Fray Leopoldo de Alpandeire (1864 – 1956), Capuchin monk, was born in the town of Alpandeire (Málaga). The son of humble peasants, he entered a convent in Seville for the first time in 1899.
In 1914 he settled permanently in Granada where he lived until his death. In these years he is dedicated, above all, to begging in all corners of the city. He was very loved by the people of Granada, although he also had to live the difficult times, of strong anti-clericalism, of the Second Republic and the Civil War.
Finally, he dies at the age of 92 and is beatified in 2010 by order of Pope Benedict XVI.
Life of Fray Leopoldo de Alpandeire
What were the origins of it?
Fray Leopoldo was born on June 24, 1864 in Alpandeire (Málaga), municipality of the Serranía de Ronda, with the name of Francisco Tomás de San Juan Bautista. He was the first of four children of the marriage formed by Diego Márquez Ayala and Jerónima Sánchez Jiménez, humble peasants and devout Christians.
According to the testimony of his neighbors, Francisco Tomás was a happy child, a good companion, a good worker and a great devotee. His parents instilled in her his deep Catholic faith. From his youth he already began to value poverty as an expression of interior life, he shared food with the poorest and led an exemplary life from the religious point of view.
How were his beginnings in religious life?
His father rented some land in Ronda and it was there that Francisco Tomás in 1884, after attending a beatification, when he decided to take up religious life and become a Capuchin monk (observant Franciscan monks). Still, he had to wait a few years.
Finally, and after a few months as a postulant, he managed to enter a convent in Seville in 1899, he became a novice, received the habit and renamed him Leopoldo de Alpandeire.
However, his life does not change radically when he becomes a Capuchin, it only means a change in his inner perfection, since he continued working in the garden, praying and rendering generous service to the poor.
After completing his novitiate and making his first profession, he lived for a short time in different convents in Seville, Granada and Antequera. In the fall of 1903 he was assigned for the first time to a convent in Granada, where he worked as a gardener, lived in absolute retirement and received solemn vows from him, which meant his definitive consecration to God.
How was his life in the city of Granada?
After spending short periods in convents of Seville and Antequera, he definitively returned to the city of Granada in 1914 where he would remain for more than fifty years until his death. During this stage he was a gardener, a sacristan and a beggar. It would be the latter that would characterize it. He ended up in the middle of the streets of the city of the Alhambra walking everywhere, among the noise of its streets, people and transport, in the style of San Francisco. He became very popular, as he approached children to explain the catechism to them and to the elderly to talk about daily problems and dramas. The people of Granada came to adapt his name to the dialect of the area, they said: “Here comes Fray Nipordo.”
He went through the same routine for over fifty years as if it were the first day. However, not everything was rosy, since during these years he had a strong period of social upheaval and anti-clericalism. Those were the years of the Second Republic and the Civil War, years in which he received numerous insults and threats: “lazy”, “vagabond”, “Work instead of asking” or “We are going to cut your neck”. Fray Leopoldo, answered using the words Jesus Christ: “Forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”
What features of his personality and physique can we highlight?
As traits of his personality, we can say that his contemporaries spoke of him as a charming, natural, discreet, humble, sincere, reserved and modest person. From his physique, it can be said that he was of short stature, but of strong and vigorous constitution; a clear forehead, many wrinkles that characterized his last years, and above all a large and bushy white beard.
How were his last moments and his beatification?
At the age of 89 he suffered a fall down the stairs and broke his femur. After being admitted to a clinic, he returned to the convent and walked with the help of two sticks, but unfortunately he could no longer go outside, dedicating his last years to God and prayer. Finally, he died three years later, in 1956, at the age of 92. His death caused a commotion and the people of Granada attended a massive funeral in droves.
His holiness grew after his death, so that every 9th of every month, a large number of people visit his grave. Years later, in 2010, he is beatified in Granada by decree of Pope Benedict XVI.
What can we see of Fray Leopoldo in his hometown of Alpandeire?
In Alpandeire we can visit his birthplace adapted for tourist visits, a monument to his figure and an interpretation center dedicated to his person. It also has the name of a street, as well as a hiking route, in honor of the path that Fray Leopoldo made when he returned to Alpandeire from Granada by train (Jimera – Alpandeire Station).