Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.


A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

First Gypsy Woman Martyr is Beatified

Emilia Fernández Rodríguez was killed during Spanish Civil War

The Catholic Church has beatified its first gypsy martyr in a ceremony in the Spanish city of Almería on the southern Mediterranean coast. Emilia Fernández Rodríguez, also known as “La canastera” (the basket-weaver), was one of 115 martyrs murdered in odium fidei by anti-Catholic militants during the Spanish Civil War.

The beatification ceremony took place in the city’s conference centre attended by over 5,000 people, including twenty-one bishops and four cardinals.

In 1938, Blessed Emilia Fernández was a poor gypsy woman living with her husband in Tíjola and surviving by basket weaving when the Republican forces occupied the town, shutting its church, and conscripting its menfolk. Emilia’s husband Juan with her help feigned blindness to escape conscription but was discovered and the couple were imprisoned separately.

Arriving at the women’s prison in Gachas-Colorás, Blessed Emilia was already pregnant and was jailed alongside many other practicing Catholic women who had refused to abjure their faith. Illiterate and never having been catechised despite being baptised, Blessed Emilia was taught how to pray the Rosary by another inmate. Her devotion to this Marian prayer and meditation attracted the ire of the prison authorities who threw her into solitary confinement for refusing to reveal which of her fellow inmates had catechised her.

After the birth of her baby girl, Ángeles, Blessed Emilia died as a result of her weakened condition from malnutrition and the appalling conditions of her isolation. Just twenty-three years old, her body was dumped into a common grave in Almería.

The painting of Blessed Emilia is by Raúl Berzosa
April 5, 2017 5:20 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

The Other Modern in Madrid

Miguel Fisac’s Church of Espíritu Santo, Madrid

It might be difficult for some to imagine that the architect of the pagoda-like Laboratorios Jorba outside Madrid was an accomplished classicist, but, like many modern architects, Miguel Fisac began his career with more traditional works. His very first commission as an individual was to design a church for Spain’s Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Higher Council of Scientific Research). The CISC had only been founded in 1939 and was originally housed in existing structures around Madrid. The Church of the Holy Spirit (constructed 1942–1947) was the first newly built structure for the research council, and the fact that it was an ecclesiastic building “eloquently expresses the spirit of commitment between religion and science that animated the new project” (according to the Fundacion Fisac). Around the corner from the Church of the Holy Spirit, the main headquarters of the CISC was designed by Fisac. (more…)

January 22, 2013 10:19 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Portales of Madrid

Dino takes a look at the entrance halls to apartment buildings in Madrid:

The calles and avenidas of Madrid are decorated with some of the most elegant apartment house entry halls in the world. What a delight to take a stroll just after sunrise when doors are flung open, floors are swept, brass is polished—the city’s portales are made ready to welcome and to bid goodbye in style.

It’s the perfect place to compose oneself, button up a coat, search pockets or purse for a note, or deal with an umbrella (rarely a requirement in Madrid), before facing the porter or the street. …

Click here for more.

January 6, 2012 4:19 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

The House of Moctezuma

Noble Descendants of the Aztec Emperor

The last Emperor of the Aztecs, Moctezuma II (usually anglicised as ‘Montezuma’) suffered an ignominious end: defeated by the Spanish, some accounts have him being stoned by his former subjects, while others claim he died of starvation, refusing to eat food not worthy of an emperor, still more claim Cortés had him killed. Many of his descendants embraced Christianity and found favour from Mexico’s new overlord, the King of Spain. (more…)

October 24, 2010 10:00 pm | Link | 16 Comments »

Relic of Blessed Charles in Catalonia

In October of last year, a relic ex ossibus of Blessed Charles I was formally received at the Basilica Church of Our Lady of Mercy & St. Michael Archangel in Barcelona, the capital city of the Spanish principality of Catalonia. The bone fragment is the first relic of the last Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia to be publicly venerated in the Kingdom of Spain. It was requested by His Grace the Bishop of Solsona, Don Jaume Traserra y Cunillera, at the request of the Catalonian Delegation of the Constantinian Order. The relic has been enshrined in the chapel of St. Michael the Archangel, alongside a portrait of the Emperor.

A grandson of Blessed Charles, HIRH the Archduke Simeon of Austria, attended (with his wife) as the representative of HRH the Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria, the Grand Master of the Constantinian Order and head of the Royal House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Also in attendance were Lt. Gen. Don Fernando Torres Gonzalez (Army Inspector General), General Mainar Don Gustavo Gutierrez (Chief of the 3rd Sub-inspection Pyrenees and Military Commander General of Barcelona and Tarragona), as well as representatives of the Order of Malta, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, various guilds and corps of Spanish nobility, and lay fraternities.

January 20, 2010 8:06 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Castro on Franco

Castro also admits to some unexpected sympathies with a few enemies of the left: He wistfully recalls Francisco Franco, whom he describes as “honourable” for not bending to Washington’s will and breaking relations with Cuba. Just as Castro reaches back past his own birth to claim spiritual kinship with Marti and other independence leaders, he weaves the Spanish general into a broader tapestry of Cuban history. Franco was born in a town that sent troops to a Spanish battalion defeated by US troops in 1898. Castro speculates that perhaps Franco as a boy welcomed the beaten soldiers home and thus might have seen the Cuban Revolution as “Spain’s revenge.” In any case, Franco, a Galician like Castro’s father, was shrewd and stayed out of WWII, unlike the “stupid” war that Bush and Aznar got themselves into.

— Greg Grandin, The Nation, 8 July 2008
July 17, 2008 6:32 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey”

New Spain never looked so good as in the 2004 film of Thornton Wilder’s novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. This is no doubt partly because it wasn’t filmed in New Spain but in Old Spain (specifically in Toledo and Málaga).


June 18, 2008 7:46 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

The Other Modern

An Architecture of Continuity:
Luis Moya Blanco’s Universidad Laboral de Gijón

In 1944, an undersecretary of Francoist Spain’s Ministry of Labour visited the city of Gijón to attend the funerals of a group of miners killed in a mine collapse. After the solemn rites took place, Turiño Carlos Pinilla met with a group of locals filled with concern for the offspring of the dead workers. All they asked of the bureaucrat was an orphanage; what they ended up with ten years later was a magnificent palace of charity, almost a city unto itself and the largest building in Spain: the Universidad Laboral de Gijón.

An example of Catholic social teaching (which upholds the essential dignity of work and the working man), the “labor university” was founded as a secondary-level institution to teach vocational and technical skills to the children of Spain’s working class. At over 2,900,000 sq. ft. of space, it is more than double the size of the great Royal Monastery and Palace of El Escorial built by Phillip II in the sixteenth century, and was accompanied by over 380 acres of farmland.

The goal was to accommodate 1,000 students (eventually doubling) from the age of 12 to 16, with residences, school facilities, industrial workshops, working farmland, athletic facilities, and sporting fields. The educational aspect and leadership of the Laboral was entrusted to the Jesuits, while the Poor Clares also had a convent on the premises, performing various household tasks and caring for the girls as their particular charism. (more…)

May 12, 2008 1:47 pm | Link | No Comments »

The Edificio Metrópolis, Madrid

WHERE THE GRAN VÍA meets up with the Calle Alcalá in Madrid, there is a wonderful building which these days is known as the edificio Metrópolis. Designed by Jules and Raymond Février of France, it was built in 1911 for the Union and Fénix insurance company. The architects took advantage of the awkward but prominent site to create a landmark building for the company, one of the largest insurance firms in Spain. At the apex of its triangular site is a splendidly decorated round tower, originally topped by the Union and Fénix symbol of a phoenix with Ganymede. (more…)

August 14, 2007 7:14 pm | Link | 13 Comments »

New Year’s Resolution for Journal is to Lose Weight, Dignity

NO SOONER HAD the Wall Street Journal earned the highest regards from these quarters for their splendid ‘hedcut‘ portrait of the Generalissimo (on the front page, and above the fold, no less!) than their stock immediately plummeted in normal daytime trading on the Cusack Exchange. The best and most admirable feature of the financial-and-more paper is its splendidly broad size, in complete repudiation of the tabloid mentality. It has dignity, refinement, and gravitas. And so it must go. Newsdesigner reports that the Journal will be trimming its broadness to a much narrower, uglier size. The idea is to save newsprint, and thus cut costs, but the result is a disgrace. A sense of proper proportion is sacrificed to the gods of the balance sheet. Hmmm… where have we heard this before? The New York Observer trimmed its size, again without any regard for proportion, and the result was most poor. I bought it once after the changeover and never since.

Narrow broadsheets are not only a contradiction in terms, they are exceptionally irritating to read. The Berliner size of the Guardian, Le Figaro, and other papers is a handy, convenient size, and of a very comely proportion. The normal broadsheet of the Daily Telegraph, the current Wall Street Journal, and the Scotsman in its pre-tabloid days exudes soundness, reliance, and dignity. But ungainly tabloids and these new narrow broadsheets ought to be relegated to the dustbin of dodgy newspaper ideas.

December 9, 2006 10:12 am | Link | 20 Comments »

Valle de los Caídos

Photo Credit: AP (I think)
January 18, 2006 6:07 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Fun with Franco!

In honor of Spain’s patronal feast, that of St. James the Greater, and because I’ve been reading Stanley Payne’s The Franco Regime 1936-1975 I’ve decided to bring you, our dear readers, a bit of modern Spanish history:

• “In an interview with an American history professor,” writes Payne, “[Franco] declared that his role had been analogous to that of the sheriff in the typical American western, a cinematic genre that he enjoyed. Franco went on to observe with considerable mirth that the Spanish, rather than being rebellious and difficult as they were often portrayed, were generally patient and long-suffering. ‘The proof of that,’ he said breaking into a sudden loud cackel, ‘is that they have put up with [soportado] my regime for so long!'” (p.398, S. Payne, The Franco Regime 1936-1975).

• Remarkably, General Franco persisted in surviving much longer than even his supporters anticipated. On his deathbed at last, Franco was told that General Garcia wished to say goodbye. “Why?” Franco replied. “Is Garcia going on a trip?” (

Hey look! Franco has a friend over to play! The Generalissimo is seen here with artist Salvador Dali, who was later ennobled as the Marquis de Pubol.

• A foreign journalist went to Spain to find out the truth about the Franco regime. One fellow agreed to tell him, but insisted they meet secretly. The journalist then asked him “What do you think about Franco?” Looking cautiously around, the fellow replied “To tell the truth… I like him!”

• Much was made last year about the statue of Saint James portrayed as the Slayer of the Moors (‘Matamoros’) at his cathedral in Compostela:

On Sunday, in a ceremony that will resound with ancient symbolism, King Juan Carlos will pay homage to the Moor Slayer on his saint day by making the annual National Offering at Santiago. The dictator Gen Francisco Franco once sent his only Moroccan general, Mohamed ben Miziam del Qasim, to make the offering. Sensitive officials covered the base of the statue with cloth to hide the decapitated heads of his compatriots.
(The Daily Telegraph, 22 July 2004)

Happy Saint James Day everyone! ¡Viva España!

July 25, 2005 6:35 pm | Link | 12 Comments »
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