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Archdiocese of Granada

Founded in Spain by St. Cecilius about the year 64

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Granada, Archdiocese of (Granatensis), in Spain, founded by St. Cecilius about the year 64, was made an archiepiscopal see by Alexander VI, January 23, 1493. The history of this city, the long line of its prelates (uninterrupted until the twelfth century and restored in 1437), its illustrious men, and its famous monuments can hardly be summarized within the limits of this brief article. In the Roman period the city appears as Municipium Florentinum Eliberritanum. On its Iberian coins, minted in the Roman republican period, the city is called Ilurir; on Latin coins, Iliber and Florentia; on Visigothic coins, Iliberri, Eliberri, and Liberri. Pliny calls it Eliberri; Ptolemy, Illiberis; Herodian, Illiber. Oleron and Elna, on the other side of the Pyrenees, were similarly called; the name seems derived from the Basque language, in which iri-berri, or iii-berri, signifies “new town”. In the eighth century, under Arab domination, this name was changed to Granada, originally the name of that particular quarter of the city inhabited since the third century by the Jews, to whom the Mussulman conquerors entrusted the custody of the city; it is worthy of note that several Palestinian peoples in the Old Testament are called Rimmon,” pomegranate” (in Spanish, granada).

The famous codex of San Millan (St. Emilian), written in the tenth century, and now preserved in the Escorial Library, supplies us with a catalogue of the bishops of Elliberis, sixty-two in number, from St. Cecilius to Agapius (64 to 957). The names of many of these and the periods of their reigns are also established by the Acts of councils, by their own writings, and by other authors, native and foreign. St. Cecilius, whose feast was kept by the Visigothic and Mozarabic Church on May 1, and was one of seven; Apostolic me sent from Rome by St. Peter and St. Paul to preach the Gospel in Hispania Baetica, where they suffered martyrdom. On May 15, 301, the famous synod known as the Council of Eliberis assembled at Granada (see Council of Elvira), forty-three bishops being present, among them, besides Flavian of Granada, the great Hosius of Cordova, Liberius of Merida, Melantius of Toledo, Decentius of Leon, and Valerius of Saragossa. The eighty-one canons of this council reflect the state of dogma and church discipline in a time when persecution and antagonism were aroused by Roman imperial authority, the Jews, heretics, and schismatics. St. Gregory, Bishop of Elliberis, who assisted at the Councils of Sirmium and Rimini, and was the constant antagonist of the Arian heresy, bears witness to the purity of Catholic faith which this see always maintained. Bishop Stephanus (Esteban) assisted at the Third Council of Toledo (589), which extinguished the Arian heresy in Spain; Bishop Bisinus at the Second of Seville (619); Bishop Felix at the Fourth of Toledo (633); the signatures of successive bishops of Elliberis in later councils attest the accuracy of the aforesaid San Milian catalogue. In 777 Bishop Egila was honored by letters of praise from Adrian I. St. Leovigild, who, in the year 852, suffered martyrdom at Cordova, was a native of Granada; and, not long after (858), the See of Granada was occupied by the wise Recesmund, memorable for his astronomical and literary achievements, as well as his embassies on behalf of Abd-er-Rahman III, Caliph of Cordova, to the Emperors of Germany and of Constantinople. It was to him that Liutprand dedicated his history of the kings and emperors of Europe.

The See of Granada remained inviolate until the middle of the twelfth century. The Christian (Mozarabic) population having called to their aid Alfonso the Fighter (el Batallador), King of Aragon and Navarre, and conqueror of Saragossa, he led his hosts within sight of Granada; but the expedition being defeated, some of the Christians departed with the king, and the Almohades carried off the remainder by force to Marrucos. Thenceforward the Christian population consisted of captives and foreigners, and no bishop held the title of Granada. Gams, in his “Series Episcoporum”, makes St. Pedro Pascual (d. December 6, 1300) a Bishop of Granada in the second half of the fourteenth century, an error which has been corrected since the publication of the “Regesta” of Boniface VIII (Paris, 1884). The new list of Bishops of Granada begins September 13, 1437, and continues until 1492, according to the researches of Eubel in the Vatican registers.

With the surrender of the city to the Catholic sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella (January 2, 1492), began a period of splendor for the See of Granada. A few days after that event, the Catholic sovereigns there ratified with Christopher Columbus the compact which was to result, before the end of that year, in the discovery of the New World. On January 30 they issued the decree of expulsion against all Jews inhabiting their dominions in Spain and Italy.

It is to be noted that the first Archbishop of Granada, the queen’s confessor, transferred from the See of Avila, was not hostile to Columbus, but his constant friend, as Don Antonio Sanchez Moguel, Member of the (Spanish) Royal Academy of History, has promised to demonstrate. In this modern period of more than four centuries’ duration, Granada has been ruled by many archbishops eminent for learning and virtue, e.g. Cardinal Gaspar de Avalos, who founded the university (1531), Pedro Guerrero, a distinguished member of the Council of Trent, and Manuel Bonel y Orbe, Patriarch of the Indies; it has given birth to innumerable writers, among whom the Dominican Luis de Granada and the Jesuit Francisco Suarez are conspicuous; it was the cradle of The Order of St. John of God. Indeed, its long been a center of vigours spiritual life, proof of which is abundantly furnished by its churches, its conventual buildings, and the vast material resources there devoted to works of charity. Its cathedral contains the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, and of the Empress Isabella, wife of Charles V. Early in the present century, that famous monument of Spanish art, the Cartuja (Chartreuse) of Granada, from which its austere anchorites had been driven by the barbarous decree of exclaustration (1835), was acquired and restored by the Jesuits, who have established in it their novitiate for New Castile, Estremadura, and Andalusia, also a school of the sacred sciences, and a seismological and astronomical observatory which publishes a periodical bulletin highly valued in scientific circles both in the Old and the New World.


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