Cordova, Diocese of (CORDUBENSIS), in Spain, formerly suffragan of Toledo, since 1851 of Seville. It includes the province of the same name, with the exception of a few parishes that pertain to the Archdiocese of Seville, while in return Cordova takes in a portion of the civil province of Badajoz. The Gospel, it is believed, was preached there in the Apostolic period, it being very probable that the Apostles St. James the Greater and St. Paul, while preaching in various cities of Spain may have sent thither some of their disciples; Cordova (Colonia Patricia) was then the chief city of Baetica, and the center of Andalusian life. The name of the apostolic founder of the See of Cordova is unknown, as the oldest extant documents do not antedate the third century. The conditions of the Christian religion in this early period were quite similar to those which obtained elsewhere in the Roman Empire—persecution, suspicion, denunciation, enforced profession of idolatry, etc. Many illustrious martyrs, Faustus, Januarius, and others, suffered at Cordova; their relics were afterwards eagerly sought by the other churches of Spain, and even in Gaul and elsewhere. The earliest known bishop (though not the founder of the see) is Severus, about 279; he was followed by Gratus and Berosus. In 294 the famous Hosius became Bishop of Cordova and immortalized it by his resistance to Arianism. Fifteen bishops governed the see from the death of Hosius in 357 to 693, from which period to 839 no bishops are known. All ecclesiastical records, doubtless, perished in the course of the Arab domination that began in 711. During this time, the faithful could, it is true, worship freely, and retained their churches and property on condition of paying a tribute for every parish, cathedral, and monastery; frequently such tribute was increased at the will of the conqueror, and often the living had to pay for the dead. Many of the faithful then fled to Northern Spain; others took refuge in the monasteries of the Sierras, and thus the number of Christians shrank eventually to small proportions.
In 786 the Arab Caliph, Abd-er-Rahman I, began the construction of the great mosque of Cordova, now the cathedral, and compelled many Christians to take part in the preparation of the site and foundations. Though they suffered many vexations, the Christians continued to enjoy freedom of worship, and this tolerant attitude of the ameers seduced not a few Christians from their original allegiance. Both Christians and Arabs cooperated at this time to make Cordova a flourishing city, the elegant refinement of which was unequalled in Europe. Under Abd-er-Rahman II there came a change in the attitude of the Arab rulers, and a fierce persecution ensued, during which many Christians were accused of abusing the memory of Mohammed, of entering mosques, and of conspiracy against the Government. Saracen fanaticism ran high. Among the martyrs of this period are Perfectus, Flora, Maria, numerous nuns of the monastery of Tabana in the Sierras, also Aurelius, Sabiniana, Abundius, Amator, and others; the names of more than thirty are known. The most famous of these martyrs is St. Eulogius, priest and abbot, who was in 858 chosen Archbishop of Toledo. For his encouragement of the confessors by his writings, “Memoriale sanctorum”, “Apologeticus sanctorum martyrum”, “Documentum martyrii”, “Epistolae”, he was eventually put to death in 859. His life was written (P.L., CXV, 705-32) by Paulus Alvarus, a Scriptural scholar and theologian, who was not a martyr, Baudissin not-withstanding (Eulogius and Alvarus, Leipzig, 1872). With slight interruptions this persecution continued under succeeding bishops, Saul (850) and Valentius (862); it cooperated with the Anthropomorphite heresy of Hostegesis and other causes to bring about a gap of a century and a half in the list of the bishops of Cordova. In 962 Abd-er-Rahman III was succeeded by his son Al-Hakim. Owing to the peace which the Christians of Cordova then enjoyed, some knowledge of their condition has been preserved, among other things the name of their bishop, Joannes, also the fact that, at that period, the citizens of Cordova, Arabs, Christians, and Jews, enjoyed so high a degree of literary culture that the city was known as the New Athens. From all quarters came students eager to drink at its founts of knowledge. Among the men afterwards famous who studied at Cordova were the scholarly monk Gerbert, destined to sit on the Chair of Peter as Sylvester II (999-1003), the Jewish rabbis Moses and Maimonides, and the famous Spanish-Arabian commentator on Aristotle, Averroes (Bourret, De Schola Cordubae christiana sub Omiaditarum imperio, Paris, 1853). On account of the wretched administration of the successors of Abd-er-Rahman III, the invasion of the Almohades (1097), and the continuous peninsular warfare between Moslem and Christian, little is known of the episcopal succession in Cordova from the time of Bishop Joannes (988) to the reconquest of the city by the Christians under St. Ferdinand III (1236). The long period (524 years) of humiliation of the Church of Cordova now came to an end, and a new epoch of prosperity and Christian religious service began which was inaugurated by the piety and generosity of the saintly conquistador (Haines, Christianity and Islam in Spain, London, 1889, 756-1031). Reference has already been made to the conversion of the mosque into a cathedral; several parishes were also established, and spacious convents were built for various religious orders, Dominicans, Franciscans, Mercedarians. A cathedral chapter was established, some of the earlier Christian churches were restored, and some mosques were converted into churches. The diocese, that in the earlier Hispano-Roman period had been very large, began to expand again and had added to it many cities of the Archdiocese of Seville, which was yet in the power of the Moors. The newly cquired territory was soon occupied by Christian knights and Christian families, owing to the privileges and franchises granted by St. Ferdinand to such colonists. Bishop Lope de Fitero, who was consecrated about 1237, began a new episcopal series which has remained unbroken, the 1_ishop consecrated in 1898 being his seventy-third successor.
Since the expulsion of the Moriscos and Jews at the end of the fifteenth century, the Catholic worship alone has been exercised in the diocese, if individuals belonging to a few sects are excepted. It is true that since the eighteenth century the religious fervor of the Catholics of Cordova has considerably diminished, owing to the assimilation by the civil laws of the liberal principles of the French Revolution, the legalized usurpation of ecclesiastical property, and a positivism nourished by the literature, the theatre, and the free press of the day. There remains, nevertheless, much of the Catholic charity and zeal which distinguished the centuries after the reconquest, when bishops, clergy, and faithful rivalled one another in generous endowment of hospitals, asylums, and schools, and placed at the disposal of the Church a rich patrimony capable of supporting a numerous clergy and a continuous and splendid public worship. A steady sectarian propaganda, a lowering of the moral tone, and religious ignorance have made many Cordovans quite lax in their Catholic practice; nevertheless, they do not at all wish to appear as deserting the Catholic Faith. The palace of the bishop faces the former mosque, and in it are located all the administrative offices of the diocese. The cathedral clergy is composed of twenty canons, fifteen beneficed clergymen, and five ecclesiastics charged with various duties. There are 124 parishes, about 500 priests, and 269 churches and chapels. The population of the diocese is about 430,000; that of the city in 1900 was 58,275. The following religious orders and congregations have houses in the city: Jesuits, Carmelites, Capuchins, Dominicans, Trinitarians, Salesians, and Diocesan Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Mary, the last named founded in 1876. In four or five other places in the diocese there are also religious houses, among them convents of Franciscans and Augustinians.
In the near vicinity of Cordova is the solitude (desierto) of Our Lady of Belen, a monastery of (fourteen) anchorites under a common rule and leading a very austere life; they do not take sacred orders, and are governed by a brother superior (hermano mayor); their spiritual director is a secular priest. The Salesian Fathers alone are engaged in teaching; the other orders devote themselves to the contemplative life or conduct public worship. There are seventy-seven religious communities of women, of which twenty-seven are in Cordova and the rest scattered throughout the diocese. They number in all 1106 sisters. Some lead the contemplative life, others devote themselves to teaching or to works of charity. The twelve charitable institutions are cared for by 145 Sisters of Charity; among such institutions in the city are four homes for the aged, two refuges for young girls, a hospital for the insane, a hospital for chronic diseases with 239 patients, a boys’ orphan asylum with 425 inmates, and a foundling asylum containing 131 children. There is also a charitable restaurant (Comedor de la Caridad) in charge of six brothers, which provides good and abundant food for workingmen and poor families at very modest prices. The religious educational institutes of the city for both sexes number twelve, and the pupils attending them 2023. The college of the Salesian Fathers has 325 boys. Outside of Cordova there are several educational and charitable institutions. The Grand Seminary of San Pelagio at Cordova was founded in the sixteenth century by Dr. Mauricio Pazos y Figueroa, and enlarged in the eighteenth by Cardinal Salazar. It has fifteen professors and 125 ecclesiastical students. Attached to the various parishes are many lay confraternities devoted to works of charity, or to the support of public worship. Of the early synods held at Cordova, two are important, those of 839 and 852. The Acts of the former were first printed by Florez (Espana sagrada, XV; Hefele, IV, 99). It was held against fanatical heretics, probably from Northern Africa, and known as “Casiani”, who professed loose doctrines regarding marriage, rejected veneration of relics, demanded more rigour in fasting, declared unclean certain foods, insisted on receiving the Eucharistic Host each in his own hand, etc. The synod of 852 reproved those Christians who voluntarily sought the occasion of martyrdom and declared that such had no right to the veneration due to martyrs (Mansi, XIV, 970; Hefele, IV, 179).
MANUEL GARCIA OSUNA