Monday, July 8, 2013


Had power over Spain, parts of Italy, the Low Lands, Austria, Bohemia and Moravia

We are accustomed in our islands to speaking about Spanish governors, Spanish priests, Spanish soldiers, Spanish settlers.

Spaniards certainly did come here, in all those capacities.  But "Spain" was a vast empire.  When Spain ruled the Marianas in the late 1600s and in the early 1700s, the territory controlled by the Spanish king included parts of what is now Belgium, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic (besides all its colonies in the Americas and the Philippines).

This is because through marriages and inheritance, the same royal family that ruled Spain ruled these other areas of Europe.  That family was the House of Habsburg.

This map shows you in green the areas of Europe ruled by that House at one time :

If you look at the area pointed to by the large black arrow, you're looking at an area that was largely German in orientation.  Some parts, like Austria, were truly German in race and language.  Other areas, like Moravia and Bohemia (today the Czech Republic) were a mix of German and Slavic peoples. 

So when the Spanish Jesuits sent missionaries to the Marianas, they opened the door to Jesuit priests from these areas as well.  The Marianas had priests from what is now Belgium and southern Italy.  But a good number of these non-Spanish missionaries were also German; not from what is today called the country of Germany, but people who were German in race and/or language.

Some of these German Jesuits on Guam came at the very beginning, like :

Father Augustine Strobach, who was from Moravia (modern-day Czech Republic).  He was killed by Chamorro opponents of the Catholic mission in Tinian in the year 1684.

There was also Father Karl von Boranga.  He was from Vienna, Austria.  He, too, was killed by some Chamorros, in Rota, also in the year 1684.

Not all were killed.  Father John Tilpe was a priest on Guam in the 1690s.

Another was Father Matthias Kuklein, also here in the 1690s.  He went by a Spanish form of his last name - Cuculino.  That's how some people did it back then.  When they worked among a different language group, they changed their names to fit in with the new group.

A Father Victor Walter worked on Guam but in 1731 went with another Jesuit to try and establish a Catholic mission in the Carolines.   They didn't succeed; the other Jesuit was killed and Walter returned to Guam.

German Jesuits continued to work in the Marianas till the very end.

The last group of Jesuits to work on Guam before they were all expelled in 1769 by the King of Spain included two Germans :

Fathers Francis Stengel and Francis Reitemberg.

When Guam was separated in 1899 from the rest of the Marianas, which went to Germany, the German Capuchins in Saipan tried to place German priests on Guam in the 1900s.

The American Naval Government, the leaders of the Chamorro community on Guam and, to a little extent, the Spanish Capuchins on Guam, all opposed it.

The Chamorro leaders said, "We don't know the German people, language or customs!  We know the Spanish!"

But the German Capuchins tried to convince the Guam Chamorros, "But your very own founder and martyr, Sanvitores, had German priests working with him.  German priests used to work in your islands for many years!"

It didn't work.  German priests were never allowed to work on Guam under the American flag.

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