Goya's anticlericalism

In his opprobrium of the vices and bad habits of the clergy, Goya reveals himself as a true child of his time, a Christian by faith and culture

What a tailor can do! (Caprichos)
In his opprobrium of the vices and bad habits of the clergy, Goya reveals himself as a true child of his time, a Christian by faith and culture. As a result, he limits himself to denouncing the bad faith of those who conceal behind their supposed faith a form of behaviour that goes against the very principles they claim to uphold.

Print C81, which shows a friar with a great show of devotion carrying a processional standard from which his breeches are hanging is an example of Goya's attitude towards clerical vices.

Many drawings have been used as arguments in favour of Goya's anti-clericalism, which are in fact more likely to have been studies in drawing and etching (DH12, DF65, DC57, DC119, DC18, DC131, DC126, DC127, DC129, DC130, DC128)

In other works he showed his appreciation of the work of those priests who had dedicated their lives to study and research. DC30 and DC62 are a homage to the priests who gave Goya his basic education in Saragossa.

Some critics consider Francisco de Goya to be a pictorial pamphleteer. However a totally anti-clerical and anti-religious interpretation of his work does not stand close analysis.

His criticism of religious institutions is, fundamentally, an attack on the customs of the priesthood, especially the monastic establishments. Like other Enlightenment reformists, Goya also condemned the social structure that maintained the status quo. However, at no time did he systematically mock the sacred symbols of Roman Catholicism, the doctrine of the Eucharist or any other key aspect of Christian faith. Thus his criticism can clearly be seen as a reformist response to the excesses of the Church, an attitude that was a far cry from the more virulently anti-clerical beliefs of certain sectors of the European Enlightenment.

Another critique that Goya made of the clergy was of the Inquisition and populist religion, along with his critical depictions of the Church's political role in the years following the War of Independence. But these works go beyond the strictly religious and are better seen as critiques of the social and political nature of the clergy.

See also:


Alcalá Flecha, Roberto. Literatura e ideología en el arte de Goya. Zaragoza: Diputación General de Aragón, 1988.

Francisco Javier García Marco

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