They are martyrs killed for their faith in Christ during the religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War, which, from 1936 to 1939, bloodied the ancient and noble Iberian nation. All of them belonged to the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretian Missionaries) and, although in different places and on different dates, without ever yielding to the insinuations of the persecutors, they endured in those years the same tragic death. They were missionary priests, brothers, and students. The youngest was only 16 years old. To these must be added the missionary martyr Andrés Solá, murdered in Mexico (1927).
ICON OF THE 184 BLESSED CLARETIAN MARTYRS
Technique: traditional iconic-egg tempera on exotic wood Samba
Measurements: 100/77 cm
Hand-painted icon by Ms.Teodora Bozhikova, master’s degree in artwork, conservator, gilder, copyist, icon writer, and teacher.
The icon represents the glorious 184 Claretian Martyrs in the Kingdom of God.
At the top is a Latin inscription:
CLARETIAN MARTYRS – TIBI CHRISTE DONUM SANGUINIS NOSTRI
The central part of the composition shows Christ Pantocrator blessing the martyrs and welcoming them into his glory. The green cross behind Christ is the Cross of Glory—Crux Gemmata. It is the sign of the triumphant and saving passion and death of Christ, who became Supreme Ruler. Crosses of this type depict the majesty of God’s power and, in addition, the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. The color of the cross is green, in reference to the Tree of Life. The gemstones, in their shape, refer to the main painting on the altar wall in the chapel of the General House of the Claretians in Italy. All the light comes from the center of the composition, which is why the coloring is more pronounced in this part of the icon.
The yellow/gold background surrounding the entire composition stands for the Heavenly Light coming from God, while the two pine trees (at the top left and right, as symbols of power and immortality, indicate Heavenly Jerusalem.
THE IMMACULATE HEART OF THE VIRGIN MARY
In the central part, below the figure of the Pantocrator, there is a figure of Mary—Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Patroness of the Congregation of the Claretian Missionaries. She is depicted together with the Martyrs as Advocate, Protectress, and Mother who leads them to her Son. As Queen of Heaven, she stands on an ornamental base.
TABLE OF SACRIFICE
In the lower central part of the icon is an oblation table. On it is an eternal lamp and olive branches, which are symbols of glory and martyrdom. The red color of the tablecloth emphasizes martyrdom, as well as the royal feast to which the martyrs are invited.
BLESSED CLARETIAN MARTYRS
The martyrs are represented in four groups. They are all presented as transfigured, illuminated by heavenly light, so the colors of the tunics at Mary’s side are so illuminated that they turn brown. Most often the martyrs are shown in the praying gesture, with rosaries or crosses in their hands. Two figures hold Gospels in their hands. The figure of Father Juan Diaz Nosti holds a basket full of loaves, and Blessed Andrés Solá carries a chalice.
I. On the left (according to the observer’s perspective), on the upper level, are the 51 Claretian Missionary Martyrs from Barbastro (Spain) with their formators. Seminarians martyred during the Spanish Civil War and beatified in 1992. In the same group is painted the figure of Blessed Andrés Solá, beatified in 2005.
II. To the right of Mary (facing the viewer), on the upper level, are the 23 Martyrs of Sigüenza, Fernán Caballero, and Tarragona, beatified in 2013. They all carry palm branches as symbols of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life.
III and IV. The 109 martyrs beatified in 2017 are presented in two groups in the lower part of the composition:
To the left of the icon (according to the perspective of the observer) are 60 Martyrs from the Solsona/Cervera Communities (Fr. Jaume Girón and 59 Companions); To the right of the icon are the other 49 martyrs from the Communities of Barcelona, Sabadell, Lleida, Vic, Santander, and Valencia.
The icon’s colors are somewhat reminiscent of the mural painting of the chancel of the chapel of the Generalate House in Italy, where the icon will be placed. Instead, the icon’s colors are brighter and more joyful, showing the joy of the heavenly Jerusalem to which all are invited.