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Visionaries: The Spanish Republic And The Reign Of Christ
by William A. Christian
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From Publishers Weekly
In his extraordinary book, Christian (Person and God in a Spanish Valley, Moving Crucifixes in Modern Spain) documents the encounter between ecstatic religious experience and the Spanish Catholic clergy of the 1930s when, for common people of Spain, visions of the Virgin Mary at Ezkioga became an overarching phenomenon. The inevitable result was a challenge to the authority of the institutional Spanish church at a time when Spain itself was coming undone by fractured governments and, eventually, civil war. Were this merely a history of these visions and their consequences, the book would be remarkable enough; but Christian also skillfully explores the psychological states of the visionaries and shows how their unsanctioned spirituality attracted the often repressive wrath of Church authorities.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Los Angeles Times
"Rich and fascinating. . . . It would be hard to imagine a better person to unravel the skeins of this story than Christian. . . . Christian knows his subject well and possesses great powers of evocation. He has written a sensitive and highly stimulating book."
Marina Warner, New Yorker
"A magisterial study."
The New York Times Book Review,
... a sensitive and highly stimulating book that deserves readers beyond the ranks of academic specialists.
Paul Boyer, Washington Post
"Like all histories that bring a specific time and place vividly to life, Visionaries is ultimately intensely rewarding. Christian savors his story's rich complexity. . . . He writes with great empathy of those transcendent moments that slice through the humdrum of everyday life, infusing it with drama, intensity and meaning."
More than a remembrance of a particular series of visions, this is a book about memory and perception. Christian narrates a series of Marian apparitions and visions that occurred in the Basque country of northern Spain beginning in June_ 1931. Because the obscurity of the visions is due in part to the selective memory of the Spanish Church, they provide an occasion for reflection on selective memory and its role in the construction of sacred space, sacred time, and vision itself. Christian introduces a complex cast of characters with considerable skill, weaving their lives into a narrative of the period immediately preceding the Spanish civil war. The particularity of the account makes it useful to readers with a special interest in Marian apparitions as well as readers who seek insight into the Basque country and its inhabitants. The depth of the account makes it valuable to readers interested in what Christian labels "the wider question that underlies this work: how society structures perception." His account is a valuable contribution to the discussion of society and perception, recommended for partisans of either side of that argument and nonpartisans as well. Steve Schroeder
From Kirkus Reviews
Intelligent and carefully researched account of the religio-political setting for a wave of apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Spain on the eve of that country's Civil War. In June 1931, shortly after Spain had become a republic and anticlerical mobs were burning religious houses in several cities, sightings of Mary and the saints began at Ezkioga in the Basque Country and spread to dozens of towns across the nation. The author, an independent scholar who has written previously about apparitions in medieval Spain, interviewed hundreds of witnesses and unearthed contemporary diaries and clandestine publications in order to recreate the world of the visionaries. Devoting the first half of his book to the sequence of events, he describes religious currents in Basque and Catalan patriotism and the effect of the central government's fiercely antireligious policies on ordinary people. We read of seers such as the carpenter Patxi Goicoechea, who claimed that the Virgin called for the overthrow of the republic, and of many other key figures, such as Father Antonio Amundarain, who had founded a new and powerful kind of pious association for laypeople and was an early promoter of the visions. Christian goes on to explore aspects of the visions, e.g., how Ezkioga linked the rural poor with the industrial wealthy at the very time when the antireligious left defined social class as an issue. The author underlines the role of women and draws helpful comparisons with the apparitions at Lourdes and the Belgian sites of Beauraing and Banneux. We learn details of the trancelike states of the seers and of their fortunes after the Vatican's disavowal of their visions in 1934. Passing no judgments, Christian writes with respect for the seers' Catholic faith and Spanish culture, which he does not share but has certainly entered into. (114 photos, not seen; 2 maps) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
In June 1931, on a hillside in the Spanish Basque country, two children reported seeing the Virgin Mary. Within weeks, hundreds of seers were attracting tens of thousands of onlookers, and the nightly spectacle gave rise to others in dozens of towns across Spain. Visionaries explores the experience and the larger meaning of this wave.
Immersing himself in the lives of the visionaries, William Christian retraced their steps and recreated their world. He spoke with hundreds of witnesses, who led him to caches of vision messages, diaries, clandestine publications, and eloquent photographs. He describes two kinds of visionaries and their relation to each other: the seers who had visions of Mary and the saints, and the believers who had a vision for the future, which they hoped Mary and the saints would confirm. Together, these visionaries attempted to convince a skeptical world that heavenly beings were appearing on the Iberian peninsula. By turns intense, poignant, fierce, and funny, this long-hidden history demonstrates the vital role of the extraordinary in giving voice to a society's hope and anguish.
From the Inside Flap
"William Christian shows clearsighted discernment about the workings of faith and the politics of the supernatural, but he never loses touch with the hunger and vulnerability of human beings in their quest for the sacred. Visionaries is an astonishing book of profound research and humane wisdom."--Marina Warner, author of Six Myths of Our Time
"A rich and wonderful book. . . . Beautifully written, leisurely in pace, complex not only in analytical categories but also in human sensitivity, this study of Catholic religiosity in the 1930s sheds light on fundamental aspects of human spirituality and psychology and on the sophisticated questions we all--scholars and ordinary readers alike--must ask about how society constructs, uses, and eclipses the wondrous. With wise methodological apercus and stunning human stories on every page, this is a book not so much to read as to savour--to dip into often and to meditate upon at length."--Caroline W. Bynum, author of Holy Feast and Holy Fast
About the Author
William A. Christian Jr., winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, has published widely on Spanish religion, including Moving Crucifixes in Modern Spain (1992).
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