Famous Spanish Spiritual & Religious Leaders

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Every country in the world has its own culture and religion and thus its own group of spiritual and religious leaders. Though both spiritual and religious leaders aim at helping mankind become pious and reverent, their pathways are different. While religious leaders tend to an organized system of paying homage to God, spiritual leaders are basically concerned with the spiritual conduct of a human being and often do not use any form of deity worship. Talking about Spain’s religious beliefs, the country was born out of the religious struggle between Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Judaism. However, in 1851, Catholicism became a state religion. During the Franco regime, Roman Catholic Church gained a legal status as the only authorized religion of the country. It was only in 1978 that Spaniards were given the right to religious freedom. Amidst the religious turmoil that surfaced and prevailed in the nation, numerous spiritual and religious leaders influenced the people of Spain with their beliefs and philosophies. It is to these leaders that we have dedicated this section. Their dedication and wisdom in guiding Spaniards have been instrumental in the Spanish society. Check this section to know more about Spanish spiritual and religious leaders.
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 1 
Francis Xavier
(Missionary)
Francis Xavier
6
Birthdate: April 7, 1506
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Javier, Spain
Died: December 3, 1552
Navarrese Catholic missionary and saint Francis Xavier co-founded the Society of Jesus. His mission focused on the Portuguese Empire in Asia. He is remembered for his efforts to spread Christianity in Goa. He extended his mission to Japan and Borneo but died before he could preach in China.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
4
Birthdate: October 23, 1491
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Azpeitia, Spain
Died: July 31, 1556

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a  Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian in the 16th century. He was one of the founders of the religious order called the Society of Jesus and served as its first Superior General at Paris. He was an inspired spiritual director and the founder of what is today known as "Ignatian spirituality."

 3 
Saint Dominic
(Spanish Priest and Founder of the Dominican Order and Patron Saint of Astronomers)
Saint Dominic
4
Birthdate: August 8, 1170
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Caleruega, Spain
Died: August 6, 1221

Saint Dominic was a Castilian Catholic priest who is credited with founding the Dominican Order. Dominic is said to have abstained from meat throughout his life. He is also remembered for putting himself to undue hardship like traveling barefoot and rejecting the luxury of a bed. He is regarded as the patron saint of astronomers.

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 4 
Saint Lawrence
(Religious Leader)
Saint Lawrence
3
Birthdate: December 31, 0225
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hispania
Died: August 10, 0258

Saint Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the Roman church serving Pope Sixtus II, who were executed by the Roman emperor Valerian during the persecution of the Christians. As a deacon, he was responsible for the distribution of alms to the poor. He was captured and martyred in 258 AD. His feast day is on 10 August. 

 5 
John of the Cross
(16th Century Spanish Catholic Priest Who was a Major Figure of Counter-Reformation in Spain)
John of the Cross
3
Birthdate: June 24, 1542
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Fontiveros, Spain
Died: December 14, 1591

John of the Cross was a Spanish Catholic priest, mystic, and Carmelite friar. One of the 36 Doctors of the Church, he is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain. He was a prolific writer and poet, and his writings are counted among the greatest works of all Spanish literature. He was beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X.

Pope Alexander VI
6
Birthdate: January 1, 1431
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Játiva, Spain
Died: August 18, 1503

Pope Alexander VI served as the pope from 1492 to 1503. Due to his involvement with several mistresses, Alexander is regarded as one of the most controversial popes of the Renaissance. However, during his papacy, a new architectural era surfaced in Rome as he encouraged the development of fine arts; famous personalities like Pinturicchio, Raphael, and Michelangelo worked for him.

Saint Teresa of Avila
0
Birthdate: March 28, 1515
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Gotarrendura
Died: October 4, 1582

Teresa of Ávila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who later turned into a Carmelite nun. She was posthumously named a Doctor of the Church. She co-established the Discalced Carmelite Order. Her written works include The Interior Castle and her own autobiography.

Tomás de Torquemada
3
Birthdate: October 14, 1420
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Castile, Spain
Died: September 16, 1498
Tomás de Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor of Spain, is remembered for his role in the Spanish Inquisition. He is known for his intolerance toward Jews and Muslims, leading to their conversion to Catholicism. About 2,000 people were burned at the stake during his tyrannical tenure.
 9 
Diego de Landa
3
Birthdate: November 12, 1524
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cifuentes, Alcarria, Spain
Died: April 29, 1579

Spanish priest Diego de Landa was one of the most significant Mayan researchers. A Franciscan missionary to Mexico, he initially helped the Mayan people through his charitable efforts and conversions. However, he later inflicted a lot of torture and brutality on them and also burned most of the Mayan manuscripts.

Nahmanides
2
Birthdate: 1194 AD
Birthplace: Girona
Died: 1270 AD

Thirteenth-century Spanish rabbinical scholar Nahmanides had to flee from Spain after a public debate against the Christians, which he won. He later settled in Palestine and penned his iconic works, including a commentary on the Pentateuch. He re-established Jews in Jerusalem after their displacement by the Crusades earlier.

 11 
Louis Hennepin
2
Birthdate: May 12, 1626
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ath, Belgium, Spanish Netherlands
Died: December 5, 1704

Seventeenth-century Franciscan Roman Catholic priest, missionary, and explorer Louis Hennepin was the first to sail through the Great Lakes up to Illinois and to pen a description about the region. Though captured by Sioux Indians, he was later rescued by a French explorer. He spent his final years in a monastery.

 12 
Luis Ladaria Ferrer
(Cardinal, Theologian)
Luis Ladaria Ferrer
2
Birthdate: April 19, 1944
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manacor, Spain
 13 
Joseph Karo
(Author)
Joseph Karo
2
Birthdate: 1488 AD
Birthplace: Spain
Died: March 24, 1575

Sixteenth-century Spanish-born rabbi Joseph Karo penned the last great codification of Jewish law, the Bet Yosef, later known as the Shulḥan ʿarukh. Expelled from Spain, he later settled in Palestine. Another of his notable works is the Maggid mesharim, a mystical diary that described visits by the Mishna.

 14 
Moses ben Jacob Cordovero
(Religious Leader)
Moses ben Jacob Cordovero
2
Birthdate: 1522 AD
Birthplace: Safed, Israel
Died: June 27, 1570

Moses ben Jacob Cordovero probably belonged to a family that had migrated from Spain to Israel during the Spanish Inquisition. Also known as Ramak, he grew up to be a Galilean rabbi who penned summarized versions of the Kabbalah, such as Elimah rabati. He also taught Kabbalist Isaac Luria.

 15 
Moses de León
2
Birthdate: 1240 AD
Birthplace: Guadalajara, Spain
Died: 1305 AD

A Spanish rabbi and a noted kabbalist, Moses de León is believed to be the author of the Sefer ha-zohar, a foundational work on the Jewish mysticism written in Aramaic. However, to increase their acceptability, he credited ancient scholars as their authors. Apart from that, he also composed pseudepigrapha on ethics and the eschatology of the soul in Hebrew.

 16 
Miguel de Molinos
1
Birthdate: June 29, 1628
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Spain
Died: December 29, 1696

Seventeenth-century Spanish mystic and priest Miguel de Molinos propagated an extreme type of Quietism through his book Spiritual Guide. He believed people should sacrifice their individual wills to make way for God’s will. He was eventually imprisoned for heresy and died in custody, amid rumors of sexual misconduct.

 17 
Nicholas Wiseman
(Archbishop)
Nicholas Wiseman
1
Birthdate: August 3, 1802
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Seville, Spain
Died: February 15, 1865

Remembered as one of the most significant figures behind the revival of Catholicism in the 19th century, Nicholas Wiseman was the first archbishop of Westminster. He was born to Irish immigrants in Spain and initially worked as a language professor. He also penned the iconic works Horae Syriacae and Fabiola.

 18 
Antipope Clement VIII
1
Birthdate: 1369 AD
Birthplace: Teruel, Spain
Died: December 28, 1446

Gil Sánchez Muñoz, or Antipope Clement VIII, was an advisor of Benedict XIII. During the Western Schism, Benedict chose Clement as a cardinal, even at the reluctance of others to accept this decision. Later, Clement had to let go of his titles, reconciled, and was made the bishop of Majorca.

Pedro Ponce de León
1
Birthdate: 1520 AD
Birthplace: Valladolid, Spain
Died: 1584 AD

A Spanish benediction monk, Pedro Ponce de León is best remembered for his pioneering work, which helped several deaf persons to speak and write.  Although he was not the creator of the modern sign language, he has been credited with developing manual alphabets based on monastic sign language, which was quite effective in achieving its objective.    

 20 
Bahya ibn Paquda
(Philosopher)
Bahya ibn Paquda
1
Birthdate: 1050 AD
Birthplace: Zaragoza, Spain
Died: 1120 AD

Bahya ibn Paquda is best known as the author of Al Hidayah ila Faraid al-Qulub, or Duties of the Heart, an Arabic treatise of Jewish philosophy, also considered the first written work on Jewish ethics. Islamic mystics inspired him to look for the existence and nature of God.

 21 
Vasco de Quiroga
2
Birthdate: February 3, 1470
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Spain
Died: March 14, 1565

Trained in theology and law, Vasco de Quiroga was the second audiencia of New Spain and the Bishop of Michoacán. Considered as a humanist educator and a social reformer, he is believed to have worked diligently for the welfare of the Indian in Mexico, establishing two hospitals and also the Colegio de San Nicolás Obisbo for that purpose.

 22 
Theodulf of Orléans
1
Birthdate: 0750 AD
Birthplace: Spain
Died: December 8, 0821

Theodulf of Orléans had been the bishop of Orléans during the reign of Charlemagne and had later become his chief theological advisor. His iconic works, such as Ad Carolum regem, were inspired by Charlemagne. A prominent figure of the Carolingian Renaissance, he also built many churches.

 23 
Moses ibn Ezra
1
Birthplace: Granada, Spain
Died: 1138 AD

Moses ibn Ezra, or Abū Hārūn Mūsā, was one of the best Spanish Jewish poets and a pioneer of secular verse. He had fallen in love with his niece, but she had been married off to someone else, inspiring him to write poetry which spoke of love and old age.

 24 
Juan de Padilla
(Missionary)
Juan de Padilla
1
Birthdate: 1490 AD
Birthplace: Toledo, Spain
Died: 1542 AD

Born into a Spanish noble family, Juan de Padilla grew up to be an ace military leader who led the Castilian Comunidades in their rebellion against the Habsburg emperor Charles V, or Carlos I of Spain. He was eventually defeated and executed along with the other leaders of the revolt.

 25 
Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz
1
Birthdate: 1310 AD
Birthplace: Cuenca, Spain
Died: August 23, 1367

Known for founding Collegio di Spagna at Bologna, Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz was a soldier before he entered the church. Eventually he became the archbishop of Toledo and supported a campaign against the Muslims. He was later  on made the cardinal-priest of S. Clement and finally a papal legate. Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz helped the papacy to return from Avignon to Rome.

 26 
Shlomo ibn Aderet
(Shlomo ben Avraham ibn Aderet)
Shlomo ibn Aderet
1
Birthdate: 1235 AD
Birthplace: Barcelona, Spain
Died: 1310 AD

Spanish Jewish spiritual leader Shlomo ibn Aderet, also known as the Rabbi of Spain and Rashba, is remembered for his 1305 decree that threatened to excommunicate all Jewish science and philosophy students below 25, except medical students. Many of his responsa, or replies, to enquiries on Jewish law still remain.

 27 
Yehuda Alharizi
1
Birthdate: 1165 AD
Birthplace: Toledo, Spain
Died: 1225 AD

Spanish Jewish rabbi, translator, and poet Yehuda Alharizi was one of the greatest scholars of 13th-century Spain. Fluent in multiple languages, such as French, Greek, and Latin, he also traveled widely across the world. His works include Tahkemoni and translations of Arabic works such as Guide to the Perplexed into Hebrew.

 28 
Joseph Gikatilla
(Spanish Kabbalist)
Joseph Gikatilla
1
Birthdate: 1248 AD
Birthplace: Medinaceli, Spain
Died: 1305 AD

As a student of the Kabbalah, under Abraham Abulafia, at 26, Joseph Gikatilla penned his iconic work Ginnat eʾgoz, which inspired Moses de León, the author of the Zohar. His works showcase a merger of philosophy and mysticism. Shaʿareʾora remains another of his significant works.

 29 
Pedro González, cardinal de Mendoza
1
Birthdate: May 3, 1428
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Guadalajara, Spain
Died: January 11, 1495

Born to a famous poet, Pedro González received an elite education and then served as a bishop and an archbishop, before finally being named cardinal. He helped Henry IV’s half-sister, Isabella, and her husband, Ferdinand, secure the throne after Henry’s death. He was also an art lover and a humanist.

 30 
Bartolomé Carranza
1
Birthdate: 1503 AD
Birthplace: Miranda de Arga, Spain
Died: May 2, 1576

Dominican theologian Bartolomé Carranza had also been the archbishop of Toledo. Known for works such as Summa conciliorum and Quattuor controversiae, he was charged with heresy and imprisoned for almost 17 years during the Spanish Inquisition. He died 18 days after being acquitted due to lack of proof.

 31 
Jonah ibn Janah
1
Birthdate: 0990 AD
Birthplace: Córdoba, Spain
Died: 1055 AD

One of most significant Hebrew grammarians of the 11th century, Jonah ibn Janah was initially a physician but later became a pioneer in the study of the Hebrew syntax. He is remembered for his works al-Mustalha and Kitāb at-tanqiḥ, and for his exegesis of religious texts.

 32 
Luisa Carvajal y Mendoza
0
Birthdate: January 2, 1566
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jaraicejo, Spain
Died: January 2, 1614

Born into an affluent family, Luisa Carvajal y Mendoza, remembered for her mystical poetry, lost her parents as a child. She later took her vows and also established a Jesuit college with the fortune her parents left her. She came under suspicion during the Gunpowder Plot and was imprisoned, too.

 33 
Diego Gelmírez
(Archbishop)
Diego Gelmírez
0
Birthdate: 1069 AD
Birthplace: Catoira, Spain
Died: 1140 AD

Diego Gelmírez had been both the bishop and the archbishop of Santiago de Compostela. He is also remembered as a prominent historiographer of his era. He had major conflicts with Queen Urraca, the Reckless. He transformed Santiago into a pilgrimage site and also arranged a fleet to combat Moorish naval attacks.

 34 
Joseph Kimhi
0
Birthdate: 1105 AD
Birthplace: Spain
Died: 1170 AD

Jewish rabbi, exegete, and grammarian Joseph Kimhi made significant contributions to Hebrew language, along with his sons, Moses and David. His notable works include Sefer ha-zikkaron and Sefer ha-Berit. He also classified Hebrew verbs, dividing them into 10 long and short vowels. He excelled in poetry and translations, too.

 35 
Joseph ibn Shem-Tov
0
Birthplace: Castile, Spain
Died: 1480 AD

Jewish philosopher Joseph ibn Shem-Tov was also the court physician of Castile. He is best known for his attempt to find a middle ground between Aristotelian and Jewish philosophical thoughts, through his works such as Kevod Elohim. He is also remembered for his disputations with Christian scholars.

 36 
Felix
(Bishop)
Felix
0
Birthplace: Spain
Died: 0818 AD

One of the most significant figures of Adoptionism, a form of christology, Felix had been the bishop of Urgell in 8th-century Spain. Most of his works, including the iconic Against the Saracen, were later destroyed or were practically lost. Accused of heresy, he was exiled and later died in Lyon.

 37 
Alfonso de la Cueva, 1st Marquis of Bedmar
(Spanish Diplomat, Bishop and Roman Catholic Cardinal)
Alfonso de la Cueva, 1st Marquis of Bedmar
0
Birthdate: July 25, 1574
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bedmar y Garcíez, Spain
Died: August 10, 1655

Spanish diplomat and Roman Catholic cardinal Alfonso de la Cueva, 1st Marquis of Bedmar had initially followed in his father’s footsteps, to step into a military career. He later became an ambassador to Venice, but was caught amid Venice’s plan to counter Spain’s growing influence and left Venice.