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Diocese of Palencia

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This Diocese comprises the civil provinces of Palencia, Santander, Valladolid, Burgos, and Leon. Palencia, the capital of the province of that name, has a population of 15,050. Flórez dates the origin of the diocese from the first centuries. Its bishop may have been among those assembled in the third century to depose Basilides, Bishop of Astorga. According to Idatius the city of Palencia was almost destroyed (457) in the wars between the Suevi and the Visigoths. The Priscillianistic heresy originated in Galicia, and spread over the Tierra de Campos. It was strongly opposed by St. Toribius, Bishop of Astorga. Maurila, an Arian bishop placed by Leovigild in Palencia, abjured that heresy when King Recared (587) was converted, and in 589 he assisted at the Third Council of Toledo. Conantius, the biographer of St. Ildephonsus, assisted at the synod held in Toledo in 610, and at the fourth, fifth, and sixth Toledan Councils. He composed many new ecclesiastical melodies and a book of prayers from the Psalms. He ruled the see for more than thirty years, and had for pupil St. Fructuosus of Braga.

To defend his new country, Alfonso I devastated the Campos Góticos (Gothic Fields), i.e. the Tierra de Campos, as far as the Duero. The Arabian authors only once cite Palencia in the division of the provinces previous to the Ommiad dynasty. In the Council of Oviedo (811) we find Abundantius, Bishop of Palencia, but he was apparently only a titular bishop. Froila, Count of Villafruela, succeeded in restoring the see in 921, but the true restorer was Sancho the Elder, of Navarre and Castile. The first prelate of the restored see (1035) is said to have been Bernardo, who was given command over the city and its lands, with the various castles and abbeys. Bernardo was born in France or Navarre, and devoted himself to the construction of the original cathedral built over the crypt of St. Antoninus (Antolin). It was rebuilt three centuries later. Its principal treasure was the relics of St. Antoninus, formerly venerated in Aquitania. Alfonso VI conferred many privileges on Bernardo's successor, Raimundo. Pedro, a native of Agen ( France ) and one of the noted men brought in by Bishop Bernardo of Toledo, succeeded Bishop Raimundo. For his fidelity to Queen Urraca, he was imprisoned by Alfonso I of Aragon. In 1113 a provincial council was held in Palencia by Archbishop Bernardo to quell the disorders of the epoch. On the liberation of Pedro, another council was held in Palencia during the Lent of 1129, at which Raimundo, Archbishop of Toledo, and the celebrated Archbishop of Santiago, Diego Gelmírez, assisted. The long and beneficent administration of Pedro was succeeded by that of Pedro II, who died in Almeria and was succeeded by Raimundo II. Bishop Tello took part in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, where the Palencians won the right to emblazon the cross over their castle.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century Bishop Sancho de Rojas valiantly fought the Moors of Antequera, and in the Treaty of Caspe aided the Infante Ferdinand to secure the crown of Aragon. St. Vincent Ferrer preached in Palencia, converting thousands of Jews, with whose synagogue be founded the hospital of S. Salvador, later connected with that of S. Antolin. Among the succeeding bishops of Palencia, who, as feudal lords, were members of the noblest families, we may mention Rodrigo de Velasco (died 1435); Rodrigo Sanchez de Arévalo, author of a history of Spain in Latin (1466); the bishops Mendoza (1472-1485) and Fonseca (1505-1514) who decorated the new cathedral ; Pedro de Castilla (1440-1461); Fray Alonso de Burgos (1485-1499); La Gasca (1550-1561), and Zapata (1569-1577).


The university was founded by Alfonso VIII at the request of Bishop Tello Téllez de Meneses and was the first university of Spain. It was the model upon which was patterned the University of Salamanca . Study began to flourish in Palencia and men notable for their virtue and science came from its schools, among them St. Julian of Cuenca, St. Dominic, and St. Peter González Telmo; hence the adage: "En Palencia armas y ciencia" (In Palencia arms and science ). The university was founded about 1212, shortly after the aforesaid victory of "Las Navas" (others say in 1208), and the king summoned from France and Italy noted teachers of various arts and sciences, retaining them in Palencia on large salaries. The death of the founder in 1214, the minority of Henry I, and the growth of its fortunate rival, Salamanca, caused the decay of Palencia, many of whose professors and students went to Salamanca, whence the erroneous belief of a transfer of the university to the latter place. In 1243 Archbishop Rodrigo records that in spite of unpropitious events, study continued in Palencia and that the cardinal legate, Juan de Abbeville, in a Council of Valladolid (1228) had endeavoured to revive it. Bishop Fernando obtained from Urban IV (14 May, 1263) a Bull granting to the professors and students of Palencia all the privileges of the University of Paris. But lack of financial support and the proximity of the prosperous University of Salamanca made a revival of Palencia impossible, and it died out before the end of the thirteenth century, probably in 1264, at which time the university was definitely transferred to Valladolid. It was Bishop Telo who also established convents of the Dominicans and Franciscans ; the former was famous for the striking conversion of St. Peter González Telmo.

Among the most celebrated natives of the province are the first Marquis of Santillana, Bishop Inigo López de Mendoza, the immortal Berruguete, and Doña María de Padilla.

Palencia is famous for the great Benedictine monastery of S. Zoilo, a rococo monument, the work of Juan de Badajoz. Mention has already been made of the hospital of S. Barnabé and S. Antolin. The conciliar seminary was founded in 1584 by Bishop Alvaro de Mendoza.

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