More iconoclasm in the Catalan pre-Pyrenees

Re yesterday’s post on the Santa Majestat in Caldes de Montbui, here’s some anti-Catholic propaganda from the time of George Borrow, taken from the The life of Ramon Monsalvatge:

On the 8th of December, 1832, I was sent from the convent of Sabadell to that of my native town, Olot, to study philosophy. I continued there three years.

The last twelvemonth, 1835, which I spent in the convent of Olot, was one of continual anxiety and alarm. News was often received of the exasperation excited among the republicans in Spain against the monks, especially in Madrid, Barcelona, Reus, and other parts of my country, as well as in our more immediate vicinity. The people grew more and more loud in their complaints of the idleness, wealth, imposture, and immorality which prevailed among the monks.

It was during this last year of my residence in the convent, that the people arose against their spiritual masters. In the course of that time, they broke out in many places into open violence, destroyed several convents, and killed many of their inmates. Tidings of scenes of bloodshed and devastation were constantly arriving; and we were kept in a state of continual alarm. We took measures, also, for our own defence, expecting an attack from the people of Olot, who were in great majority against us. At the command of our Superior, we collected great heaps of stones in different parts of the convent, to be used as missiles in case of necessity, and it was understood that, upon any alarm, the bell would be rung to summon all good Catholics to our aid. We had, indeed, several opportunities of defending ourselves against our enemies.

In 1835, the Liberal Government of Spain, at the head of which was queen Christina, since the death of Ferdinand VII. in 1833, was unable any longer to withstand the insurgents, and ordered that all the monastic communities should be dispersed, and their convents destroyed, which was done in many places. The 6th of July was the day appointed for the formal suppression of our convent. The Justicia, or civil officers, presented themselves, and, in the name of the queen, declared the community to be dissolved, and delivered to each monk a passport to return to his native place. But before we had time to leave the convent, the leaders of the insurgents of Olot rushed in, and began their work of destruction. The crowd soon hastened to the chapel, and tore down the pictures and the altars, which had so long been the objects of blind adoration.

There was there an image of the Virgin Mary, which had the miraculous property of weeping. Many a time have I seen it, with the big tears trickling down its cheeks, and I, as did all others, believed it to be unquestionably a miracle. When the insurgents penetrated into the chapel, as I have above stated, they tore the image down from its niche, and discovered behind its head small tubes conducting from a basin in which water was poured; and thus the image wept.

Another similar discovery was made in our vicinity. In the town of Baguet [Baget/Beget] there was a church which was celebrated far and wide for containing a figure of the Saviour, called the “Santa Majestad,” or Sacred Majesty. It had the appearance of being covered with a shining dress down to the knees, and was reported to have been miraculously saved from destruction, when in 1816 the French ineffectually attempted to burn it. This image had, it was said, the property of sweating. This was called a miracle; but the insurgents, who tore it down, with its fellow-idols, found that a vessel of boiling water was placed beneath the statue, and the steam was carried through tubes over the body, and issued through small holes or pores. As to its quality of not burning, this was not of much effect, as it by no means resisted the attempts of the insurgents.

These discoveries, and many other such, of the shameful impositions to which they had so long been subjected, so exasperated the people, that all religious feeling was lost in the detestation of those who had so lately been the objects of their respect. The churches were closed for some time; all images and pictures of the saints which, as customary, were hung up in the streets, were torn down and destroyed.

On the top of the steeple of the parish church at Olot there was a wooden statue, called the “Guardian Angel.” One day the insurgents succeeded in taking down this image from its lofty position, and dragged it along through the streets. They then cut it up in pieces, set it on fire, and placed a large kettle above it, in which they threw a crucifix, and pretended to be making a soup of it.

When I saw these horrible scenes, these acts in my eyes so sacrilegious, and the contempt and abuse with which my brethren were covered, I was filled with indignation and hatred against the insurgents. At this time, all those who had not taken holy orders, were liable to military service in the army of Queen Christina, to whose government, though they had exceeded her commands in their destruction of the convents, the insurgents were subject.

Since the death of Ferdinand VII. in 1833, his brother Don Carlos had laid claim to the throne of Spain, and his party had been constantly in rivalship with that of the Queen Christina. He was regarded as the protector of religion, and on his side were all those who were to be considered as true Catholics. I was then unable to discern which of these political parties was in the right, and I was eager only to avenge the massacre of my brethren. Incited by the exhortations of the priests, who promised indulgences to all who should enter the army of Don Carlos to uphold the rights of religion, and who, like the prophet Isaiah, exclaimed, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto us; put every man his sword on his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour;” it is not surprising that I felt it my duty to join the army. After staying three weeks with my parents at Olot, I therefore enlisted in the army of Don Carlos, and received the grade of a sergeant.

For a more comprehensive and entertaining account of Carlism and liberalism in the zone including Olot, Manlleu and Vic, check José Pla’s stupendous anecdotography of Rafael Puget, Un señor de Barcelona.

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