Memories can be long in politics. 100 years before a liberal secular regime in Spain had confiscated Church lands and thereby closed Poblet Monastery. Generalissimo Franco did not approve of this and sought to put things back together. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
Under Franco’s long reign in Spain, much was done to restore physically what was done to the many historic and Holy places that had once belonged to the Catholic church. The result of this was a long series of stamps from Spain that showed the beauty and majesty of these sites. While by the end of Franco’s rule in the mid 70s this style of stamp was looking somewhat out of style, I can understand why Franco felt the restoration of the sites was an achievement that should be remembered.
Todays stamp is issue A285, a 3 Peseta stamp issued by Spain on February 25th, 1963. It was part of a four stamp issue in various denominations that honored the restoration of the Poblet Monastery. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.
Poblet Monastery was founded by Cistercian monks from France on land in Catalonia retook from the Moors. The Cistercians believed in a simpler form of monastic life that involved austerity and physical labor as part of the journey to God. In the 14th century and later it became the burial site of the Kings of Aragon.
In the 19th century, Spain was under the reign of Isabella II. She was at first represented by a regency and there was much back and forth between liberals and moderates in her administration. Into this situation came Juan Alvarez Mendizebal. He was quite liberal and a banker of Jewish background. He was first Finance Minister and the Prime Minister, albeit for only nine months. He enacted a program for the confiscation of Church lands. This was put forward as a benefit to the poor but worked to transfer much land to already wealthy landowners. This was done with no payment to the church and indeed most of the properties seized were ransacked and burned, including Poblet Monastery. The Royal tombs were desecrated but a parish priest from a nearby town was able to save most of the remains. Mendizebal was eventually sent into exile in London and Queen Isabella II was eventually forced to abdicate and go into exile in Paris.
Franco was on the winning side of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. He promised peace through law and order and respect for the Church and the Spanish heritage of colonization or as he put it nation building. In the particular of the Poblet Monastery, in 1940 a new group of Italian Cistercian monks were brought in to repair the monastery and get it going again. The royal remains were returned and the tombs restored. To the credit of all, the monastery was allowed to keep going after the end of Franco’s regime and still exists today as an active monastery. It currently has about 30 monks and is on its 105th Abbot.
Well my drink is empty and yes I am going to pour another and toast Generalissimo Franco. At least on this one thing, he was on the side of the angels. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.