Mummies of Nuns, Barcelona
Repository: Toni Munné Campañà Personal Collection, Barcelona, Spain
Creator: Campañá i Bandranas, Antoni, 1906-1989
Fond or Collection
Repository and Location
Toni Munné Campañà Personal Collection, Barcelona, Spain
Date Created: 1936-07
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Barcelona, Spain
Once the military coup in Barcelona was defeated, the rebels were punished. The principal leader, General Manuel Goded, was tried by a court martial and executed by firing squad. Two other generals and dozens of other officers were also executed. Four hundred people, and eventually almost 2,000, were sent to endure the horrid conditions of the prison ship Uruguay. The ship was repeatedly boarded by militias who killed a number of the prisoners. This was repeated in other ports, such as Tarragona where the Río Segre was anchored. These attacks, as well as most of the atrocities committed on land by the so-called “patrol committees”, were carried out by militia fighters who were part of the new revolutionary power structure. These were not rogue “uncontrollables”. They fell under the responsibility of the Central Antifascist Militias Committee of Cataluña that was created on July 21. By the beginning of August, some 500 people had been murdered. Most were civilians, especially clergymen and members of right-wing parties.
This took place in Barcelona during the revolutionary summer of 1936 because there, as in many other places in Spain, the militias had taken control of public order. In Catalonia the militias were predominantly anarcho-syndicalists from the CNT-FAI. They understood their task as repressing their enemies. They also allowed crimes and attacks to take place, and often participated in them.
The Catholic clergy were a special target. Some of the most shocking scenes involved the public display of the exhumed remains of nuns. In an echo of the Tragic Week of 1909, people attacked convents looking for evidence of sexual misconduct by their inhabitants: the remains of pregnant nuns or bodies with their hands tied, which was taken as proof that they had been tortured.
The Barcelona militias also sought to transform society, socializing the economy and fighting at the front. For them, the struggle against the military rebels was not a conventional war. It was a revolutionary war, a conflict in which making the revolution would strengthen the war effort.
Around three quarters of the urban economy: factories, stores, and other businesses, came under the control of the workers. In the countryside, some 70 per cent of the land was expropriated and turned into co-operatives. The militia columns that left Barcelona and other places in Catalonia for Aragón helped spread the revolution. The most famous was the 2,500-man column led by anarchist Buenaventura Durruti. It left Barcelona on July 24 with the objective of taking the Aragonese capital of Zaragoza, but was stopped 22 kilometres short of its goal. Other militia units continued to arrive at the Aragón front and by early September they had 20,000 fighters there. Poorly armed, poorly trained, and governed by what they saw as their own, more democratic form of discipline, they failed to capture Zaragoza, but they were able to realize their revolutionary dream, imposing it on the locals, sometimes by persuasion but others by force.