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Archdiocese of Tarragona

Diocese in Spain

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Tarragona Archdiocese of (TARRACONENSIS), bounded on the N. by Barcelona and Lerida, on the E. by Barcelona, on the S. by the Mediterranean Sea and Tortosa, and on the W. by Tortosa. It comprises the civil Provinces of Tarragona and Lerida, and its capital city has 24,335 inhabitants. Its suffragans are Barcelona, Lerida, Gerona, Urgel, Vich, Tortosa, and Solsona. Tarragona is one of the most ancient cities of Spain, probably of Iberian origin, as its coins and Cyclopean walls indicate. The Romans selected Tarragona as the center of their government in Spain. In the division it was the capital first of Hither Spain (Hispania Citerior) and then of the Province of Tarraconensis. In the fifth century it was overrun by the Vandals, Suevi, and Alani. The Visigothic king, Euric, took possession of it in 475 and totally demolished it. During the occupation of the Visigoths it flourished once more, but the Arabs again destroyed it in 719.

The Church of Tarragona is undoubtedly one of the most ancient in Spain, holding as it does the tradition of the coming of St. James and St. Paul. The visit of St. Paul to Tarragona is not altogether beyond the range of possibilities, supposing that he came from Rome to Spain, as he promised to do, in the Epistle to the Romans, and as St. Jerome affirms that he did. The first written testimony which we have concerning the bishops of Tarragona dates from the third century. This is in the Acts of the Martyrdom of the bishop St. Fructuosus and his deacons Augurius and Eulogius. The list of the bishops of Tarragona, therefore, begins with St. Fructuosus, but it is supposed that other bishops, whose names have been lost to us, preceded him. The see of Tarragona, which was vacant at that time, was represented at the Council of Arles (314) by two procurators, the priest Probatius and the deacon Castorius. Himerius, who sent the priest Basianus to Pope St. Damasus, and who obtained a letter from Pope St. Siricius, was Archbishop of Tarragona in 384. It is also conjectured that the Hilarius who was the subject of the Decretal issued by Innocent I was also a Bishop of Tarragona. Ascanio was bishop in 465, and previous to 516 we find the name of Archbishop John, who, on November 6, 516, assembled all the bishops of his province and held the first provincial council of Tarragona, at which ten bishops were present. In 517 he assembled another provincial council in Gerona.

Sergius, who was bishop from 535 to 546, held councils in Barcelona and Lerida. St. Justus, Bishop of Urgel, dedicated to him his commentary on the Song of Solomon. Tranquillinus was bishop for many years previous to 560. He had been a monk in the Monastery of Asana under the direction of St. Victornus. Artemius, bishop prior to 589, was not able to attend the Third Council of Toledo, but sent a substitute, Stephen. He called provincial councils at Saragossa (599) and Barcelona. Eusebius (610-32) held the council of Egara (Tarrasa) to enforce the canons of the Council of Huesca. Audax (633-38) was present at the Fourth Council of Toledo, and Protasius (637-46) at the Sixth and Seventh. Cyprianus (680-88) sent representatives to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Councils of Toledo, and Vera assisted personally at the Sixteenth and Seventeenth. In his time or in that of his successor, George, the Mohammedan invasion took place. Ludovico Pio appears to have temporarily taken possession of the city. A portion of its territory was bestowed on the Bishop of Barcelona, and the metropolitan rank was given to the Bishop of Narbonne, but was recovered in 759.

Caesarius endeavored to obtain recognition as titular Archbishop of Tarragona, but was not successful, although he was consecrated by the bishops of Leon and Galicia, and obtained from the pope the abbey of Santa Cecilia, which belonged to the Archbishop of Tarragona. Borrell, Count of Barcelona, induced Pope John XIII to confer the title of Archbishop of Tarragona on Bishop Atton of Vich, although he never was called Archbishop of Tarragona but of Ausona.

The Bishop of Vich, Berengarius of Rosanes, petitioned Pope Urban II for permission to promote a crusade for the reconquest of Tarragona. Count Berenguer Ramon II (the Fratricide) succeeded in taking the city and made it a fief of the Holy See. The pope, in recognition of the efforts of the Bishop of Vich, conferred on him the pallium as Archbishop of Tarragona, transferring to him all rights to the city and its churches which had previously belonged to the Holy See. The new bishop, however, was to remain in possession of the Church of Vich. A similar concession was granted to St. Olegarius, Bishop of Barcelona, who was permitted to retain possession of his former Church until he had obtained complete and peaceful possession of that of Tarragona, of which he had been named Archbishop. It was not until 1116 that Tarragona was definitively reconquered by Ramon Berenguer III (the Great). Bishop Berenguer had died in 1110, after having assisted, in 1096, at the Council of Nimes convoked by Urban II. His successor in the See of Tarragona, St. Olegarius, had been a canon regular at St. Rufus in Provence, later an abbot, and then Bishop of Barcelona. To him is due the restoration of the metropolitan authority of Tarragona. In 1117 Count Ramon Berenguer III conferred on him the government of the city that he might endeavor to recolonize it, which work he carried on with great zeal. He assisted at the councils of Toulouse and Reims (1109), of the Lateran (1123), and of Clermont (1130), and accompanied the Count of Barcelona as pontifical legate in the war which terminated in the imposition of a tribute upon Tortosa and Lerida. The Norman Robert Burdet also joined the forces of the Count of Barcelona, established himself in Tarragona and obtained dominion over a great part of the city. The consequent dissensions among his sons led to the murder by them of Archbishop Hugo de Cervellon April 22, 1171. On the death of St. Olegarius (March 6, 1137), Gregory, Abbot of Cuxana, succeeded him in the vacant See of Tarragona, and was the first incumbent of that see to receive the title of archbishop.

The dissensions between the archbishops and the kings, on account of the jurisdiction over Tarragona granted to the bishops who had begun its resettlement, continued during the time of Alfonso II, who bestowed the city as a dowry on his wife, Dona Sancha, and of Pedro IV (the Ceremonious), who, after forcibly seizing the dominions of the archbishop, repented in his last illness and restored to St. Tecla, patroness of the city, all that he had unjustly acquired. By special privilege of the pope, all the kings of Aragon were crowned at Saragossa by the archbishop of Tarragona, until the metropolitan See of Sargossa was reestablished. When Jaime I, a child of six years, took the oath, the Archbishop of Tarragona, Don Aspargo Barca, carried him in his arms. Although he was far advanced in years, he wished to accompany the king in his expedition to conquer Majorca, and when Don Jaime refused his consent, he contributed a thousand marks in gold and twelve hundred armed men. In 1242 a provincial council was convoked at Tarragona to regulate the procedure of the Inquisition and canonical penances. In 1312 a provincial council was assembled in the Corpus Christi Chapel of the cathedral cloister, to pass sentence on the Templars, whom it declared innocent. Don Pedro Zagarriga, Archbishop of Tarragona, was one of the arbitrators at Caspe. One of the most celebrated prelates of Tarragona, Don Antonio Agustin (d. 1586), a native of Saragossa, was an eminent jurisconsult and numismatist. He put an end to the struggles referred to in “Don Quixote”, between the Narros and Cadells factions, which had disturbed the peace of Catalonia.

The cathedral, it is believed, was begun by St. Olegarius. The edifice is solid and elegant, combining the Romanesque, Arabic, and Gothic styles of architecture, producing a very original and unique effect. Its facade is composed of three sections, and the ground plan, in the form of a Latin cross, has three naves and a wide transept. In the right nave is the chapel of St. Tecla, patroness of the city, begun in 1760 under the direction of Don Jose Prats and finished in 1776. The baptismal font is a magnificent marble basin found in the ruins of the palace of Augustus. The chapter house, celebrated for the councils held there, has a Byzantine door and a notable dome. As late as the fifteenth century the cathedral had not yet been completed, as the sculptor, Pedro Juan, did not begin work on the main altar until 1426. The choir was not finished until 1493. The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, the organ, built by the cura of Tivisa, Don Jaime Amigo, the stained glass, etc. date from the sixteenth century.

Among the buildings worthy of mention are the Churches of San Pablo and Santa Tecla, the convent of the Poor Clares, near the walls, that of Santa Teresa, and the church of the Capuchins, the parish church of the port. The former Convent of San Francisco has been converted into government offices and a secondary school, the Jesuit college turned into barracks, their church, however, having been restored to them. The convent of the Dominicans is now the town hall, and the convents of the Mercedarians and Carmelites turned over to military uses. The archiepiscopal palace is situated on the site of the ancient capitol, one tower of which still remains. The palace was rebuilt by Don Romualdo Mon y Valarde (1815-19). Near the sea, in the Roman amphitheatre, is the edifice called el Milagro (the Miracle), which belonged to the Knights Templar. It was afterwards used by the Trinitarian Fathers, and has since been converted into a penitentiary. The remains of many Roman buildings are to be found at Tarragona; the walls, the capitol, or citadel, the forum, the palace of Augustus, called the house of Pilate, the circus or amphitheatre, the aqueduct, known as the Puente del Diablo, the so-called tower, or sepulchre, of the Scipios, the arch of Sura, or of Bara, and the Aurelian Way. There is also a good archaeological museum. The conciliar seminary of San Pablo and Santa Tecla was founded in 1570 by the cardinal archbishop, Gaspar de Cervantes, and was the first to comply with the decrees of the Council of Trent. In 1858 Archbishop Costa y Borras built a fourth wing. Benito Villamitjana built a new seminary behind the cathedral in 1886, in the courtyard of which stands the old chapel of San Pablo. Leo XIII raised this to the rank of a pontifical university. In the district of Montblanc, in this archdiocese, is the ancient monastery of Poblet, founded in 1151 by Rambn Berenguer IV, which was the pantheon of the kings of Aragon.


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