In Francoist Spain, if I understand correctly, the Roman Catholic Church had significant authority over many religious aspects of life, including marriage. On Wikipedia, I read:

Civil marriages that had taken place in Republican Spain were declared null and void unless they had been validated by the Church. (source)

This makes it sound like the Church had some sort of "final say" with respect to marriages. Based on this, I think it's a fair assumption that this validation would also have had to occur on any marriages between non-Catholics that took place during Franco's rule. But it's not clear to me what that process would have been.

Thus, my question: what was required for non-Catholics to marry in Francoist Spain? Imagine, for example, that two Protestants want to marry in Spain in 1950. What were the high-level steps that they needed to take, particularly with respect to the Roman Catholic Church, to get married? Did it make a difference if one or both were not citizens of Spain? Was there significant monetary cost or time required to complete the process?

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    Short answer insofar as I'm aware: the State wouldn't recognize their union since it wasn't sanctioned by the Catholic church. Relevant reading in case no one answers with the administrative intricacies: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism_in_Spain en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glorious_Revolution_(Spain) Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 22:12
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    Adding to this in case you're interested in other places where the Church is still very influential, also check out Malta (where divorce was illegal until 2011, though with a surprising subsequent catch-up with the rest of Western Europe since - except on abortion) and the Philippines (the only country in the world besides the Vatican where divorce is still illegal). Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 22:25
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    Anecdotally, my understanding is that if you were politically connected in Franco's Spain, you could get the church to put its imprimatur on whatever you wanted to do. I know someone whose father was connected to the regime, and the father dumped the mother of his children in order to marry his young girlfriend. The church granted an annulment and carried out the new marriage.
    – user2848
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


what was required for non-Catholics to marry in Francoist Spain? Imagine, for example, that two Protestants want to marry in Spain in 1950

Short answer for 1950: they needed an affidavit expressing that they were not born catholic or the testimony of a protestant priest recognized as such by the Spanish State.

Long answer for the whole of the Francoist period (1936-1977):

1- 1870-1931. Legislation existed from the time of the parliamentary monarchy in Spain that gave legality to civil marriage "outside of Catholicism"

This law established that Catholics should marry within the Catholic Church, and that in all other cases (protestants, muslims, mixed marriages), the contracting parties should make a statement not to be Catholic. No further tests were required.

2- 1931-1939. This legislation was greatly expanded during the 2nd Spanish Republic (1931-1939) giving full freedom to civil marriage.

3- 1938-1941. The Francoist government at first recovered the legislation of the monarchy. He did this very early, in 1938, before the end of the Civil War in 1939. In theory, the Francoist "Bill of rights" aknowledged marriage as a fundamental right for every religion.

But the civil marriages contracted during the Republic only were valid if the contracting parties were not Catholics. If the spouses were Catholics, they were obliged to remarry within the Catholic Church, but the effects of marriage were retroactive ("sanatio in radice", according to the Canonical Code of 1917, a Vatican, not Spanish law). In fact, civil marriages inherited from the Republic had many practical problems, too long to fully detail here.

4- 1941-1951. Later, in 1941, the law was hardened. Civil marriage became a system of last resort, if not second class, and the contracting parties had to prove that they were not Catholics with the testimony of a Muslim or Protestant priest or other type of evidence that could be very difficult in the case of exotic religions. Atheism was not accepted as a motive for civil marriage. Not having been baptized as catholic was accepted: the declarant had to make an affidavit and the consequences if it was discovered that he lied could be serious.

5- 1951-1967. The law was further tightened in 1951 by the signing of the Concordat with the Catholic Church. Since then, only the Catholic Church could prove that you were not Catholic. If it took time to provide the evidence, you had to wait. The Church's willingness to help non-Catholics to marry was not always great. In practice Muslim marriages were protected by the state and had no problems if people to marry were both born Muslims.

6- 1967-1977. In 1965 the Catholic Church became much more liberal with the Second Vatican Council, and this was reflected in a Spanish law of 1967. Since then, a declaration of not being Catholic was enough.

Franco died in 1975. Civil marriage did not have full equality in Spain until 1977.

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    This is great! One question – do you happen to have resources that you could point to as references for this? Even if they're in Spanish, that'd be quite helpful. Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 12:03
  • I'm afraid they will be compulsorily in spanish. :-) May be I can't give you complete references "on line", because I knew all them well before the Internet, from "old style books". But I think this is a good summary for most of the issues: infocatolica.com/blog/matermagistra.php/…
    – Ginasius
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 16:07
  • Thanks, that link is definitely helpful! Referencing the "old-style books" is okay too, because not only can they sometimes be accessed through a library, more and more of them can be previewed on Google Books. Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 19:13
  • The 1977 film es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasta_que_el_matrimonio_nos_separe dealt with the subject. If the film was right (and I think it was), the declaration of not being a Catholic as a certificate of apostasy, which actually meant stopping being a Catholic for all purposes. In fact, it means asking the church to be stripped from the rolls of the baptised. And for some believers, that was understood as eternal damnation in Hell.
    – Pere
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 19:40

Firstly, the Catholic Church does not have jurisdiction over non-Catholics/non-members. In reference to 1917 Code of Canon Law canon #196, which was in force during Franco's reign, canonist Miaskiewicz says, in Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209, Article 1. "Jurisdiction", §A. Definition, p. 9 (my emphasis):

And the ultimate purpose of this power of jurisdiction is the salvation of the subjects who are members of Christ’s Church on earth. In a word, as canon 196 states, the power of jurisdiction denotes the whole power of ruling, i.e., the potestas regiminis, which is present in the Church as a juridically perfect society. … Jurisdictional power has a more social purpose in view, i.e., to rule the actions of the members of a community.

Secondly, the Statute Law of the Spanish People (Fuero de los Españoles) of 17th July 1945 tolerated non-Catholic religions (although reserving the right to suppress their public expression):

Article Six. The profession and practice of the Catholic religion, which is the religion of the Spanish State, shall enjoy official support. The State shall assume the responsibility of protecting religious freedom, which shall be guaranteed by an efficacious juridical machinery, which, at the same time, shall safeguard morals and public order.

And it highly valued marriage and the family:

Article Twenty-two. The State recognizes and protects the family as a natural institution and the foundation of society, with rights and duties anterior and superior to every positive human law. Matrimony shall be indissoluble. The State shall give special assistance to large families.

It makes no distinction between Catholic and non-Catholic marriage; thus, all citizens, regardless their religion, had to go through the same process for the State recognize their marriages.

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    This is rather unsatisfying as it seems like a theoretical look at what should have been but doesn't actually include any historical evidence that this is t he way it actually was on the ground at the time — nor does it it answer the whole question about what non Catholics would have needed to actually do.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 7:05
  • ..in fact, this could be read, if the reader so chose, to mean any Christian, including a protestant, is under the authority of the Catholic Church (who would presumably require membership in good standing in order to perform a wedding).
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 14:01
  • @T.E.D. Protestants, although baptized, are not members of the Church. As St. Paul wrote (1 Cor. 5:12): "For what have I to do to judge them that are without?" (viz., jurisdiction does not extend to non-members, those outside the Church).
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 15:34
  • @Caleb As I've added to my answer, Spain made no distinction between Catholic and non-Catholic marriage. Thus, all Spanish citizens had to go through the same process for the State to recognize their marriages.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 18:09

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