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Diocese of Zamora

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(ZAMORENSIS), suffragan of Valladolid. It is bounded on the north by Leon, on the east by Valladolid, south by Salamanca, west by Orense and Portugal. It comprises the greater part of the province of Zamora and some towns of the provinces of Valladolid and Salamanca. The See-city has 12,000 inhabitants.

Zamora belonged originally to the Vaccos, but it is doubtful to which of their cities it corresponds (Sentica, Sarabis, Sisapona, Orcelis); most probably it was the ancient capital, Occloduri (Ocellus-Duri. "Eye of the Duero"), which is mentioned in the "Itinerary" of Antonius as situated at the intersection of the three roads and affording a resting place for travellers from Mérida and Astorga to Saragossa. About a quarter of a mile from the ancient walls there have been found some curious sepulchres hewn out of the rocks with a cavity for the head to rest in. The foundations of the ancient bridge, now in a ruined condition, seem to be Roman, and in the portal of the city hall an ancient inscription to Viacus (Mercury) has been preserved denoting its position at the crossroads. In the Middle Ages, owing to the imperfect knowledge of geography, Zamora was confounded with the ancient Numantia, also situated on the Duero, but at a distance of fifty leagues, and, owing to this confusion, the Diocese of Zamora has been called Numantina in some documents. During the dispersion of the Jews some of them settled in Zamora, and Christians inhabited it as early as the persecution of Diocletian, for several martyrs, among them St. Baudilius, suffered martyrdom there. No record has been preserved of Zamora in the time of the Goths, but early in the Saracenic period the name of Medina Zamorati is found, which points clearly to Arabic etymology. From the eighth to the eleventh century the city was alternately in possession of the Moors and of the Christians. It was first reconquered by Alfonso I or his sun Fruela, but Abderraman reconquered it in 813. After its reconquest Alfonso III undertook its restoration in 893, but on 9 July, 901, the Mussulmans once more furiously attacked it. They were totally vanquished, and the day was henceforth known as el dia de Zamora.

In 905 Alfonso III established an episcopal see, whose first bishop was St. Atilanus (905-15). He had been the companion of St. Froilan of Leon, first in the desert and then in the monastery of Morerucla which they founded on the banks of the Esla. Sts. Atilanus and Froilan were consecrated on the same day. St. Atilanus was succeeded by Joannes, Dulcidius, Dominicus, Joannes II, and Salomon, in whose time Zamora fell once again into the hands of the Moors. In 981 it was besieged by the lieutenant of Alamanzor, Abdalla-ben-Abdallasis, and finally taken by Alamanzor himself, who completely destroyed it, and later (999) repopulated it with Mohammedans. Ferdinand I definitively reconquered it, and set about its restoration in 1062, granting a special charter to its colonizers. When he divided his territories among his children he gave the city of Zamora to his daughter Dona Urraca. Her brother Don Sancho attempted to wrest it from her and held the city in a state of siege for seven months, but he was treacherously assassinated by Bellido Dolfos, who pretended to have deserted to his ranks. The Cid, Rui Diaz de Bivar, compelled King Alfonso VI to swear publicly that he had no part in this treason, and on the spot where Don Sancho fell wounded the monastery of San Miguel del Burgo was built. The see being vacant, Alfonso VI and Bernardo, Archbishop of Toledo, agreed to appoint Jerénimo, a native of Perigord and Bishop of Valencia, but after the death of the Cid he was not able to hold his see. Calixtus II at once re-established the see, and the line of bishops since then has come down uninterruptedly to the present day. After the restoration, the Archbishop of Braga, to whose archdiocese the territory had belonged, and the Archbishop of Toledo, who had consecrated Bishop Jerénimo, disputed for the right of jurisdiction over the new diocese. Eugenius III decided in favour of the Archbishop of Braga; Adrian IV and Alexander III confirmed this decision, notwithstanding the fact that the Archbishop of Santiago had also put forward a claim to jurisdiction. It was not until after the separation of Portugal that Zamora recognized the claims of the Metropolitan of Santiago. Since the Concordat of 1851 it has belonged to the ecclesiastical province of Valladolid.

Jerénimo died in 1124, and was succeeded by Bernardo, a native of Aquitaine, in whose time Alfonso VII transferred the Church of S. Tome with its holdings to the bishop, to be used in the construction of the new cathedral, and granted to the canons of Zamora the privileges enjoyed by those of Santiago, Leon, and Palencia. Estéban, who succeeded Bernardo in 1149, laid the foundations, and on 15 Sept., 1174, the new cathedral was consecrated. This event was commemorated in verse by the bishop's successor, Guillermo. Upon Pedro I (1239-54) was conferred the title of Familiar to the King St. Ferdinand III. In the time of his successor, Suero Perez, the body of St. Ildefonsus was found in the Church of San Pedro. Bishops Pedro Gomez Barroso (fourteenth century), Juan de Mela (fifteenth century), and Rodrigo de Castro (sixteenth century) were raised to the cardinalitial dignity. Gonzalo Rodriguez Osorio assisted in 1310 at the council held at Salamanca to deal with the suppression of the Knights Templars. Alvaro was commissioned by Henry II to bring about a reconciliation between his daughter Dona Leonor and her husband Charles III of Navarre. Diego Fernandez de Fuen Salida (d. 1426) was sent to the Emperor Sigismund to endeavour to bring the schism to an end. Fray Diego de Deza, the protector of Columbus, was also Bishop of Zamora. Antonio Acuna was executed in the castle of Simancas (1526) for having taken part in the rebellion of the Comuneros against Charles I (V). Juan Coello de Rivera (1642) defended the city, with the aid of the secular clergy and the monks, against the Portuguese. The Benedictine, Fray Alonzo de San Vitores, died a reputed saint in 1660. In the time of the Catholic sovereigns, the Court of la Beltraneja resided at Zamora during the war which the latter waged, supported by the King of Portugal, against Isabella for possession of the Crown.

Among the ancient monuments of interest at Zamora is the fourteenth century bridge over the Duero, with its sixteen pointed arches, and its famous towers which served as a fortress in the time of Isabella the Catholic. These, however, have lost some of their characteristic features, owing to subsequent additions. The ruined tower has a figure on the top commonly called Gobierna, which serves as a vane. On the highest point of the city stands the ancient palace of Dona Urraca. This enormous building stands near one of the city gateways which opens towards the north, and has a portcullis fortified by two small towers. It was used during the civil wars of the past century. The cathedral is a handsome Romanesque building of the twelfth century. One of its prominent features is a striking cupola flanked on four sides by small towers terminating in lantern-like openings. The whole is dominated by a majestic quadrangular tower, with projecting spires, and three tiers of windows. A modern clock tower has been added. The exterior of the principal chapel is Florid Gothic. The main façade has a great Graeco-Roman arch with Corinthian columns and an Attic pediment. The façade of the south transept, called del obispo, is a fine specimen of architecture in pure Byzantine. The interior of the church carries out the same style of architecture. In the space behind the choir there are three very notable arches, and each of the three naves opens into three chapels, those of San Ildefonsus, San Juan Evangelist, and San Miguel. One of the treasurers of the cathedral is a monstrance, an exquisite work of art in the Gothic style ornamented with innumerable small figures, the pedestal bearing the date 1598.

Among the other churches of Zamora which are worthy of special mention is that of La Magdalena, Romanesque in style, which belonged to the Knights of St. John. On the Gospel side is a beautiful sepulchre, finer than anything of the same kind to be seen in the south of France, according to the testimony of Emile Berteaux. The Church of San Pedro possesses the relics of St. Ildefonsus and St. Atilanus, the shrines containing the sacred remains having been opened for Juan II in 1427, for Charles V in 1522, Philip II in 1554, and Philip III in 1602. The episcopal palace, rebuilt at the end of the eighteenth century by Bishop Cabanillas, is spacious and has a beautiful view overlooking the river. The conciliar seminary of San Atilano was founded by Bishop Ramon Falcon y Salcedo, in 1797, and incorporated at once with the University of Salamanca. At present it is independent and occupies the former college of the Jesuits. There are in Zamora: an institute for secondary education, a normal college for teachers of both sexes, good hospitals, and a poor house.


QUADRADO, Zamora in Esp., sus Mon. y artes (Barcelona, 1885); LA FUENTE, Hist eccles. de Esp. (Barcelona, 1855); FLOREZ, Esp. sagrada, XIV (Madrid, 1786); DAVILA, Episcologio de Zamora, in Teatro eccles. de Z.; DURO, Memorius hist. de Z.; MELIDA in Boletin de la Acad. de la Hist. (July-Sept., 1910).

About this page

APA citation. Amadó, R.R. (1912). Diocese of Zamora. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Amadó, Ramón Ruiz. "Diocese of Zamora." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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