Wednesday, December 7

The Church sold a monastery whose ownership since 1906 claims a family from Ourense

The history of the Santa Comba de Naves monastery, whose origin dates back to at least the year 888, took an abrupt turn in the 19th century. Uncertain liberal winds were blowing and the successive confiscations questioned the enormous properties of the Church in Spain. It was the case. The place, in a parish of the now Concello de Ourense, was left abandoned. Until, in 1906 and by auction, the great-great-grandfather of Artur Iglesias took him for 9,200 reais (2,300 pesetas, less than 14 euros at the time), according to a purchase document to which this newspaper has had access. The Iglesias family is now litigating with its current owner, who acquired it in 2015. The sellers? The Diocese of Ourense, which registered it that same year, only 15 days after assuring the Galician Government that it was not theirs.

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Santa Comba de Naves is located on a slope that falls towards the Miño River. It belongs to the parish of San Mamede de Palmés, today the Concello de Ourense but before Canedo, a municipality that disappeared in 1943 when it merged with the provincial capital. The farm in dispute – there will be a trial on November 15 – occupies 9,550 square meters and houses the ruins of a Benedictine monastery. Since the confiscation process, which the Bishopric of Ourense itself dates back to 1835, there has been no activity in it and vegetation has invaded its magnificent stonework. The Hispania Nostra association has included it in its Red Heritage List. “My great-great-grandfather kept the property in 1906. We have a cadastral verification file and receipts for the contribution paid,” explains Artur Iglesias to this newspaper.

That man, Manuel Crespo Losada, a stonemason by profession, died in 1936. “The land with the buildings on it appears in the papers of the heirs,” says Iglesias. But before that, Crespo Losada had removed carts made of stone, tiles, wood and iron from Santa Comba de Naves to use them in nearby constructions, according to a chronicle of the Lighthouse of Vigo published in January 2016. It was then, more than six years ago, when the operation that will now be settled in the court of First Instance number 1 of Ourense transcended. It was not, however, the first time that the Church tried to sell the monastery despite the documents that support the ownership of the Iglesias.

The Church denies its property 15 days before selling it

In February 1992 the Diocese had already tried. Artur’s grandfather, Artemio Iglesias, took the papers to the bishopric and he backed down. The Lighthouse of Vigo He collected it under the following headline: “The true owners of the Santa Comba de Naves monastery appear”. In 2015 the same did not happen. An informative note from the Property Registry of January 18, 2016 that has been consulted by works as a summary: the plot located in San Mamede de Palmés, whose ownership is of the Diocese of Ourense since April 30, 2015 , was sold to Román Blanco Reinosa, senior banking executive, on December 22 of that same year.

Contacted by, the Diocese of Ourense did not want to explain. “The advisers have told us to wait for the trial to pass,” says a spokeswoman. But more documents in the hands of Artur Iglesias underpin the strangeness of the ecclesiastical registration in the Property Registry. To a request for the state of the property sent by the General Directorate of Heritage of the Xunta de Galicia on April 15, 2015, the bishopric replied that “it was not property of the Diocese of Ourense and therefore the Diocese is not responsible of the abandonment or of the undergrowth that you ask to be cleaned”. Only two weeks later it appeared registered in his name.

That same document stated that, after disentailment in 1835, and “since it was not a church for parish use”, it had been sold “at auction, acquired by individuals who would have left it in their wills to their successors or sold to other individuals”. But the most striking thing is that barely four months after that communication, the Bishopric insisted, this time in response to the City Council that demanded “measures to respect the integrity of Santa Comba da Naves”, that it was not aware “that the good that you indicate is the property of the Diocese.” “We must notify you that such a good does not appear inventoried in our file,” he said. It was August 2015 and, according to the Property Registry, Santa Comba de Naves and its considerable plot (9,550 square meters) had been listed as belonging to the Diocese of Ourense since April 30. That he transferred it, prior sale, to Román Blanco on December 22.

The Aznar law and registrations

Between 1998 and 2015, supported by a law of the first Government of José María Aznar, the Spanish Church registered 34,961 goods (20,014 for worship and 14,947 for other uses). Santa Comba de Naves appears in it, as the Rectoral House of Palmés. The current Coalition Executive between PSOE and United We Can negotiated with the institution and it admitted that 965 of those properties did not belong to it. And that he had sold 122 homes and farms that he improperly put in his name. The Church does not admit that Santa Comba de Naves is one of them.

Artur Iglesias tells this newspaper how in January 2016, the new owner met with the residents of Palmés at the local neighborhood association accompanied by a member of the Bishopric. There he explained his plans for the site: to rehabilitate the chapel and “the San Benito cult” and “in the medium term, a singular tourist project”, according to what was collected on the 20th of that month by the Lighthouse of Vigo. At that meeting, says Iglesias, the family that claims the property based on the 1906 auction also showed up. “They only told us that the sale was already made and that we only had the option of seeing each other in court,” he says. The Bishopric even called the neighborhood directive to a chapter four days later for having invited the now complainants. They filed the lawsuit in 2021, once they obtained the aforementioned papers in which the Diocese of Ourense states that the property is not theirs and the Government published the list of ecclesiastical registrations. The trial will be on November 15. Nothing has been known about Blanco Reinosa’s project.