Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918


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The Law of 1933 Respecting Religious Bodies (Extracts)



The present law relating to religious bodies and associations, issued in execution of articles 26 and 27 of the constitution of the Spanish Republic, will govern this matter throughout Spanish territory, and any further measure on the subject, whether by decree or by regulation, shall conform strictly to this law.


In accordance with the constitution, liberty of conscience, the practice of religious activities and abstention therefrom are guaranteed in Spain.

Without prejudice to the provisions of articles 70 and 87 of the constitution, no privilege or restriction of rights may be based on a person’s religious condition or beliefs.


The State has no official religion. All religious bodies may hold their services freely within their churches. For religious worship outside churches special Government permission is required in every case.

Religious meetings and demonstrations, wherever they may be held, may not have a political character.

The signs, notices, announcements or emblems on buildings destined for worship will be subject to general police rules.

. . . . .


Religious bodies shall appoint freely all ministers, administrators and incumbents of ecclesiastical posts and functions, who must be Spaniards.

Notwithstanding the provision contained in the foregoing paragraph, the State reserves the right not to recognize in their functions persons appointed in virtue of the foregoing provision, when the appointments devolve on persons who might be dangerous to the order or security of the State.

. . . . .


Any alteration in the territorial boundaries of the Catholic Church must be brought to the knowledge of the Government before it is carried into effect.

Other religious bodies shall be obliged to communicate to the Government the boundaries which they propose to establish, or have established, in Spain, as well as the alterations thereof, in accordance with the terms of the foregoing paragraph.


In accordance with the provisions of article 26 of the constitution, the State, the Regions, the provinces and the municipalities may not support, favor or assist economically churches or religious bodies and institutions.


The following compose national public property: churches of all kinds with attached buildings; episcopal palaces and rectories, with or without adjoining gardens; seminaries, monasteries and other buildings destined to the service of the Catholic religion or of its ministers. The same shall apply to the furniture, ornaments, images, pictures, vessels, jewels, cloths and other objects of this nature placed in such buildings and destined expressly and permanently to Catholic worship, to its embellishment or to needs connected with it.

The objects mentioned in the foregoing paragraph and the rights connected with them are under the protection of the State as the juridical personification of the nation to whom they belong, and they are subject to the provisions of the following articles.


The objects and rights referred to in the foregoing article will continue to be destined to the same religious purpose of Catholic worship, and to this end will remain in the possession of the Catholic Church for preservation, administration and use, according to their nature and purpose. The Church may not dispose of them and shall only employ them for the purpose to which they are assigned.

The State alone, for justified reasons of public necessity, and by virtue of a special law, may dispose of such property for purposes other than those specified in the foregoing paragraph.

The buildings attached to churches, episcopal palaces and rectories, with or without adjoining gardens, seminaries and other buildings destined for the use of ministers of the Catholic faith, will be subject to the taxation inherent in the use of the same.


Pending the enactment of the special law contemplated, the objects referred to in the foregoing articles shall be inalienable and imprescriptible, and no rights may be created in regard to them other than those compatible with their purpose and condition.

. . . . .


Property acquired by the Catholic Church after the promulgation of the present law, and that of other religious bodies, will have the character of private property, within the limitations of the present article.

The Catholic Church, its institutions and entities, as well as the other religious bodies, are recognised as having power to acquire and possess movable property of any kind.

They may also acquire, by any title, immovable estate and real rights, but may only retain them up to the amount necessary for religious service. Estates exceeding such requirements will be alienated and the proceeds invested in Spanish State bonds.

In like manner must be alienated, and the proceeds invested in the same way, movable property producing interest or income, or sharing in profit of industrial or mercantile concerns.

By means of a law the State may restrict the acquistion by religious bodies of any kind of property in excess of the normal requirements of religious services.


The Churches may found and direct establishments destined for the teachings of their respective doctrines and the preparation of their ministers.

State inspection will ensure that within these establishments no doctrines are taught which threaten the security of the Republic.


All private charitable institutions and trusts of which the management, direction or administration belongs to religious authorities, corporations, institutions or juridical persons, are obliged, if they were not previously obliged, to send within the period of one year an inventory of all their property, securities and objects, as well as to render an annual account to the Ministry of the Interior of the state of their property and the management of their finances even though by their charter they may have been exempted from rendering such account. . . .

. . . . .


The religious orders and congregations allowed in Spain in accordance with article 26 of the constitution may not engage in any political activities whatsoever.

The infringement of this provision, should such activities constitute a danger to the security of the State, will justify the closing by the Government, as a preventive measure, of all or some of the establishments belonging to the religious society which might be accused. The Cortes will decide, according to circumstances, as to the definitive closing of the establishment or the dissolution of the religious institution.


Religious orders and congregations are subject to the present law and to the general legislation.

For their legal existence inscription in the public register is essential, in accordance with the provisions of the following article.


For the purposes of this inscription orders and congregations shall present to the competent special registry at the Ministry of Justice within a maximum period of 3 months:—

(a) Two copies of their statutes, stating the form of management, both as regards canonical provinces or assimilated monastic groupings, and houses, or residences or other local entities.

(b) A certificate as to the objects to which the religious institution concerned is dedicated and the house or residence for the inscription of which application is made.

(c) A certificate issued by the property registry stating what buildings are occupied by the community; these must be owned by Spaniards and may not be encumbered or transferred in favour of foreigners.

(d) A statement of all the real property, securities and precious objects owned by them directly or through an intermediary.

(e) The Christian names and surnames of the provincial and local superiors, who must be of Spanish nationality.

(f) A return of the Christian names and surnames and condition of their members, stating which hold administrative or representative posts. At least two thirds of the members of an order or congregation must be of Spanish nationality.

(g) A return of the property brought to the community by each of its members.

The Ministry of Justice shall be informed within 60 days of any alterations in the above returns.

. . . . .


Religious orders and congregations may not engage in commerce, industry or agricultural exploitation on their own account or through an intermediary.


Religious orders and congregations may not devote themselves to teaching.

Such teaching as may be organized for the preparation of their own members shall not be understood as included in this prohibition.

State inspection will guard against the creation or maintenance by religious orders and congregations, either directly or by taking advantage of a third lay party, of private teaching establishments.


Before the admission of any person to an order or congregation, the amount and nature of the property brought or transferred for administration shall be authentically recorded.

The state will assist any member of an order or congregation who wishes to retire therefrom, notwithstanding the vow or promise made to the contrary. The order or congregation will be obliged to restore to such person any property brought or transfered to the order or congregation after deduction of the property exhausted by use.

The two following are the sole transitory or additional provisions for the execution of the present law:—

(a) The Government shall fix the time-limit, which may not exceed one year from the publication of the present law, during which religious orders and congregations engaged in typical industries or having introduced innovations which imply a source of wealth, must cease from such activities.

(b) Teaching by religious orders and congregations will cease on the 1st October next, with the exception of primary education, which will cease on the 31st December next. The Government will adopt the measures necessary for the substitution of both grades of teaching within the time-limits mentioned.

Wherefore I order, &c.



Minister for Justice.

Madrid, June 2, 1933.

8 Great Britain, Foreign Office, British and Foreign State Papers 1933, vol. CXXXVI, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1938, pp. 822–830; original text in Spain, Colección Legislativa de España, April-June 1933, Ser. 1, Pt. 1, pp. 463 ff. Reprinted by permission of the Controller of His Britannic Majesty’s Stationery Office.


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Chicago: "The Law of 1933 Respecting Religious Bodies (Extracts)," Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918 in Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, ed. Walter Consuelo Langsam and James Michael Egan (Chicage: Lippincott, 1951), 615–620. Original Sources, accessed August 8, 2022,

MLA: . "The Law of 1933 Respecting Religious Bodies (Extracts)." Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, in Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, edited by Walter Consuelo Langsam and James Michael Egan, Chicage, Lippincott, 1951, pp. 615–620. Original Sources. 8 Aug. 2022.

Harvard: , 'The Law of 1933 Respecting Religious Bodies (Extracts)' in Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918. cited in 1951, Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, ed. , Lippincott, Chicage, pp.615–620. Original Sources, retrieved 8 August 2022, from