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Divine Presence in Spain and Western Europe 1500-1960

William A. Christian

Summing up

Texte intégral

  • 1 Delgado, “Culte i profanació.”

1If one conclusion from these three chapters would be that very little religious gets permanently thrown away, another would be that people embody history, literature, images. History is important, because what happened to our families, our towns, our nations, our peoples in the past—our wars, our defeats, our prosperity, our hunger, our enslavement, our enslaving, our persecution—is hammered into our way of being as surely as a genetic code, affecting the way we are raised and the way we raise, what we are taught in schools and churches and the way we are taught it. Toribia and the people of Casas de Benítez, Fausto and those who believed him in Burguillos, Francisco Martinez and those who believed his image and his fits along the sheep road, the seers of Ezquioga who replicated the gestures of the Baroque, Jean Salvadé who learned how to carry himself by the way his visitors reacted to him, the photographers and their models who spoke to the consumers’ visual idiom, embodied the stories and histories, music and verses they had come to know, the ceremonies they were used to, the paintings and images around them, reaching back over hundreds of years. In the Spanish Civil War, bands of leftists systematically destroyed religious images, including all those of Casas de Benítez along with the San Isidro of the rain procession, all the images of Burguillos, and all those of Piera, where the rainmaking Christ was intentionally reduced to ashes. That Toribia and Fausto could still have late-medieval style visions on the eve of turmoil that would include iconicide,1 and that the women of El Bonillo imprisoned for protecting their image could see a crucifix against the moon testify to the deep and long-term vitality of stories in our consciousness. In Spain, a demonstration of that vitality was precisely the sustained, determined effort to eliminate the connection among people, images, and clergy in the years from 1936 to 1939, and subsequently in a more mild and perhaps more effective manner under state socialism in Eastern Europe.

2The invention of photography resulted in a breathtaking democratization of image in which ordinary people and their loved ones became each other’s icons. But the long history of religious visions by people from all walks of life, from the separated husband Anton Diaz in El Bonillo to the children, seamstresses, domestic servants, illiterate gardeners, and farm laborers of the twentieth century, demonstrates that the impulse to visit, touch, entertain, share feeling with, and be visited, touched and adopted by the divine is a human propensity that is every bit as daring and revolutionary as that of the iconoclasts. Like photography, it too involves the capture of heaven.


1 Delgado, “Culte i profanació.”

© Central European University Press, 2012

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