Orthodox Monasteries in Spain

by Kathleen March
Spires can be seen in an Orthodox Cathedral.

Spires can be seen in an Orthodox Cathedral.

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In March 2012, the bishopric of Lleida granted the use of the Villaler monastery, located in Alta Ribagorça, to the Rumanian Orthodox Church. Lleida bishop Joan Piris and Timoteo, bishop of the Rumanian Orthodox Church of Spain and Portugal, signed an agreement for use of the former Summer Seminary in Villaler. The Seminary now is an Orthodox Monastery. According to Spanish resources, this is the first Orthodox monastery in Spain. Villaler is a medieval town, with a castle from the 12th century. It has a population of about 650 and is in western Catalonia, near the Central Pyrenees region. A form of Catalan is spoken in this area. About 4,000 members of the Rumanian Orthodox Church reside in the province of Lleida, many of these in the city of Lleida (Lérida, in Spanish) itself. There are also many Rumanian Catholics in the area.

History of the Site

The Seminary (Seminario de Verano de Riupedrós, in Spanish) gets its name from the nearby hermitage, built in the 10th century, dedicated to the Virgin of Riupedrós and located beside the Noguera River. Built by order of Bishop Aurelio del Pino Gómez in 1960, by 2012 the building had been empty for six years. It had been used for summer stays by Catholic priests and seminarians, as well as by Episcopalians.

Orthodox Religion in Spain

In 2007 a Russian Orthodox Church was built in Altea, Alicante, south along the Mediterranean coast of Catalonia. Wood was brought from the Ural Mountains for constructing the temple. Workers were also brought from Russia. In the first half of the 20th century there were few Orthodox Christians in Spain. Then a Greek community in Madrid, the capital, began to incorporate members of other Orthodox churches. A Rumanian priest came to reside in the city. Gradually, Orthodox parishes were established throughout Spain. In addition to the Assembly of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Spain and Portugal, the Patriarchates of Serbia, Moscow, Bulgaria, Rumania, Georgia and Constantinople all have Spanish dioceses. They number around 10, total. There is a web site with addresses for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (http://www.iglesiaortodoxa.net/index.htm). These groups generally congregate in spaces ceded to them by Catholic and other religious congregations.

More on Orthodox Religion in Spain

Orthodox World lists nearly 80 Orthodox congregations throughout Spain. While there are numerous churches, the only monastery is that of Villaler, in Lleida province. In the 1970s an Orthodox community of native residents, Russians and Rumanians was established in Barcelona, on the Mediterranean coast. This group found it necessary to collaborate with French organizations like the “Fraternité Orthodoxe en Europe Occidentale” and the “Institute de Theologie Orthodoxe Saint Serge” in Paris.

Immigrants in Spain

Rumanians represent the largest group of foreigners in Spain, having surpassed the Moroccans. They make up about 14% of the total foreign population and number around six million as of 2013. Most immigrants come for economic reasons. The Rumanian Orthodox Church is the main religion in their original country. Other Slavic immigrants are from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary and several other countries. Many of these ethnic groups belong to Orthodox congregations or communities.

About the Author

Kathleen March has been a writer for 40 years. A professor and translator of Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician, she has studied several languages and uses them for travel and research. She enjoys medieval architecture and avant-garde poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous critical journals in the U.S. and Spain.

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