Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Moving Crucifixes in Modern Spain

Moving Crucifixes in Modern Spain

William A. Christian
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 232
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Moving Crucifixes in Modern Spain
    Book Description:

    Why are religious visions believed only in certain times and places? In this book William Christian investi gates the settings and responses to a series of group visions reported by Spaniards in rural Galicia, Valencia, Cantabria, and Navarre in the early part of this century the most notable one involving the crucifix at Limpias, where Jesus was first seen agonizing on the cross during a mission service in March of 1919. In light of the social strife and strong anticlerical movements of the period, the author examines how gender and religious politics influenced the experiences of seers and the interpretation of their visions by church officials, journalists, and the public. Christian approaches the story inductively, from the visionaries and the parish to the religious orders, diocesan officials, and Vatican envoys. He places the events in the context of mission dramaturgy and pilgrimages to Lourdes, and shows their ramifications in Italy, Mexico, the United States, France, and Central Europe. Using oral testimony, church archives, local newspaper accounts, and apologetic literature, Christian finds that some observers related the moving crucifixes to a logical, millenarian sequence that included earlier apparitions in France; for others they were divine reactions to national political events; while for many local people they were signs for the establishment of new shrines. His study reveals the preoccupations of ordinary people and how they found expression in religious images.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6262-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Appendix Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-1)
  6. Prologue
    (pp. 3-5)

    The first religious apparitions of consequence in twentieth-century Spain occurred in the town of Limpias (Cantabria), beginning on March 30,1919. There a life-size crucifix, known as El Cristo de la Agonía, was seen to roll its eyes, change its complexion, and sweat after a climactic session of a nine-day mission preached by two Capuchin friars. In the 1920s Ompias became a special testimonial for observant Catholicism not only from Spain but also for pilgrims from the Central European heartland of Christ-centered devotion, from whence occasional busloads still arrive seventy years later.

    In this period other crucifixes were seen to move...

  7. I Contexts of Belief and Disbelief and the Christ of Gandía
    (pp. 6-28)

    The idea that images might move, weep, or sweat—in some way temporarily become human—was not new in twentieth century Spain or anywhere else in the Catholic world. Indeed, even in the pre-Christian Mediterranean statues were seen to act and react as humans, and these activations were read as prodigious references to current or future events.¹ In Italy the heyday of such occurrences was the sixteenth century, and the statues most involved seem to have been those of the Virgin Mary. While there are documented cases in Spain of such happenings in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (an image...

  8. II The Christ of Limpias: The Rise and Decline of a New Shrine
    (pp. 29-81)

    It was during a mission given by two Capuchin fathers, Anselmo de Jalón and Agatángelo de San Miguel, that the visions at Limpias began. In the prevailing mood of social, economic, and ideological unrest, rural missions (and those of the Capuchins were no exception) sought to galvanize the faithful, whether in the more religious villages of the rear guard or on the front lines of socialist and anticlerical penetration in industrial and mining districts. By organizing the parish as a unit and the village or valley as a sacred territory, they undermined the efforts of the opposition to cultivate class...

  9. III The Christ of Limpias: The Organization of Meaning
    (pp. 82-119)

    In spite of the Church’s caution and ultimate neutrality, it cannot be denied that in the first years the diocese of Santander promoted the shrine.¹ The bishops nephew was, after all, the chief designer of the pilgrimage model and the motor of ecclesiastical enthusiasm. In a matter of weeks after March 30,1919, the Christ of Limpias had become a resource for the Catholics of northern Spain, and as time went on the zone drawing on the shrine expanded. The kinds of people and groups going to Limpias and their underlying agendas reveal who were the active Catholics around 1919–1920...

  10. IV The Christ of Piedramillera
    (pp. 120-140)

    It was in September 1919 that Agatángelo de San Miguel had predicted that additional images would begin to move.¹ About eight months later, on May 14, 1920, the parish priest of Piedramillera (Navarra) wrote his bishop, “as of the 11th of this month at 11:00 in the morning, our village has become a second Limpias.”²

    By then many people had gone from Navarra to Limpias, both on individual trips as well as on three group pilgrimages. A group of thirty went from Estella, twenty kilometers from Piedramillera, on August 23, 1919, and four of them saw the Christ move.³ Groups...

  11. Epilogue: The View from Eraul
    (pp. 141-146)

    Eraul is a grain-producing village near Abárzuza in the Sierra de Urbasa of Navarra. In 1920 it had about 270 inhabitants who, like those of Piedramillera and Mañeru, spoke Castillian.

    Curious about how a man from there, Raimundo Galdeano, came to sponsor missions by the Limpias Capuchins both in Lezaún and Piedramillera, and how another Galdeano, Juan, from the same village had visions in Piedramillera, I went to Eraul in July 1988. There I was directed to Cándido Galdeano Echevarría, a very hale eighty years old, who turned out to be the nephew of Raimundo Galdeano and the son-in-law of...

    (pp. 147-158)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 159-196)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-204)
  15. Index
    (pp. 205-220)