Joan Culla Clarà discusses Tragic Week, and Barcelona’s habit of burning churches and convents.
This is a very old phenomenon in Catalonia. In Barcelona, the first convent burnings, and mass-killing of priests in the contemporary era, occurs in 1835, more than a century before the Civil War. 1835. Many years later, in 1909, an event, known as tragic week, occurs. Which was another explosion of anticlerical violence, specifically against [church] structures. Not so much against people, but they burned 50-60 convents, churches, etc. In urban worker culture, the church is seen as the worst of enemies. to analyze the “Why.” But in the list of enemies, before the bourgeoisie, before capital, judges, the army, the Civil Guard… There was the church, and every time people felt the streets were theirs, every time the people believed they could do whatever they wanted, the first thought was to go burn convents and churches. This happens three times in a century, so it’s a tendency. In 1936, this happens in a revolutionary context. In the context of a city where, from the 20th or 21st of July, tthere are tens of thousands of weapons in the hands of anyone who wants one. So, this has a great violent component. Not only the destruction of churches, hundreds of churches, religious symbols, images, etc. but also the killing of thousands of members of the clergy. But, like I said, this isn’t unique to the 1936 revolution. A hundred years before, the same thing. Plus it’s very old, ancient, and surely it can be explained. Because the Catholic Church in Spain had aligned itself with the powerful, the grand landowners, the power. This resulted in deep hatred from the lower classes. It was deeper than what was felt for other enemies. Of course, assaulting barracks is always a bit more dangerous than assaulting a convent or church. Generally, they aren’t defended or armed. So it isn’t a very heroic target, it doesn’t need any great… well. Where does this all come from? Oh right, Jackson’s quote. Well, of course. For the past 60 years, North American historians have been, understandably, curious about this. Because this never really happened in their culture. There’s a North American historian who must be long dead, Joan Connelly Ullman, who wrote… Wrote a book that was, for a long time, the reference book about Tragic Week. And Gabriel Jackson, among others, studied the anticlericalism of the republican and civil war years. No, the difference between Madrid and Barcelona, there’s a reason for it. Here, for weeks, maybe 3 or 4 months, the armed anarchists were able to do whatever they wanted without threat from the military enemy. The front, all fronts, were very far from Barcelona. Hundreds of kilometers from Barcelona, unlike Madrid. In Madrid, from Summer ’36, Franco’s troops began advancing on the capital, and by early November had it, nearly, surrounded. When there’s an enemy at the gates, people think, “Well, maybe instead of burning the neighborhood churches we should see if we can stop the fascists?” Maybe that’s more urgent. “We’ll burn the church later, when there’s more time.” Know what I mean? But here, there wasn’t that urgency, wasn’t the military threat. I think that’s why.