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Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War

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Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
Died1934, 1936-1939
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified29 March 1987
1 October 1989
29 April 1990
25 October 1992
10 October 1993
1 October 1995
4 May 1997
10 May 1998
7 March 1999
11 March 2001 by Pope John Paul II
29 October 2005
28 October 2007
23 January 2010
17 December 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI[1]
13 October 2013
1 November 2014
5 September 2015
3 October 2015
21 November 2015
23 April 2016
8 October 2016
29 October 2016
25 March 2017
6 May 2017
21 October 2017
11 November 2017
10 November 2018
9 March 2019
23 March 2019
22 June 2019
7 November 2020
29 May 2021
16 October 2021
30 October 2021
6 November 2021
26 February 2022
18 June 2022
22 October 2022
18 November 2023
by Pope Francis
Canonized21 November 1999 (Nine Martyrs of the 1934 Asturias uprising) in Rome[1]
4 May 2003 in Madrid by Pope John Paul II
AttributesCrown of martyrdom
Martyr's palm
PatronagePersecuted Christians

During the Spanish Civil War Catholic people faced persecution from the Republican faction of the war, in part due to their support of the nationalists and the recently abolished monarchy. The Catholic Church venerates them as martyrs.[2] More than 6,800 clerics and other Catholic people were killed in what has been dubbed the Red Terror. As of November 2023, 2,127 Spanish martyrs have been beatified; 11 of them being canonized. For some 2,000 additional martyrs, the beatification process is underway


During the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, the Catholic Church in Spain supported and was strongly supported by and associated with the Spanish monarchy. The Second Spanish Republic saw an alternation of leftist and conservative coalition governments between 1931 and 1936. Amidst the disorder caused by the military coup of July 1936, many supporters of the Republican government pointed their weapons against individuals they considered local reactionaries, including priests and nuns.

A paradoxical case for foreign Catholics was that of the Basque Nationalist Party, at the time a Catholic party from the Basque areas, who after some hesitation supported the Republican government in exchange for an autonomous government in the Basque Country. Although virtually every other group on the Republican side was involved in the anticlerical persecution, the Basques did not play a part.[3] The Vatican diplomacy tried to orient them to the National side, explicitly supported by Cardinal Isidro Goma y Tomas, but the BNP feared the centralism of the Nationals. Some Catalan nationalists also found themselves in the same situation, such as members of de Unió Democràtica de Catalunya party whose most relevant leader, Manuel Carrasco i Formiguera was killed by the Nationalists in Burgos in 1938.


During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, and especially in the early months of the conflict, individual clergymen were executed while entire religious communities were persecuted, leading to a death toll of 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarians, 2,364 monks and friars and 283 nuns, for a total of 6,832 clerical victims, as part of what is referred to as Spain's Red Terror.[4]

Pope John Paul II[edit]

Pope John Paul II beatified 473 martyrs in the years 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2001. Some 233 executed clergy were beatified by John Paul II on 11 March 2001.[5] In 1999 he also canonized a Christian Brother and the nine Martyrs of Turon, the first group of Spanish Civil War martyrs to reach sainthood. Regarding the selection of Candidates, Archbishop Edward Novack from the Congregation of Saints explained in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano: "Ideologies such as Nazism or Communism serve as a context of martyrdom, but in the foreground the person stands out with his conduct, and, case by case, it is important that the people among whom the person lived should affirm and recognize his fame as a martyr and then pray to him, obtaining graces. It is not so much ideologies that concern us, as the sense of faith of the People of God, who judge the person's behavior."[6]

Pope Benedict XVI[edit]

Benedict XVI beatified 530 martyrs in the years 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011, with the biggest being the 498 Spanish martyrs in October 2007,[7] in the largest beatification ceremony in the history of the Catholic Church.[8] In this group of people, the Vatican has not included all Spanish martyrs, nor any of the 16 priests who were executed by the nationalist side in the first years of the war. This decision has caused numerous criticisms from surviving family members and several political organisations in Spain.[9]

The beatification recognized the extraordinary fate and often brutal death of the persons involved. Some have criticized the beatifications as dishonoring non-clergy who were also killed in the war, and as being an attempt to draw attention away from the church's support of Franco (some quarters of the Church called the Nationalist cause a "crusade").[10] Within Spain, the Civil War still raises high emotions. The act of beatification has also coincided in time with the debate on the Law of Historical Memory (about the treatment of the victims of the war and its aftermath) promoted by the Spanish Government.

Responding to the criticism, the Vatican has described the October 2007 beatifications as relating to personal virtues and holiness, not ideology. They are not about "resentment but ... reconciliation". The Spanish government has supported the beatifications, sending Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos to attend the ceremony.[11] Among those present was Juan Andrés Torres Mora, a relative of one of the martyrs and the Spanish MP who had debated the memory law for PSOE.[12]

The October 2007 beatifications have brought the number of martyred persons beatified by the Church to 977, eleven of whom have been canonized as saints.[8] Because of the extent of the persecution, many more cases could be proposed; as many as 10,000 according to Catholic Church sources. The process for beatification has already been initiated for about 2,000 people.[8]

At 28 October 2007 beatifications, Pope Benedict underscored the call to sanctity for all Christians, saying it was "realistic possibility for the entire Christian people".[13] He also noted, "This martyrdom in ordinary life is an important witness in today's secularized society."[13]

Pope Francis[edit]

Pope Francis beatified 522 martyrs on 13 October 2013, at Tarragona, Spain; among them was Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera from Manila, Philippines, who became the first Filipino martyr of the Spanish Civil War. He also approved additional beatifications for Spanish martyrs that took place for a priest on 1 November 2014 as well as two sets of group martyrs on both 5 September 2015 and 3 October 2015. The pope also approved the beatification of 26 Capuchin martyrs, which took place on 21 November 2015. The beatification for Valentín Palencia Marquina and his four companions took place on 23 April 2016 in Burgos.[14] The 114 Almerian martyrs were beatified on 25 March 2017, and Antonio Arribas Hortigüela and his six companions were beatified on 6 May 2017 in Girona.[15][16] The beatification of Mateo Casals Mas & 108 companions were beatified in Barcelona on 21 October 2017 and Vicenç Queralt Lloret & 20 companions as well as José Maria Fernández Sánchez & 38 companions were beatified in Madrid on 11 November 2017. The beatification of Teodoro Illera del Olmo & 15 Companions was held on 10 November 2018. The beatification of Ángel Cuartas Cristobal and his 8 companions was held in Oviedo on 9 March 2019 while María Isabel Lacaba Andia and her 13 companions were beatified in Madrid on 22 June 2019. María Pilar Gullón Yturriaga and 2 companions was beatified in Astorga on 29 May 2021. The beatification of Juan Elías Medina and 126 companions will be held in Córdoba on 16 October 2021, Francisco Cástor Sojo López and 3 companions in Tortosa on 30 October 2021 Benet Domènech Bonet & 2 companions in Barcelona on 6 November 2021 The beatifications of Cayetano Giménez Martín & 15 Companions in Granada on 26 February 2022, Angel Marina Álvarez & 19 Companions, Isabel Sánchez Romero, Juan Aguilar Donis & 5 Companions in Almería on 18 June 2022 and Vicente Nicasio Renuncio Toribio & 11 Companions in Madrid on 22 October 2022.


A number of controversies have arisen around the beatification of some of these clerics. Some objectors oppose the notion of these priests being killed for mere religious hatred and, while not excusing their brutal murders, putting them in the context of the historical moment. Others question the appropriateness of beatification for some individuals who have less than saintly backgrounds. A third objection is the perceived partiality of the Church, where victims of the left have been proposed for beatification, while victims of the right have been ignored.

Of the first objection, one of the most notable cases has centered on Cruz Laplana y Laguna, Bishop of Cuenca, a well-known supporter of the monarchist regime. After the proclamation of the Second Republic he carried out a number of right-wing political campaigns throughout the province, and had established close contacts with military officials such as General Joaquín Fanjul, a supporter of the Nationalist rebellion. Laplana y Laguna was described by his biographer as "supreme advisor" to the general, as well as being closely involved with the Falange. In 1936 he personally endorsed Falangista leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera as a candidate in the 1936 local elections. When the Nationalist uprising in Cuenca failed, Laplana y Lagun was arrested by Republican militiamen for treason. He was tried for conspiring against the Republican government and executed on 8 August.[17]

Another is Fulgencio Martínez, a priest in the village of La Paca in Murcia, who was shot after the uprising, who was reported by many locals to be closely allied to the local landowners. Over several days before the uprising, Father Fulgencio met with these landowners in the village casino—the hub of social life for the local elites in rural Spain—to organize support for the rebellion. He offered guns and money to anyone who would join an improvised militia. On 18 July, the day of the uprising, Father Fulgencio was among the persons who went through the village streets on lorries, rallying support for the uprising with shouts of "Viva el Ejército!" ("Long live the Army") and "Viva General Queipo de Llano!"[18]

Public statements by some of these clerics have also been widely publicised as a form of criticism against their beatification. Rigoberto Domenech, Archbishop of Zaragoza, declared publicly on 11 August 1936 that the military uprising was to be supported, and its defensive actions approved, because "it is not done in the service of anarchy, but in the benefit of order, fatherland, and religion" in response to the Red Terror. Another statement was that given in November 1938 by Leopoldo Eijo Garay, Bishop of Madrid-Alcalá, regarding a possible truce between Republican and rebel forces: "To tolerate democratic liberalism... would be to betray the martyrs."[19]

Of the second, the controversy surrounding the beatification of Augustinian Friar Gabino Olaso Zabala, listed as a companion of Avelino Rodriguez Alonso, concerns his previous life. Friar Zabala was martyred during the Civil War and was beatified. Attention was called to the fact that Fr. Olaso had been a missionary in the Philippines during the Katipunan rebellion against Spanish rule, and had been accused of torturing Friar Mariano Dacanay, an alleged rebel sympathizer.[20] However this objection ignores the Church proclamation that even sinners can repent and turn into saints, such as in the case of Augustine of Hippo. It also misunderstands the nature of a cause for martyrdom, where the primary factor is the person's death due to religious hatred of the faith, rather than the saintliness of his previous life.

The third objection refers to the Church's attitude to victims of Nationalist repression. Regarding the attitude of the Vatican, Manuel Montero, lecturer of the University of the Basque Country commented on 6 May 2007:

The Church, which upheld the idea of a 'National Crusade' in order to legitimize the military rebellion, was a belligerent part during the Civil War, even at the cost of alienating part of its members. It continues in a belligerent role in its unusual answer to the Historical Memory Law by recurring to the beatification of 498 "martyrs" of the Civil War. The priests executed by Franco's Army are not counted among them... Its selective criteria regarding the religious persons that were part of its ranks are difficult to fathom. The priests who were victims of the republicans are "martyrs who died forgiving", but those priests who were executed by the Francoists are forgotten.[21]

While much of Republican Spain was anti-clerical in sentiment, the Basque region, which also supported the Republic, was not; the clergy of the region stood against the Nationalist coup, and suffered accordingly. At least 16 Basque nationalist priests (among them the arch-priest of Mondragón) were killed by the Nationalists,[22] and hundreds more were imprisoned or deported.[23] This included several priests who tried to halt the killings.[24]

Individual cases[edit]

Martyrs of Turon[edit]

The martyrs of Turon were a group of eight De La Salle Brothers, and the Passionist priest who was with them, who were executed by striking miners at Turon in October 1934. This was nearly two years before the outbreak of the civil war, therefore they shall not be regarded as martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 April 1990, and were canonized by him on 21 November 1999.

Innocencio of Mary Immaculate[edit]

Saint Innocencio of Mary Immaculate, born Emanuele Canoura Arnau, was a member of the Passionist Congregation and martyr of the Spanish Civil War. Born on 10 March 1887 in Santa Cecelia del Valle de Oro in Galicia, Spain, he died at Turon, with his eight companions, on 9 October 1934. He was beatified on 29 April 1990 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 21 November 1999.

Jaime Hilario Barbal[edit]

Jaime Hilario Barbal, born Manuel Barbal Cosán, was raised in a pious and hardworking family near the Pyrenees mountains. Entered the seminary at age 12, but when his hearing began to fail in his teens, he was sent home. Joined the Brothers of the Christian Schools at age 19, entering the novitiate on 24 February 1917 at Irun, Spain, taking the name Jaime Hilario. Exceptional teacher and catechist, he believed strongly in the value of universal education, especially for the poor. However, his hearing problems grew worse, and in the early 1930s, he was forced to retire from teaching, and began work in the garden at the La Salle house at San Jose, Tarragona, Spain. Imprisoned in July 1936 at Mollerosa, Spain when the Spanish Civil War broke out and religious people were swept from the street. Transferred to Tarragona in December, then confined on a prison ship with some other religious. Convicted on 15 January 1937 of being a Christian Brother. Two rounds of volley fire from a firing squad did not kill him, possibly because some of the soldiers intentionally shot wide; their commander then murdered Jaime with five shots at close range. First of the 97 La Salle Brothers killed in Catalonia, Spain during the Spanish Civil War to be recognized as a martyr. He was beatified on 29 April 1990, and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 21 November 1999.

Pedro Poveda[edit]

He was a priest, the founder of the Teresian Association and a Martyr of the Spanish civil war. He was beatified on 10 October 1993 and canonized on 4 May 2003.

Passionist Martyrs of Daimiel[edit]

They were a group of priests and brothers of the Passionist Congregation killed by Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 1 October 1989. Eyewitnesses reported that all of the Passionists had forgiven their murderers before they died. A witness to the murder of Father Niceforo reported that after being shot the priest turned his eyes to heaven then turned and smiled at his murderers. At this point one of them, now more infuriated than ever, shouted:

What, are you still smiling?[25]

With that he shot him at point blank range.

Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera[edit]

Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera (Jose Maria of Manila) was born on 5 September 1880 in Manila, Philippines. He was a Franciscan Capuchin priest. He died a martyr on 17 August 1936, in Madrid, Spain, during the Spanish civil war. He is venerated in the Catholic Church, which celebrates his feast on 6 November. He was beatified on 13 October 2013.

Bartolomé Blanco Márquez[edit]

Bartolomé Blanco Márquez was born in Cordoba, Spain in 1914. He was arrested as a Catholic leader—he was the secretary of Catholic Action and a delegate to the Catholic Syndicates—on 18 August 1936. He was executed on 2 October 1936, at age 21, while he cried out, "Long live Christ the King!" Born in Pozoblanco 25 November 1914, Bartolome was orphaned as a child, and raised by family with whom he worked. He was an excellent student, studying under the tutelage of the Salesians.

Victoria Díez Bustos de Molina[edit]

She was a religious, the member of the same congregation and also a Martyr of the Spanish civil war. She was beatified on 10 October 1993.

Pedro Asúa Mendía[edit]

Pedro was educated by Jesuits. Trained as an architect, graduating in 1915. he worked on schools, churches and houses for religious. He was ordained priest in the diocese of Vitoria, Spain in 1924. He was executed on 29 August 1936. He was beatified on 1 November 2014.

Mariano Mullerat i Soldevila[edit]

Mariano was a Spanish Roman Catholic doctor who also served as the mayor for Arbeca from 1924 until March 1930. He died on 13 August 1936. He was beatified on 23 March 2019.

Joan Roig i Diggle[edit]

Joan was a young layperson of the Archdiocese of Barcelona. He died on 11 September 1936. He was beatified on 7 November 2020.

Isabel Sánchez Romero[edit]

Isabel was a religious from the Dominican Order. She died on 15 February 1937. She was set to be beatified on 19 September 2020 but it was postponed to 18 June 2022 due to COVID-19 pandemic.

List of martyrs[edit]


Date Martyrs Feast Day
29 March 1987 María Pilar Martínez García and 2 companions 24 July
1 October 1989 Niceforo Díez Tejerina and 25 companions 23 July
29 April 1990 Cirilo Bertrán Sanz Tejedor, Inocencio Canoura Arnau and 7 companions* 9 October
Maria Merce Prat i Prat 24 July
Jaime Hilario Barbal Cosán* 18 January
25 October 1992 Braulio María Corres Díaz de Cerio, Federico Rubio Alvarez and 69 companions 30 July
Felipe de Jesús Munárriz and 50 companions 13 August
10 October 1993 Diego Ventaja Milán, Manuel Medina Olmos and 7 companions 30 August
Pedro Poveda Castroverde* 28 July
Victoria Díez Bustos de Molina 12 August
1 October 1995 Anselmo Polanco Fontecha & Felipe Ripoll Morata 7 February
Martin Martinez Pascual 18 August
Pedro Ruiz de los Paños Ángel and 8 companions 23 July
Dionisio Pamplona and 12 companions 22 September
Carlos Eraña Guruceta and 2 companions 18 September
Ángeles Lloret Martí and 16 companions 20 November
Vicente Vilar David 14 February
4 May 1997 Florentino Asensio Barroso 9 August
Ceferino Giménez Malla 4 May
10 May 1998 Rita Josefa Pujalte Sánchez & Francisca Aldea Araujo 20 July
María Gabriela Hinojosa Naveros and 6 companions 18 November
María Sagrario Moragas Cantarero 16 August
7 March 1999 Vicente Soler Munárriz and 7 companions 5 May
11 March 2001 José Aparicio Sanz & 232 companions 22 September
29 October 2005 Josep Tàpies Sirvant and 6 companions 13 August
Ángela Ginard Martí 30 August
28 October 2007 498 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War 6 November
23 January 2010 Josep Samsó Elias 1 September
17 December 2011 Francisco Esteban Lacal and 22 companions 28 November
13 October 2013 522 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War 6 November
1 November 2014 Pedro Asúa Mendía 29 August
5 September 2015 Fidela Oller Angelats and 2 companions 30 August
3 October 2015 Pio Heredia Zubia and 17 companions 4 December
21 November 2015 Frederic Tarrés Puigpelat and 25 companions 6 November
23 April 2016 Valentín Palencia Marquina and 4 companions 15 January
8 October 2016 Genaro Fueyo Castañón and 3 companions 21 October
29 October 2016 José Antón Gómez and 3 companions 25 September
25 March 2017 José Álvarez-Benavides de la Torre and 114 companions 6 November
6 May 2017 Antonio Arribas Hortigüela & 6 companions
21 October 2017 Mateu Casals Mas, Teófilo Casajús Alduán, Ferran Saperas Aluja and 106 companions 1 February
11 November 2017 Vicenç Queralt Lloret, José María Fernández Sánchez and 58 Companions 6 November
10 November 2018 Teodoro Illera del Olmo and 15 companions
9 March 2019 Ángel Cuartas Cristobal and 8 companions
23 March 2019 Mariano Mullerat i Soldevila 13 August
22 June 2019 María Isabel Lacaba Andia and 13 companions 6 November
7 November 2020 Joan Roig i Diggle
29 May 2021 María Pilar Gullón Yturriaga and 2 companions
16 October 2021 Juan Elías Medina and 126 companions
30 October 2021 Francisco Cástor Sojo López and 3 companions 25 October
6 November 2021 Benet Domènech Bonet and 2 companions 6 November
26 February 2022 Cayetano Giménez Martín & 15 companions
18 June 2022 Ángel Marina Álvarez and 26 Companions
Juan Aguilar Donis & 5 Companions
Isabel Sánchez Romero
22 October 2022 Vicente Nicasio Renuncio Toribio & 11 Companions
18 November 2023 Manuel González-Serna Rodríguez & 19 Companions

(*) means they are Canonized.


Date Martyrs
21 November 1999 Cirilo Bertrán Sanz Tejedor and 7 Companions
Innocencio of Mary Immaculate
Jaime Hilario Barbal Cosán
4 May 2003 Pedro Poveda Castroverde

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Butler, Alban and Peter Doyle Butler's Lives of the Saints p. 169 Liturgical Press (February 2000)
  2. ^ Yeowell, J. (22 October 1853). "Butler's "lives of the Saints."". Notes and Queries. s1-VIII (208): 387. doi:10.1093/nq/s1-viii.208.387c. ISSN 1471-6941.
  3. ^ Stanley G. Payne, A History of Spain and Portugal Vol. 2 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973), 649.
  4. ^ Julio de la Cueva, "Religious Persecution, Anticlerical Tradition and Revolution: On Atrocities against the Clergy during the Spanish Civil War" Journal of Contemporary History 33.3 (July 1998): 355.
  5. ^ New Evangelization with the Saints, L'Osservatore Romano 28 November 2001, page 3 (Weekly English Edition)
  6. ^ "NEW EVANGELIZATION WITH THE SAINTS". www.ewtn.com. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Tucson priests one step away from sainthood". Arizona Star. 12 June 2007. Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c 500 Spanish martyrs to be beatified Independent Catholic News 10 October 2007 Archived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Familiares de los curas vascos fusilados por Franco claman contra el olvido"[1] On-line edition of El País 27 October 2007(in Spanish)
  10. ^ "Vatican's Plan to Beatify Spanish Clergy Divisive" by Jerome Socolovsky. Morning Edition, National Public Radio, 13 July 2007.
  11. ^ "Spain civil war 'martyrs' beatified". BBC News. 13 October 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  12. ^ Mártires.- Unas 400 personas celebran la beatificación en la Embajada de España ante la Santa Sede, Europa Press, 28 October 2007.
  13. ^ a b WINFIELD, NICOLE Vatican Beatifies 498 Spanish Martyrs Los Angeles Times (AP) 28 October 2007
  14. ^ "Archbishop will inaugurate the Year of Mercy with the opening of the Holy Door of the Cathedral". Archdiocese of Burgos. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  15. ^ "Mártires MSC". Facebook. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  16. ^ "MÁRTIRES DE ALMERÍA". Diocese of Almería. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  17. ^ Pardo Lancina, Víctor. El obispo combatiente El País, 29 October 2007
  18. ^ Dimas, Floren. Letter from the President of the Association for Historical Memory to the Editor of LA VERDAD DE MURCIA Archived 20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Casanova, Julián. "Guerra Civil y Religión" El País, 14 June 2006
  20. ^ Uno de los mártires de la Guerra Civil que el Papa beatificará fue un torturador 20minutos 17 October 2007
  21. ^ Manuel Montero. "Otros 'mártires' de la Guerra Civil" El País, 6/5/2007
  22. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain; The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. pp.82-83
  23. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. p.677
  24. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2001. London. pp.251-252
  25. ^ Father Pablo García, C.P., Blessed Niceforo and Companions, Martyrs Archived 15 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]