The country’s history and culture have shaped religions in Spain. From Catholicism to Islam and Judaism, Spain houses a plethora of different religions. Spain is known for its deeply rooted religious history, with its cultural identity largely shaped by its major religions. According to the Pew Research Center, Spain boasts one of the lowest levels of religiosity among 34 European countries, ranking in at a mere 16th. Astonishingly few Spaniards take religion as an important factor in their life – with only 3% listing it amongst their top three values compared to the 5% average across Europe.
Religious Beliefs and Spirituality in Spain
For centuries, Roman Catholicism has been the primary religious faith of the Spanish people. It no longer holds any official status under the law in the newly democratic Spain. During the Spanish Civil War, Catholicism suffered greatly due to its association with the regime of Francisco Franco. Franco abolished religious freedom and imposed Catholicism as the official state religion. This practice has been reversed following the country’s transition to democracy. However, it still remains one of the most popular religions in Spain. He also made it illegal for parish priests to hold public office or to receive income tax deductions for their religious duties.
Following Franco’s death, the Spanish Constitution was rewritten and granted freedom of religion to all citizens. In the wake of Spain’s transition from the Franco regime, atheism, agnosticism, and irreligion have become increasingly more entrenched in Spanish culture. However, the roman catholic church remains the largest and most powerful religious entity in Spain, and it still has considerable influence on Spanish society.
What are the main religions in Spain?
While Catholicism is the predominant and official religion, several other significant religions exist in Spain. Islam, for instance, has had an impact on Spanish culture, language, and architecture. Additionally, Spain is home to a small community of Jews, who have lived there for centuries despite facing persecution throughout history. Protestantism is also present in Spain, with a growing number of Spaniards converting to this faith.
Roman Catholicism and Spain
The Catholic Church in Spain has a long and complex history that dates back to the Roman Empire. Although only around a third of Spanish citizens who identify as Catholic are practicing, Catholicism’s influence can be seen nationwide. From holidays and hours of operations to schools and cultural events, it is unmistakable how much impact this religion has on Spain. 71.1% of the Spanish population identifies as Catholics.
The patron saint of Spain is Saint James (San Juan), and each year millions of Spanish Catholics make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in his honor.
With most Spaniards being Roman Catholics, it may be a surprise that there are over 300,000 Muslims in Spain. Dating back to 711 A.D., Moors from northern Africa arrived and ruled for centuries until their eventual departure. To this day, Muslims continue to practice Islam – which is based on teachings associated with Allah (God) and his prophet Muhammad.
Although all Islamic adherents were forced out of Spain after the Reconquista in 1492, Muslim people make up the largest religious minority today. This is mainly due to Spanish colonial expansion into northwestern Africa during the 19th century. As a result, several native inhabitants from Morocco and Western Sahara became full citizens. A study conducted by Unión de Comunidades islámicas de España found that roughly 1.5 million Muslims live in Spain today. The majority are immigrants from Morocco and other African countries. Surprisingly, 30 percent of Islamic followers in Spain were born within the country itself.
In Spain, Protestant denominations comprise the second-largest religious minority at around 120,000. The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities (FEREDE) estimates that 1.5 million Protestants and Evangelicals live in Spain today. There are protestant churches in most provinces and major cities, including Madrid and Barcelona. This group is overwhelmingly concentrated in the country’s northern half, particularly along the Basque Coast, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, Aragón, and Navarra regions.
Coming after them in size are Jehovah’s Witnesses, with just over 105,000 members and Mormons, who number 46,000. The recent influx of immigrants has also been responsible for a surge in adherents to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.
A rising number of individuals identify as Atheists or Agnostics, ranging between 20-22% at present. This shift towards irreligion depends largely on positive socio-economic growth and a greater emphasis on science education. It is particularly prevalent in Western Europe’s cities where citizens boast higher educational achievement and improved economic stability – two factors that appear to influence the trend toward nonbelief in God or gods.
The Jewish community
This is another Spain religious group with deep roots throughout Spanish history. Jews have lived in Spain since the Roman Empire, and their numbers increased exponentially during the Middle Ages as they fled persecution elsewhere in Europe. But like Muslims and Protestants, they were forcibly expelled from the country at the end of the 19th century. After the Reconquista, many Jews were expelled from Spain. However, they could repopulate in the 19th century. Today, approximately 62,000 individuals identify as Jewish in Spain – a mere 0.14% of its population – with about half arriving over the past 100 years. The roots of Judaism’s presence in Spain trace back to medieval times; now 15, 000 adherents live within its borders today.
Other religious faiths, such as Islam and Protestantism, are slowly gaining traction in the country, and same-sex marriage is now legal. Though most Spaniards remain devout Catholics, younger generations tend to be less religious than their predecessors.
Is Spain religiously tolerant?
Unlike many other European countries, religious freedom in contemporary Spain is largely respected and accepted. The Spanish government does not discriminate against any religion or belief system. This means that all citizens enjoy the same rights regardless of their religious affiliation. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 guarantees freedom of religion and states that no religious groups can be established as an official state religion, making Spain one of the most religiously tolerant countries in all of Europe.
Despite this, some issues still surround Spain’s religious identity and practice in the country. Religious services often take place in public schools, and local governments regularly fund religious activities. For example, during Holy Week, religious processions are held in every municipality throughout the country and sponsored by public authorities. Additionally, young people attending public schools often have to attend Mass and other religious activities as part of their curriculum.
A word from SpainDesk
As evidenced by its history and continued influence, religion has played an important part in Spanish culture. Although the country is overwhelmingly Catholic, there are also significant pockets of Muslims, Jews, and atheists throughout the region. It is possible to learn about all aspects of Spanish religiosity through visits to places like Santiago de Compostela, Palma de Mallorca, and Toledo. Each city has its own unique religious heritage and provides insight into how the various religions have interacted over the centuries. The Spanish population also boasts diverse religious beliefs, practices, and identities – from traditional Catholicism to Evangelical entities, Hinduism, Buddhism, and more.