Friday 18 April 2014
Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.


A writer, blogger, and historian, born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, now based in London. read more
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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 | 7 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 »

Letter to the Editor

I only write letters to the editors of publications very rarely, but the Catholic Herald was decent enough to publish a missive I sent defending Franco as the lead Letter to the Editor in this week’s edition. Readers of the Times Literary Supplement will recall seeing a brief note from me on the subject of Wodehouse & banking published in that weekly’s letters page a few months ago.


February 1, 2009 11:08 am | Link | 8 Comments »

Franco at Mass

“El Jefe de Estado que más ha hecho en el mundo moderno por la salvación de la catolicidad, pide a Dios, antes de entregarse al trabajo diario, que ilumine su inteligencia.”
The Chief of State that has done more in the modern world for the salvation of Catholicism, prays to God, before giving himself to daily work, that illuminates his intelligence.

Found in an old Spanish magazine printed towards the end of the Civil War.

Category: Franco

September 2, 2008 8:34 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 »

Martyrs of Spain, Pray for Us!

POOR, PITIABLE SPAIN. So rich in saints in Heaven, but, to the outside observer, so poor in saints on Earth. There were days, of course, when Spain was governed by saints and holy men and women, but today Spain is ruled by the wayward, the foolish, and perhaps even the downright evil. Error is proclaimed truth, wrong is called right, and evil hailed as good.

Of course, these things that happen today have happened in the past as well, and even within living memory — less than a eighty years ago. It is announced from Rome that, with the approval of the Holy Father, two more groups of Spanish martyrs for the Christian faith are to beatified, and that, owing to the number of souls, the beatification will be held in the Eternal City itself. The mass beatification will be held this October on the Feast of Christ the Universal King. The feast is significant for these martyrs on a number of levels, namely that it was proclaimed by Pope Pius XI, during whose pontificate these martyrs sacrified their earthly lives, and that “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” or “Long Live/Hail Christ the King!” was their motto. One group is composed of those martyred during the leftist Asturias rebellion of 1934, and the second group is composed of martyrs killed in 1936 and 1937 during the Civil War. Each case has been the subject of deliberative study first in Spain and then in Rome for decades before beatification is approved.

In total, 498 names will be added in October to the list of those already beatified or canonized. Among those 498 names are a number from the many killed in the massacres of Paracuellos de Jarama. Coincidentally, Gerald Warner recently touched upon this place of death in a Scotland on Sunday column on the occasion of Edinburgh University revoking the honorary degree bestowed upon Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. In the column, Gerald discussed various honorary degrees which had been bestowed upon monsters, tyrants, and evil men, and finished his column with a case from Spain.

The most morally grotesque academic elevation was perpetrated in Spain, in 2005, when the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid conferred a doctorate honoris causa on Santiago Carrillo, former leader of the Spanish Communist Party. As chief of police in Madrid in 1936, he had presided over Cheka death squads that murdered huge numbers of people (2,800 in one weekend) for the crime of being ‘bourgeois’. Throughout the squalid degree ceremony, people concerned with the honour of Spanish academe punctuated the proceedings with shouts of “Murderer!”

The most effective denunciation of this naked emperor, however, had been made during his journey back from exile. As the aircraft approached Madrid, with the arrogance of a reinstated member of the nomenklatura, he told the stewardess to ask the captain if he could enter the cockpit to get a better view of the capital. Moments later the public address system came to life: “This is your captain speaking. In 15 minutes we shall be landing at Madrid Barajas airport. Before that, I would like you to see the historic site of Paracuellos de Jarama to the right of us. That was where thousands of innocent people were executed during our civil war. The man responsible for those executions is one of your fellow passengers, Don Santiago Carrillo Solares. He is sitting in seat 27-B.”

“That pilot,” Gerald concluded his column, “deserved an honorary degree”.

There is a good website which lists many of the Catholic martyrs of the Spanish Civil War; it starts here and carries on for sixty pages. The list also contains photographs or images of the individual martyrs when it has been possible to obtain them. Look at these photographs, see the faces of these holy men and women who now intercede for us in Heaven. They are priests and bishops, nuns and brothers, penniless Franciscans and wealthy aristocrats. They are fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, workers, craftsmen, students, nurses, teachers, young and old. In many cases, entire monasteries and convents were killed en masse, their cloisters flowing with blood, and the bodies of the martyrs dumped by the sides of highways, their killers vainly hoping their names would be forgotten and struck from history. But, as has oft been said before, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. We are human, and can only see with our eyes. Who knows what untold and unseen burdens have been lifted from Spain’s shoulders by the intercession of their prayers?

Martyrs of Spain, pray for us!

June 13, 2007 10:00 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

‘Franco’s British Friends’

IN CASE YOU were in need of someone to raise a glass to, why not the 14th Duke of Hamilton and his friends? A reader and friend of ours from the fair Dominion of Virginia sent us a link to this program, which is available for listening to until next Monday, about “a famous flying ace, a top racing driver and an aristocrat” who together lent a helping hand to Christian Spain in her hour of need.

Famously, the four Douglas-Hamilton brothers (below) all simultaneously held the rank of Squadron Leader in the RAF. In the BBC program linked to above, one of the living Douglas-Hamiltons relates the tale of when all four brothers individually flew to a certain aerodrome and when the tower radio operator heard “Squadron Leader Douglas-Hamilton requesting permission to land” one time after another, he thought someone was pulling his leg.

Air Commodore Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton and 11th Duke of Brandon, KT, GCVO, AFC, PC, DL, FRCSE, FRGS, also served as Chancellor of the University of St Andrews.

Previously: The Tomb of Francisco Franco | The Caudillo in Action! | Fun With Franco

January 30, 2007 7:04 pm | Link | 11 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 »

Man of the Month: Professor Giertych

AS THE MONTH of July draws to a close, we’d like to announce the Polish scientist and politician Prof. Maciej Giertych has been anointed our ‘Man of the Month’. Professor Giertych, who holds two degrees from Oxford and his PhD in tree physiology from the University of Toronto, is a Member of the European Parliament and recently took part in that inauspicious body’s debate commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the commencement of the Spanish Civil War, a debate which even the BBC’s Europe editor slated as “one of those debates that seem rather pious and pointless”. While the usual gang of characters spouted their unthinking praise for the tyrannical and genocidal Communist and Anarchist forces, Prof. Giertych had the decency to stand up and set the record straight.

“Thanks to the Spanish Army and Franco the Communist attack on Catholic Spain was thwarted,” Prof. Giertych told the European Parliament. “The presence of such people in European politics as Franco guaranteed the maintenance of traditional values in Europe and we lack such statesmen today. Christian Europe is losing against atheistic socialists today and this has to change.”

“I thought it was necessary to remind listeners in the EU Parliament,” the Professor said later, “that this was not an anti-democratic movement, but a movement that was in defense of certain values that are inherent in the Catholic way of seeing things pertinent to government to run civil society. The uprising was a defense of Catholic Spain, so the civil war in Spain was a conflict between Catholic Spain and communist Spain.” The Professor also used his speech to praise António de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal’s Catholic dictator who, like Franco, managed to keep his country free from the devastation of the Second World War. (Salazar was also a very close friend of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, who claimed in his memoirs that if Salazar had lasted a few more years, Rhodesia would still exist today).

Prof. Giertych is a Member of the European Parliament for the League of Polish Families, one of the political parties in Poland’s tripartite coalition government. His son, Roman Giertych, is both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education of Poland.

General Eisenhower and General Franco

July 31, 2006 8:24 am | Link | 8 Comments »

The Tomb of Francisco Franco

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

Requiescat in Pace

Generalissimo FRANCISCO PAULINO HERMENEGILDO TEÓDULO FRANCO y BAHAMONDE SALGADO PARDO DE ANDRADE, Caudillo de España por la gracia de Dios, Jefe del Estado, requiescat in pace.

4 December 1892 — 20 November 1975

I searched through the Franco section of the Cusack archives and found this photograph of the Caudillo with His Imperial Highness the Archduke Otto, the son and heir of Blessed Charles of Austria, as well as being a sometime Member of the European Parliament for Bavaria (until recently). We’ve already seen a photo of Franco with the artist Salvador Dalí who described him as nothing short of a saint.

I apologise for not spacing out more widely our appreciation of the Generalissimo, but I felt obliged to observe the day of his death.

November 20, 2005 10:58 am | Link | 3 Comments »

The Caudillo in Action!

Franco fishes!

Franco golfs!

Franco hunts!

Franco takes the helm! But of course our readers already know what a sporting yachtsman the Caudillo was.

And of course Franco knows how to be reverent in church. Who’s that in the back? Late arrivals, there’s always one!

Previously: Fun with Franco! | The Reconquest of Madrid

November 17, 2005 6:40 am | Link | No 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 Francophilia to brighten your day.

• “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)

And finally, since if I were to build a yacht I would have it christened the Matamoros, I bring you the following, which ought to be filed under “Magazines We’d Like to See”:

Happy Saint James Day everyone! ¡Viva España!

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

The Reconquest of Madrid

On this day in 1939, Madrid was reconquered by the Christians, the final victory in the Spanish Civil War. The price of victory, however, was high:

• 12% of all Spanish priests were martyred. (In one diocese, Barbastro, this was as high as 85%).
• 72,344 officially executed by the Socialist/Communist/Anarchist government, with many more informally killed or massacres.
• Around 20,000 churches and chapels damaged or destroyed

As Warren Carroll points out in his history of the war, after giving thanks at a Te Deum service at the Church of Saint Barbara in Madrid, Franco prayed:

Lord, benevolently accept the effort of this people, which was always Thine, which, with me and in Thy name, has vanquished with heroism the enemy of truth in this century.

And then Franco laid his sword upon the high altar, vowing to God never to take it up again unless Spain itself was faced with invasion. (A vow he kept).

March 28, 2005 5:07 pm | Link | 3 Comments »
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