reorganisation to create parishes in accord with the size of local populations and recommended that in non-Spanish-speaking areas, such as Catalonia and the Basque Provinces, parish priests should be fluent in the language of their parishioners.4 At least until the mid-nineteenth century, liberals believed that their task was to carry out a broad programme of ecclesiastical reform. There was no question of papal participation in the process, nor were the clergy consulted, save for a small clerical minority disposed to co-operate with the authorities.
The commitment of bishops and priests to a return to absolutism, expressed in Spain by support for King Ferdinand VII between 1814 and 1820 and 1823 and 1833, and in Portugal for King Miguel between 1828 and 1834, left a legacy of mistrust and suspicion towards the church that quickly surfaced following the death of Ferdinand VII (1833) and the exile of Miguel (1834) after years of civil war. Portuguese liberals acted even before defeating absolutists on the mainland by suppressing friaries and monasteries in the Azores in 1832.5 In 1834, the government of Queen Maria II (1833-53) ordered a general dissolution of the male regulars and the appropriation of their property by the state for eventual sale. Spanish legislation (1835-6) under the ministry of Juan Alvarez Mendizabal visited the same fate upon that country's male religious, while ordering the sale of their property for the benefit of the public treasury.6 In both countries, the female orders survived, although legislation prohibiting the reception of new entrants sought to assure their eventual disappearance.
The closure of about 2,000 monasteries and friaries in Spain and 448 in Portugal undermined a centuries-old clerical infrastructure. At the time of dissolution, the orders were scarcely models of religious vitality. For years, even under absolute monarchy, critics accused them of failing to observe the austerity and discipline intended by their founders. Liberal reformers shared these concerns and argued that the number of religious was far in excess of that required to meet pastoral needs. Liberal hostility towards the regulars rested also on economic grounds. Monasteries and friaries, declared the Spanish disentailment decree of 1835, were 'useless and unnecessary... for the spiritual
4 Proyecto de decreto de nueva demarcación de parroquias y dotación de párrocos (Madrid, 1821), pp. 115-22.
5 There were precedents for the suppression of the regulars and the sale of their property. Following the liberal revolutions of 1820 in Spain and Portugal, a partial suppression and disentailment was carried out in each country, although the process was reversed in 1823. Rueda and Siliveira, 'Dos experiencias: España y Portugal', pp. 20-1.
6 Almeida, HistiriadalgrejaemPortugal, vol. 111, pp. 133-4; Simon Segura, La desamortización española, pp. 84-9.
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