expenditure of money, and in the employment of faithful and trustworthy agents, procured a raft to be constructed, by means of which, all other things being prepared, she ventured through the opening, and was carried down the stream to the desired spot. The secret was kept. No one had the least suspicion of this extraordinary voyage, nor was it discovered until many years afterwards, when the monks observing that this particular one of their number had not for a length of time been present at any of the devotional exercises prescribed by the rules of their order, were desirous of learning the cause of his absence. They entered his cell, and found to their astonishment, his dead body, a lady, and four children! The civil power was, at first, about to investigate the affair, but, in order to avert the scandal that would result from such a proceeding, all inquiry was suspended, and the fate of that unhappy woman and her family was never known. The whole account seems romantic. The facts appear incredible, but they have long been established on unquestionable authority.

Like the Carthusians, the Hieronimites had their establishments far from towns and cities. They were very wealthy, but did not cultivate their own lands; they let them out on hire, and showed great consideration to their tenants. These fathers devoted themselves, almost entirely, to teaching, to singing, and to sacred music. From their halls have been sent forth to the world many vocalists, organists, and composers, of eminence. When Philip II. built the Escurial, he confided that sumptuous edifice to the Hieronimites; and so high a position did the prior hold in the hierarchy and in the state, that he was privileged to enter, at all times, into the king's apartments without asking leave to do so, and his coachman and other servants were permitted to wear the royal livery.

General opinion accuses these reverend fathers of too great a propensity to indulge in gastronomy, and it is related of them that, in prescribing for themselves, as a rule for their supper rations, one dozen of mincemeat-balls (abondigas), they afterwards, by a supplementary rule, extended that number to thirteen, from which circumstance the number thirteen is generally called, in Spain, "the friars' dozen."

The inferior section of Monachism, viz., that of the Friars, is composed of many orders, among which the most important and numerous were the following: Mercenarios, or Friars of Mercy (de la Merced), founded with the exclusive object of ransoming Christian captives who groaned in the dungeons of the Barbary States; the Carmelites,—calzados, wearing shoes and stockings, and descalzos, without either; the Augustines, calzados and descalzos; the Preachers, or Dominicans; the Friars of St John of God, whose duty was to serve sick persons in the hospitals attached to their convents; and above all the large family of St Francis, divided into four great ramifications, viz., the Franciscan properly speaking; the Fathers of Observance; the Fathers of St Diego; and the Capuchins. All these orders had convents in the principal towns of the Peninsula, and its colonies. In some cities,—as, for example, Madrid, Seville, and Toledo,—there were as many as twenty or thirty of these establishments, many of which contained from one hundred to one hundred and fifty inmates; but the average may be stated, with reason, at thirty for each convent. The calzados orders were at liberty to hold property; but the descalzos, in whose number are to be reckoned all the family of Franciscans, were strictly forbidden to do so; and hence they lived, exclusively, on the alms of the faithful.

These alms were of various kinds. Those called pious works (obras pias), consisted of certain rents, or pensions, granted to a convent on condition that certain masses should be said therein, during the year, for the soul of the grantor. Rich men who had acquired a fortune by unfair means, or through an extortionate usury, were induced to expect forgiveness of their sins, if they left large sums of money to the fathers of the convent the saint of which they were accustomed to worship or venerate, and to whom they usually paid their devotions. Some of those benefactors, most generously, defrayed the expenses of a religious festival, from which resulted a considerable profit to the convent in which that festival was celebrated. Others repaired conventual edifices at their own expense, or enlarged them by making extensive wings or other additions, in which there was always a profuse display of marble, bronze, and other precious materials. But the principal source of the revenue of the mendicant orders was that called the questacion. {57} Every morning each convent poured out from its gates a certain number of lay brothers (legos), each being furnished with a wallet over his shoulder; and it was the duty of each to traverse the whole town, begging alms for his respective convent. These pious beggars visited, one by one, the shops of the trades-people, and places most frequented, calling at the houses of the poor as well as at those of the rich. The alms which they thus received were chiefly in bread, meat, eggs, and every description of eatables, besides small copper coins generally contributed by the poor, and which were not the least important parts of these gatherings. In this way thousands of robust, able-bodied men, not only maintained themselves, but were enabled to live in the lap of luxury, for many years, without contributing, on their part, one farthing to the public treasury, but on the contrary diminishing, immensely, the population and the number of those engaged in cultivating the soil and in other useful labour. Was not this alone sufficient to explain the deplorable state of the economy of the Spanish Peninsula, the paucity of its inhabitants, the backwardness of its agriculture, its want of capital, and the nakedness and poverty of its fields and its towns? Indolence being, so to speak, thus sanctified, what stimulus could there be for productive labour? Why should men have fatigued themselves by arduous employments, when the convent offered them not only food, raiment, and lodging, but even a respectable position in society, without further trouble than that of passing a few hours in the choir of the church, to confess penitents, assist now and then at the bedside of a dying person, and to preach an occasional sermon, for which they always received a decent payment?

In all the religious orders three vows were exacted, namely, those of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Of the first we shall have some remarks to make when we come to speak of celibacy in the ecclesiastical state. That of poverty was eluded in a very simple manner; individuals were held bound by that vow, but communities were entirely free to accept and acquire property; and thus it was that the greater number of the convents lived in opulence, and the friars enjoyed all the conveniences of life. The friar delivered to the chief of his community all that came to his hands, either as alms or by way of salary for the masses he had to say and the sermons he preached.

Each order had, at its head, a superior chief, called the Vicar-general; the chief functionary of each province was called the Provincial, and that of each convent the Guardian in the Franciscan orders, and the Prior in all the rest. These personages were exempt from the vow of poverty; they had, tacitly, a dispensation for the use of money, under the supposition that all they received or possessed would be by them laid out for the good of their community. Every three years the provincial visited all the convents in his jurisdiction, and it was the universal custom, that in the act of finishing his visit, the prior of the visited convent put into his hands a purse of gold. This contribution was called la honesta. The vicar-general of the Franciscan orders, generally a Spaniard, received another species of tribute, which put him on a level with the most opulent men in Europe. Each convent of the three Orders in all parts of the globe sent to him, weekly, the largest amount it had received for any one mass said during that week. These orders had no less than two hundred and seventy provinces, and in them twelve thousand convents, {59a} from which may be conceived the immense sums of money that came into his power. This personage enjoyed the honours of a grandee of Spain, and was always in great favour with its sovereigns, on whom he lavished money. Father Campany, who occupied this post during the reign of Charles IV., was accustomed to send to the queen, Mary Louisa, yearly, large quantities of bricks made of fine chocolate, and studded all over, within and without, with solid gold doubloons.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse