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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Salamanca 1936 and 1999 - War and Peace

This year sees the 80th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War, a particularly cruel and barbaric war which involved the martyrdom of tens of  thousands of Catholic clergy and lay persons, and the pillaging and destruction  of thousands of Catholic churches, chapels, and shrines. We are reminded of  the physical and spiritual suffering of today's persecuted Church, especially in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, India, Burma, China , and not forgetting the suffering of the faithful in the so-called free world, Europe, the Americas, Canada, Australia, who are threatened and intimidated by anti-God legislation and powerful secular forces intent on destroying Christianity. Since the time of Christ, the Christian Church has been persecuted and vilified, and  will continue to be  until the end of time.
 'If the world hate you, know ye that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also' (John 15 v18-20)                                                                                                           

                                             Christ before Pilate -Munkacsy (1881)

I must confess that I have always found the history of the Spanish Civil War (1936- 1939)  confusing, although less so after reading ‘The Last Crusade’ by Warren Carroll, published by Christendom Press. This account of an extraordinarily complex and ruthless war, superbly written by an eminent  Catholic writer, provides a welcome and refreshing antidote to the anti-Catholic bias adopted by so many contemporary historians. Carroll defines ‘Crusade’ as a ‘war for the sake of the Cross, a war to protect Christian people from persecution and death on account of their faith in Jesus Christ’. The Spanish Civil War was certainly this.  In 1936, the first year of the war, in just six months a total of thirteen Bishops and nearly seven thousand priests, seminarians, monks and nuns were martyred by the enemies of the Church. It was the greatest clerical blood-letting in so short a space of time since the persecutions of the Church by the ancient Roman emperors. Tens of thousands of churches, chapels, and shrines in Spain were pillaged or destroyed. In response, faithful Spanish Catholics proclaimed a crusade against the anti-religious government  and the militarist international communist and anarchic forces backing it. In turn the former, the 'Nationalists', received substantial military support  from Germany and Italy, with history revealing that Germany, under Hitler, regarded the War as an ideal opportunity for executing and perfecting military manoeuvres,  to be subsequently used in World War 2. Additionally, it was important for Germany's future expansionist plans that Communism was defeated in Spain, for if Spain succumbed, so inevitably would Portugal.  Matters were complicated still further by internal divisions  on both sides, leading to fierce in-fighting and factional atrocities.   After three years, and initially against all the odds the crusaders triumphed, and the Church and the Faith in Spain were saved. By astute diplomacy General Franco ensured the basic  'neutrality' of Spain during most of World War 2, thus depriving Hitler of vital sea bases and virtual control of  the Mediterranean. This book, in paperback format (232 pages), once started, is hard to put down.


'In Franco's Spain' by Captain Francis McCullagh, is another book on the Spanish Civil War which I strongly recommend. Published in 1937, this book is effectively primary source material on those aspects of the war personally experienced by McCullagh, an Irish Catholic journalist and renowned and respected war correspondent. I have other excellent books by McCullagh, all of which were based on personal experiences, these include the early years of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, also the persecution and martyrdom of the Catholic people in Mexico by their anti-clerical and masonic  government. In all his writings I have found McCullagh objective and outspokenly honest, which  includes his obvious loyalty and devotion to the Catholic faith. 'In Franco's Spain', is written in  a 'grainy' and anecdotal style which adds authenticity, and includes some remarkable photographs, some lent by the 'Universe' and 'Catholic Herald' of the day. Salamanca was chosen by General Franco as his G.H.Q. base.

Rescued from the Grave - Parish Priest of St Ana, having been buried alive by the Reds, was  rescued by the Nationalists, and is here shown describing his terrible experiences to a sympathetic group of Spanish Legionaries.   Photo taken by correspondent of 'Diario de Noticias' of Lisbon.

The Corpse of a Nun - 'Dug up by the Reds and placed against a wall to be scoffed at.'

At one time, the author had been offered a bed in a building attached to a convent. The author's impression when meeting the two nuns deputed to welcome him,  had been 'of faces as innocent and serene as the faces of the two angels who came to Sodom at even. They had the pure eyes of little children.  These young women know nothing of the iniquity of the world.' 
McCullagh very soon changed his mind, having spoken to the resident Padre, who had this to say:-
    'These nuns belong to an Order which looks after lunatic girls and women. There are fifteen hundred inmates, nearly all of them from off the streets in Madrid. You have no idea of what a vicious city Madrid was. Many of these unfortunate women were caught young, and deliberately trained up in every form of depravity.  The human brain cannot support such a life for long: their brains gave way.  The Reds treated these nuns badly at first, but in the end even they began to realize what noble work they were doing, so they allowed them to carry on as long as they did not wear their habits.They even spared the convent chapel, though they destroyed every church in the town.They also destroyed another convent, down near headquarters, belonging to a different Religious Order, contemplatives I think, murdering the nuns. We dug up one of the corpses the other day while constructing a communications trench. It was by the habit she wore that we recognized her as one of those  nuns. Probably the naked corpse we found at the same time was also that of a nun . Many were taken into Madrid, and we don't know what has become of them. One went mad, and is confined in this house.' .............
 'Although these nuns here have probably never been outside Spain, they would not have been so shocked as you think by the terrible reality of Golgotha.  They witness every day the state of utter degradation to which man is reduced by sin...... I know that they have seen their patients in the last stages of degradation, and that they have had to listen to unutterable things from women in whom mental disease has killed all will-power, all reticence, all self-respect, and all shame, while leaving the memory intact, and increasing tenfold the rapidity of the tongue. These nuns have heard more horrors in this quiet convent than a priest hears in the confessional of any seaport from Suez to Santa Cruz........... Probably that accounts for their perfect calm, in presence of the fire now raining down from Heaven on Madrid. They expected nothing less, any more than the two angels who came to Lot, expected less than fire and brimstone on Sodom. This war is only one more ill, and not the worst; the worst ills are hidden: there are more terrible things in peace than there are in battle, even in that peace which is marked by a brighter tone in the stock markets, and by quiet conditions in the foreign exchanges. Some people in England and America have started a crusade against war: why do they not start a crusade against sin, the cause of war?  But let's say no more about it. In this world which looks so pleasant, there are, beneath the surface, horrors too awful for words.'

 Captain The Rev. Father Mulrean, Chaplain of the Irish Brigade, which numbered some 700 troops. The losses it sustained were relatively light, seven killed and about twenty wounded, with four of the dead shot accidentally by Spaniards who took them for Reds. Of the remaining fatalities, two were due to shells fired from a great distance, and one to a sniper, also afar off. The Irish never even saw the enemy, and in fact went home before the end of the war, as did many German and Italian troops. McCullagh complained that the Germans and Italians did something to help Franco, whereas the Irish did nothing. This was not deliberate or intended, rather a geographical and logistical accident, reflecting the chaotic and uncertain pattern of the war.

The 'Salvo-Conducto' of G.H.Q. - issued to the journalist Francis McCullagh prior to leaving Spain in 1937. Theoretically,  this document guaranteed the holder re-admittance to Spain with a minimum of bureaucratic red-tape. In fact McCullagh did not return to Spain during the the war, not least because he suspected that he had been black-marked by the Spanish authorities who would likely refuse him entry anyway.

          'Holy Spain, set square at the extremity of Europe,
               concentration of the Faith and the sun-baked Sierra,
               invincible fort of the Virgin Mother,
          Ultimate stride of Santiago the Apostle, stride which
               ends only with the end of the world,
          Land of Dominic and of John, of Francis the Conquerer
               and of Teresa,
          Arsenal of Salamanca, and pillar of Saragossa, and burning
               root of Manresa,
          Unconquerable Spain, where refusal and half-measures
               have ever been unacceptable,
                        .          .   .   .        .   .    .
          In this hour of thy crucifixion, holy Spain, in this day,
               sister Spain, which is thy day,
          My eyes filled with enthusiasm and tears, I send thee my admiration and my love!                        
                                      Paul Claudel - French poet (1868-1955)


(The item below is reproduced from a post written some eight years ago - my excuse is that it brings back very good memories! I have added a few photographs.)

Still with Spain in mind but in a rather different context and on a personal basis, I have to admit that I have only visited Spain once - about 17 years ago. At that time I was a member of the Exeter Philharmonic Choir, about 100 strong, and we went to Spain to give two concerts, one in Madrid at the Auditorio Nacional, and the other at Salamanca in the Old Cathedral. Our Conductor and Master of Music was Raymond Calcraft, who as a young man had attended the University of Salamanca and who had been a lifelong friend of the world-famous Spanish composer and musician Joaquin Rodrigo(1901-99). It was undoubtedly through Raymond’s knowledge of all things Spanish and his contacts in the Spanish musical world, that we had the pleasure and privilege of performing in Spain. The first concert was in Madrid and was recorded live on Spanish radio. What I particularly remember about the Auditorio Nacional was the acoustics - or perhaps I should say, as far as it appeared to me, the lack of acoustics. In England many of our concerts were performed in Exeter Cathedral which is one of the largest and most beautiful Gothic Cathedrals in Europe, with huge, high roofing-vaults which echo and carry the human voice as ‘on the wings of a dove’. In the Auditorio Nacional it was as though the walls were encased in cotton-wool, you could not hear yourself singing and you could not hear your colleagues, which I found quite off-putting.

                                                         Auditorio Nacional, Madrid
 I remember that our main programme comprised a Psalm set to music by Gustave Holst – starting off very gently, and ending in a thunderous hymn of triumph ; then followed a relatively short choral work, I think for women's voices only, by Joaquin Rodrigo; and finally Dvorak’s 'Mass in D' for four voices with Organ accompaniment. We were told later that the broadcast had been well received, so clearly (forgive the pun!) my perception of the acoustics was not reflected in the quality of the broadcast!
        Our second Concert was in the Old Cathedral in Salamanca. We travelled by coach from Madrid to Salamanca and I remember thinking how bleak and inhospitable much of the countryside appeared. I recollect small hamlets just off the main road, apparently abandoned with no sign of life except for the storks nesting in the roofs. Salamanca was different altogether, with a wide river and green pastures, and a huge, magnificent central square surrounded by ancient stone buildings and small shops. Dominating the city are the two Catholic Cathedrals, the Old Cathedral and the New, virtually side by side. The former is now used primarily for artistic events such as concerts, and the latter is the main place of worship.

                                                    New Cathedral,  Salamanca

 Our concert was in the evening in the Old Cathedral, and when the time came I was amazed to see that the building was absolutely packed, with people standing in the aisles and right up to the front of the stage where the choir were. It seemed as if the very walls of the Cathedral were bulging! I later discovered that entry to the Concert was free and that it was traditional that all the locals attended such events – which they certainly appeared to have done!      
     The audience comprised people of all ages and walks of life, all of whom showed genuine excitement and pleasurable anticipation. The extremely close proximity of the audience - you could almost shake hands with those in the front, and the attention, concentration, and appreciation that they showed, was something never to be forgotten. We performed the same programme as at Madrid, with everything going well up unto the interval. Unfortunately when we returned to the platform some 15 minutes later, we found that large numbers of the audience had disappeared! We then learnt that many people had left because they thought that the concert had come to an end, apparently not being familiar with the concept of an 'interval'. Although I’m sure that programmes were available, it may be that most of the audience did not avail themselves, or it may have been that the interval was not clearly indicated. Whatever the cause it was clear that drastic steps had to be taken. The choir then retired for a second time from the platform, and search parties were immediately dispatched to scour the neighbourhood in search of the missing audience. Fortunately the extended interval allowed many, if not most, to be traced and thus return in time for the much delayed second half. Cynics might think that the mystery of the vanishing audience was by design rather than accident, but I really don’t think so. Prior to the start of the concert the audience anticipation, interest and excitement, was palpable, and the enthusiastic applause at the end of the first half was absolutely genuine, as it also was at the end of the performance. 
     In spite of the ‘walk out’, I can honestly say that this particular concert is one that I will always remember and treasure, for to have been privileged to sing Dvorak's magnificent Mass in this historic and grand Old Cathedral, enjoying an unusual intimacy and empathy with a highly appreciative and receptive audience, was an unforgettable experience. A long time ago I know, but I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Raymond Calcraft for making this unforgettable experience possible. Over the years I have lost touch with him, but these memories do not fade. Thank you Raymond!
     I would love another opportunity to sing in the Old Cathedral. Realistically this is probably unlikely, but I refuse to give up hope! Salamanca itself, with its fine University and mediaeval buildings, its history and Catholic culture, is a 'must' for visitors.
                                  Old Cathedral, Salamanca - view of the nave  (ack. anotherheader,wordpress.)

      Prior to visiting Spain, a big mistake on my part was the assumption that many, if not most Spanish people speak English. In hindsight I realise that this was somewhat arrogant, for why should Spanish people be expected to speak English? Certainly in England you would not expect the natives to speak Spanish! I suffered for this misapprehension on several occasions. Once in particular, when after a tiring morning sight-seeing on my own in Madrid, I decided that I needed something to eat. Surprisingly I had difficulty in finding a restaurant, and just as surprising, to me at least, was that nobody I approached for help spoke English.  I eventually came across a ‘McDonalds’ type establishment, and through the plate-glass window I could see displayed on the walls, large coloured photographs of particular meals on offer. I deduced that once in the restaurant, I would be able to order a meal by the simple expedient of pointing at one of these photographs, there would be no need to say a single word – and so it transpired! Such was my first and last experience of eating-out alone in Madrid. This was definitely not the most exotic place in which to dine, but highly recommended for those who do not speak the ‘lingo’!
     A rather poignant memory is that of attending Holy Mass at 8a.m. on a Sunday morning in Madrid and finding that there were perhaps 12 people in total in the congregation. The church probably held 2/300 at least, a lovely traditional Catholic church, and a devout young priest. This perhaps is a reminder that the Church in Spain is still suffering from the long-term effects of the Civil War, wounds since aggravated by the liturgical and associated disasters since Vatican 2. 
In 2001 Pope John Paul II beatified 233 of the martyrs of the Civil War, and in 2007 Pope Benedict XVI beatified a further 498 – the largest group beatification ever. 
It is certain  that the blood of the holy Spanish martyrs will not have been shed in vain.
  ‘Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat’.


Marta García said...


I am interested to know more about Father J.J. Mulrean. Would you be able to give the references of the book where you saw his photograph?


umblepie said...

Hello Marta,
Thanks for your email.
The photograph is on page 286 ‘In Franco’s Spain’ by Captain Francis McCullagh – published by Burns, Oates, and Washbourne Ltd,
London. In 1937.
I have an original copy of this book, but I believe that it has been re-printed and published in recent years. Whether this includes the original illustrations, I do not know.
As well as the photograph, the book includes several incidents in which Father Mulrean was involved.
I recommend this book, as I do all the books written by McCullagh, who was an Irish Catholic War reporter and writer of great integrity.
I have no IBBN number for my copy of this book, but you should find the reprints listed on Amazon.
Hope this helps.
Best wishes,
Brian Crowe.

Marta García said...

Hello Briana,

Thank you so much for your answer and for all your help. It´s been more than useful, and hope you the best on your day.

Best wishes,