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DIOCESE OF TARAZONA (TURIASONENSIS)

The Diocese of Tarazona comprises the Spanish provinces of Saragossa, Soria, Navarre, and Logroño. The city of Tarazona has a population of 8650, and is situated on a commanding point, surrounded by a beautiful open plain, through which the River Queiles flows. Turiaso was one of the principal towns of the ancient Celtiberian province, and within the confines of the diocese are found many very ancient cities: Bilbilis (Calatayud); Aquae Bilbilitanorum (Alhama); Atacum (Ateca); Augustobriga (Muro); Boverca (Buvierca); Bursao (Borja); Cascantum (Cascante); Gracuris (Corella); Monóbriga (Munébrega); and Vergegium (Verdejo). Pliny numbers Tarazona among the principal cities of the Celtiberians, and its inhabitants had the privileges of citizenship. Its coat of arms bore the motto "Tubal-Cain built me and Hercules rebuilt me". Nothing definite is known of the origin of Christianity in Tarazona. Owing to its proximity to Saragossa it is supposed that it was visited at an early date by the disciples of St. James, but until the fifth century there is no reliable mention of a bishop of Tarazona. The chronicler Idatius names Leo and says that he lived in 449; the chronological list of bishops gives St. Prudentius, but the history of this saint is not positively known. The Tarazona Breviary gives 390 as the date, but other sources place him as late as the ninth century. Idatius says that Leo was killed in an uprising led by a certain Basilius where the Bagandae took refuge in the cathedral, and in which a great number were killed.

St. Gaudiosus, a former monk of the Monastery of Asanense and a disciple of St. Victorian, was bishop in 530. He worked against the Arians, and died in his native city, Escoron. His remains were translated to the Monastery of Asanense, and King Sancho Ramirez had them removed to Montearagón. St. Braulio, in his life of St. Emilianus, speaks of a Didymus, Bishop of Tarazona. A Bishop Stephen assisted at the Third Council of Toledo and at the Council of Saragossa; Floridius, at that of Gundemar (611); Elpisius, at the Fourth and Fifth Council of Toledo; Antherius (683) sent a deacon to represent him at the Thirteenth Council of Toledo; and Nepotianus assisted at the fifteenth and seventeenth. He seems to have been the last bishop of the Visigothic epoch. When the Moors took Tarazona they were able to hold it for a long time on account of its fortified position near the Moncaya, between the Douro and the Ebro. The names of its Mozarabic bishops have not come down to us, although it is very probable there were such; on the other hand we know of the Mozarabic saints, St. Attilanus, Bishop of Zamora and St. Iñigo of Calatayud. Alfonso I the Warrior ( el Batallador ) took possession of Tarazona in 1119, and named Miguel Cornel the bishop. Alfonso VII, in an effort to get possession of Tarazona, intruded a certain de Bujedo into the see ; but de Bujedo repented shortly afterwards, restored the see to its rightful owner, Miguel, and retired to the Monastery of Valpuesta. The Council of Burgos, which was convened in 1139, and was presided over by the legate Guido, took from the jurisdiction of Tarazona most of the towns of Soria, but bestowed in its place the Archdeaconry of Calatayud.

Miguel was the real restorer of the see. He governed for thirty-three years, and established the chapters of Tarazona, Calatayud, and Tudela, under the Rule of St. Augustine. In his time also were founded the Monasteries of Fitero and Veruela. Three bishops of the name of Frontin succeeded him: Juan (1173-94); Garcia, who was present at the battle of Las Navas, and Garcia II, the counsellor of Jaime the Conqueror ( el Conquistador ). In a species of national council held at Tarazona, the marriage of Jaime to Leonor of Castile was declared null on account of the relationship existing between them. The Franciscans, Mercedarians, Dominicans, and Trinitarians, and the Cistercian and Poor Clare nuns were established in the diocese at this time. Miguel Jiménez de Urrea, bishop from 1309 to 1316, was protected by Jaime II, and during the time of Pedro Perez Calvillo the war between Pedro IV the Ceremonious ( el Ceremonioso ) and Pedro the Cruel of Castile took place. Tarazona was laid waste and its cathedral desecrated by the Castilians. The episcopal palace was burned, and la Zuda, sometimes also called Alcázar de Hércules, the palace of the Arab governors, was taken to replace it.

The following bishops are also worthy of special mention: Jorje Bardaji (1443-64), son of an Aragonese magistrate; Cardinal Pedro Ferriz, favourite of Paul II and Sixtus IV ; Guillén Ramon de Moncada; Pedro Cerbuna, founder of the seminary and of the University of Saragossa (1585-97); Jerónimo Castellon y Salas, last Inquisitor-General of Spain (1815-35). The Church of the Magdalen was the ancient cathedral, but the Moors, objecting to its prominent position, compelled them to use a church on the outskirts of the town. In the records left by Miguel this was variously called Santa Maria de la Hidria, de la Vega, or de la Huerta, on account of its position. It was endowed by Teresa Cajal, mother of Pedro de Atarés and wife of Borja, and had been commenced in 1152. Architecturally it is a combination of Byzantine and Gothic, with a high portico entrance and a high brick-trimmed tower. The centre nave with its pointed arches rises above the side aisles and merges into a spacious transept. In the windows the Gothic gives place to the Plateresque, but in the side chapels dedicated to St. Lawrence, St. Andrew, the Rosary, St. Peter, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, the Annunciation, St. Elizabeth, the Purification, and St. James, the Gothic prevails in the reredos and mausoleums. Bishop Moncada attempted to rebuild the beautiful cloister which had been destroyed in the war with Castile, but as late as 1529 this had not been completed. Besides the Church of the Magdalen, the Church of St. Michael, with its simple Gothic nave and that of the Conception nuns, are also notable. The Church of St. Francis is said to have been founded by St. Francis himself in 1214, and Cisneros was consecrated Bishop of Toledo in the Chapel of La Piedad in 1495.

The episcopal palace, the ancient Azuda, is built upon a commanding eminence and has a beautiful view. Bishop Calvillo purchased this from the Aragonese governor, Jordán Pérez de Urries, in 1386, and entailed it to the bishopric. The diocesan seminary, dedicated to St. Gaudiosus, was founded in 1593 by Bishop Cerbuna. It has recently been extensively renovated. Mention should be made of the monastery of Nuestra Senora de Veruela, a Cistercian abbey founded by Pedro de Atarés, and now a Jesuit novitiate ; also of the Church of Borja, ranking as a collegiate church since the time of Nicholas V (1449), favoured and protected by Alexander VI ; and of the ancient collegiate church of Calatayud, Santa Maria de Mediavilla, whose priors ranked as mitred deans.


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