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Vicariate Apostolic of Gibraltar

A rugged promontory in the province of Andalusia, Spain

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Gibraltar, —VICARIATE APOSTOLIC OP-. Gibraltar is a rugged promontory in the province of Andalusia, Spain, about 6 miles in circumference. Its almost perpendicular walls rise to a height of 1396 feet. The town is on the west side; on the north a narrow isthmus (neutral ground) connects the fortress with the mainland of Spain. The great rock itself is the ancient Mount Calpe, which with Abyla (Ceuta) constituted the famous Pillars of Hercules. In antiquity Gibraltar belonged in turn to the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, and Visigoths. Scipio took it from the Carthaginians, and it remained Roman territory until A.D. 412, when the Goths became masters of Spain. Being Arians, they built two churches of their faith in the vicinity of Calpe; one at San Rocco, the other, a chapel, on the rock itself. In 710 the Visigothic kingdom in Spain, after an existence of 300 years, was torn with internal strife. Amid this dissension the Moors crossed from Africa, for the second time (711), under their leader Tarik-Ibn-Zeyad, who sent a detachment of soldiers to Mount Calpe, and had a castle built there, the ruins of which yet excite admiration. The mountain was thenceforth known as Gibel-Tarik, the mountain of Tarik, or Gibraltar. Thus began the Moorish conquest of Spain. Gibraltar was besieged, in 1309, and retaken from the Moors by Alonzo de Guzman. By 1462 it had sustained eight sieges, with varying fortune. The last of these was under Alonzo de Arcos, who captured it from the Moors in 1462, the surrender on this occasion taking place on August 20, the feast of St. Bernard, in consequence of which he became the patron of Gibraltar. The Infante Don Alonzo gave the city and territory of Gibraltar to the Duke of Medina-Sidonia in absolute and perpetual possession for himself and his successors. Ferdinand and Isabella confirmed this gift, conferring on the Duke of Medina-Sidonia the title of Marquis of Gibraltar; at a later period, however, during the same reign, the place was annexed by the Crown.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, which began in 1701, Gibraltar was besieged (1704) by a squadron commanded by Sir George Rooke and a land force of 1800 English and Dutch under Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt; after three days the city was captured (July 24). The fortress had 100 cannon and ammunition, but a garrison of only 150 men; the inhabitants were reduced to 6000. After a bombardment of six hours the garrison surrendered.

Before a year had passed Spain endeavored, with the help of France, to recapture Gibraltar. In this, the twelfth siege of Gibraltar, the attacking party had a great preponderance of numbers, but the fortress successfully resisted all their efforts to capture it. By a special decree of February, 1706, Queen Anne declared Gibraltar a free port. In 1713, by the Treaty of Utrecht, it became definitively a British possession, though many attempts were made by the Spaniards to regain it. The last siege, the fourteenth in its history, began July 14, 1779, and continued for 3 years, 7 months, and 12 days. In April, 1782, the French and Spaniards again bombarded Gibraltar by land and sea, but without success. A peace was finally concluded by which Spain received the island of Minorca in place of Gibraltar. When the city was occupied by the English in 1704, the Spaniards carried away whatever they could and settled in the neighboring district of San Rocco. Scarcely a dozen persons remained in Gibraltar. It was subsequently populated by people of every nation, especially by Genoese and Maltese, as is evident from the various family names. Spanish is generally spoken by the people, though English is the tongue of public administration.

The population (1908) numbers about 25,000, of whom 16,000 to 18,000 are Catholics; and the rest Jews, Protestants, etc. The garrison varies in number from 3,000 to 5,000 men. Gibraltar is ruled by special laws; has a military governor, an admiral, and a colonial secretary. The Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar does not reside there. Until 1806 Gibraltar belonged to the See of Cadiz. In that year it was made a vicariate Apostolic (since 1840 the vicar is always a titular bishop). The Catholic clergy number 11 secular priests and 5 religious. There are 8 churches and chapels; 3 religious houses for men and 4 for women, with a total of 28 and 61 members respectively. There is but one parish, though three of the churches have each a resident priest. Catholic elementary education is provided for by 6 boys’ schools (1136) under the Christian Brothers and the Brothers of St. John of God, and 8 girls’ schools (1126). There is also an institute for the higher education of boys (141) and two similar ones for girls (174). There are many other private institutions and schools, the most important of which is the Rook Academy under the direction of M. Sitman. The poor are cared for in 3 asylums, and there are 2 orphan asylums (65); for the aged, also, there is a house of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Guido Remigio Barbieri, a former Benedictine, born in 1836, was consecrated Bishop of Theodosiopolis and Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar in 1901.



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