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Diocese of Mondoñedo
(Lat. MONDUMETUM, or MINDON, MINDONIENSIS, also BRITONIENSIS, DUMIENSIS, and VILLABRIENSIS)
It comprises the civil Provinces of Lugo and Corunna, and is bounded on the north by the Bay of Biscay, on the east by the Austurias, on the south by the Diocese of Lugo, and on the west by the Archdiocese of Compostela (or Santiago de Galicia), of which it has been a suffragan since 1114. Some authorities have sought to fix the date of the foundation of this diocese (under its primitive name of Britonia) earlier than the second half of the sixth century, but the later date seems the more probable when we consider that, at the Second Council of Braga (572), Mailoc, Bishop of Britonia, was ranked lowest because of the more recent origin of his see. It seems to have been founded by the Suevian king, Theodomir, converted to Catholicism by St. Martin of Dumio (see MARTIN oF BRAGA, SAINT) and to have included in its jurisdiction the Churches of the Britones (a territory coinciding with that of Mondoñedo) and some of those of the Asturias. In the beginning it was a suffragan of Lugo, until the Goths placed Lugo under the jurisdiction of Braga. After Mailoc no mention is found of the bishops of Britonia for a long time, doubtless because the great distance from Toledo made it impossible for them to assist at the councils. In 633 Metopius, Bishop of Britonia, assisted at the Fourth Council of Toledo, presided over by St. Isidore. Sonna, his successor, was one of the bishops who signed at the Seventh Council of Toledo (646) and sent a representative to the Eighth Council of Toledo (16 December, 653). When Britonia was invaded and destroyed by the Saracens, the bishop and priests took refuge in Asturias. In 899, during the reign of Alfonso III, Theodesimus, Bishop of Britonia assisted with other prelates at the consecration of the church of Santiago. It may also be noted that, in the repartition of the parishes, the church of San Pedro de Nova was assigned as the residence of the bishops of Britonia and Orense, when they should come to assist at the councils of Oviedo. By that time, however, the See of Britonia had been translated to the town of Mondumetum and the church of St. Martin of Dumio, or Mondoñedo. The diocese has since been most generally known by this name, although the episcopal residence has again changed. After the time of St. Martin it was transferred to Villamayor de Brea, from which it derived the name of Villabriensis, and afterwards to Ribadeo, but it was nevertheless known as Mindoniense, as a document of the year 1199 bears witness. At first, its patron was St. Martin of Tours, but St. Martin of Dumio was afterwards chosen patron.
The church of St. Martin of Mondoñedo, one of the best of the ancient churches of this region. had been the cathedral church since 866. The present parochial house is a part of the old episcopal palace, connected with the church by a gallery from what seems to have been one of the episcopal chambers. In 1112 the queen, Doña Urraca, transferred the episcopal residence to Brea, a valley about seven and a half miles from St. Martin of Mondoñedo, in the midst of which is Villamayor de Brea, where the cathedral church of Santa María Vallibriense was built. The Blessed Virgin, under her title of the Assumption, was the patroness of this church. Alfonso VII gave a charter to the town, and the bishop resided there until Ferdinand II of León transferred the episcopal residence to Ribadeo. In 1233 Don Martín, successor to Don Pelayo, transferred it to its present location, Mondoñedo, now a town of 10,590 inhabitants. To appease the discontent occasioned in Ribadeo by this change, Bishop Nuño II and his chapter established a collegiate church in Ribadeo with a canon and four prebendaries (racioneros).
Many of the bishops of Mondoñedo were noted for their sanctity and learning. First among these is St. Rosendus, who, in consideration of his eminent virtue, was created a bishop when he was very young, and governed the diocese from 928 to 942. He founded the monastery of Celanova, to which he afterwards retired to live the life of a monk. Of another abbot of Celanova, Gonzalvo, a legend has been preserved which attributes to his prayers the repulse of the Northmen who were devastating the coasts of Galicia. His sepulchre is in the church of St. Martin of Mondoñedo, and on the spot on the shore where he prayed a chapel has been erected to which people come in great numbers, especially at Pentecost. Don Martín, bishop from 1219 to 1248, built the present cathedral of Mondoñedo, except for the present façade and four chapels, which form an additional nave behind the principal one. Towards the end of his life he resigned his see and withdrew to St. Martin of Mondoñedo to prepare for death. Don Pedro Enríquez de Castro (1426-45) is credited with having built the ancient cloister, where the coat of arms of his family was emblazoned. Don Fadrique de Guzmán (1462-92) made notable repairs in the cathedral; Don Alfonso Suárez de la Fuente del Salce (1493-96) was named inquisitor general by Pope Alexander VI; Don Pedro Pacheco, son of the Conde de Montalban (1533-37) was created a cardinal; Fray Antonio de Guevara, a classical writer, preacher and chronicler for Charles V shed lustre on the See of Mondoñedo. Don Diego de Soto (1546-49) completely renovated the cathedral.
In the church at Villamayor de Brea, which was formerly the cathedral of the diocese, there are some notable frescoes, entirely covering the walls of the interior. Those on the Gospel side represent, in three large panels, the slaughter of the Innocents; those on the Epistle side, four scenes from the life of St. Peter. Other paintings, the work of the Asturian painter, Terán, decorate the domes of the transept and the main chapel. The present cathedral of Mondoñedo, built in the thirteenth century (see above), is one of the best examples of ogival art in Galicia. The Romanesque portal is, as in many of the churches of that period, the most ancient portion. In the seventeenth century a façade in the Baroque style was added. The church is in the form of a Latin cross, with three naves; it has fine altars, choir stalls in the Flemish style, mural paintings of the fifteenth century, interesting for the history of art, and two organs in the over-decorated style of the eighteenth century, while the sacristy is richly decorated with pictures of the Flemish school. The Capilla de los Remedios, built in 1738, by Bishop Sarmiento de Sotomayor also deserves mention, The monastery of San Salvador de Lorenzana, formerly belonging to the Benedictines, and so called from its proximity to the river Lorenzana, is one of the most notable in Galicia. It was founded on 17 June, 969, during the episcopate of Theodomir, by the saintly Conde Osorio Gutiérrez, and was richly endowed. The remains of the founder, who became a member of the community, are interred in the monastery. A very beautiful monument constructed of rare marbles, such as are not to be found in any other part of Spain, has been erected over his grave. His memory is venerated, and the faithful visit his tomb. The convent of the Alcantarines (Franciscans of the reform of St. Peter of Alcántara), founded in 1731, is now used as barracks. The court-house (1584) and the seminary are among the principal buildings of Mondoñedo.
The present seminary building, in the Huertas del Torrillón, was built by Bishop José Francisco de Losada in 1770-75. Mondoñedo, which until 1836, was the capital of the province, numbers among her distinguished sons the teacher Pacheco Febrero, author of "Galería de Escribanos", José Cayetano Suaces, Bishop of Palencia; Lucas Miranda, author of the "Teatro de Prelados de la Iglesia de Mondoñedo", and the sculptor Castro, designer of the inspiring figure of Saint Francis in the cathedral. Bishop Manuel Navarrete wrote a long history of Mondoñedo and its bishops. The present (1910) Bishop of Mondoñedo, Don Juan José Solés y Fernández, born at Oviedo, 1848, was consecrated on 26 May 1907.
FLÓREZ, España Sagrada, XVIII (2nd ed., Madrid, 1789); VILLAMIL, Crónica de la Provincia de Lugo (Madrid, 1867); MURGUÍA, España, sus monumentos y artes: Galicia (Barcelona, 1888); DE LA FUENTE, Historia eclesiástica de España (Barcelona, 1855).
RAMÓN RUIZ AMADO