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From the Stars and Stripes archives

Modern monument to St. Peter

By THURSTON MACAULEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 8, 1961

AIR FORCE FAMILIES living at their hilltop housing area of Royal Oaks North of Madrid look out at night and see a large lighted cross, apparently suspended in midair.

The cross is on top of the slim, 200-foot tower of one of the most modern and unusually designed churches in Spain, the Church of St. Peter the Martyr, part of a Dominican theological seminary that opened in 1958.

Many Americans, among them Catholic Chaplain (Maj) William L. Travers, visit the seminary church, which was blessed Dec. 11, 1959.

The particularly unique thing about the church, which was designed by a 47-yearold Spanish architect, Don Miguel Fisat, is that it is built in the form of an hourglass with a granite altar in the narrow middle section.

Students sit on the far side of the altar, visitors on the other. Though not a parish church, outside worshipers are welcome.

A good friend of the Americans who come is Father Santos Galinda, who teaches English in the seminary and conducts Sunday Catholic Mass at Royal Oaks. Father Galinda spent some years in New Orleans.

Hanging on wires from the high ceiling and suspended above the altar is a 300pound bronze crucifix, the work of Paulos Serrano.

Light comes into the church from colored glass all around the top of the red brick walls. The glass blends strikingly from one shade to another.

Behind the pews of the seminary students is a huge window about 900 feet square. It is made of pieces of colored glass set into concrete in 216 separate panels. The window was designed by an Austrian, A. C. Winternitz, and built in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In the great colored window, Old Testament scenes are on the left and New Testament ones at right, with figures of the martyrdom of St Peter below.

The separate Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament is as modern as the church itself, with wood carvings above the altar of the Virgin and Child and of St. Dominic founder of the Dominican Order, and an ivory crucifix from China.

No women visitors are permitted within the equally modernistic seminary, which even has its own FM radio station and a 150-seat theater.

All day long, especially on Sunday, many cars turn off the main San Sebastian road to see the church, which is only about five miles north of Madrid. Americans who ask for Father Galinda are given a warm and friendly welcome. It is well worth a visit.
 

Father Santos Galinda at the Church of St. Peter the Martyr in Spain.
MERLE HUNTER/STARS AND STRIPES

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