Zwischen Pyrenäen und Mittelmeer: Die Krone Aragon im Mittelalter

Bericht zur Exkursion von Prof. Dr. Nikolas Jaspert (23.09.2021 – 02.10.2021) von Jule Meyer und Silvia Girona

Abstract: In this report Silvia Girona and Jule Meyer present the field trip to the lands of the former Crown of Aragón. Following the traces of this “lost kingdom” through southern France and Spain they pick the most impressive, discuss their particular context and place them in the wider history of the Crown. By providing insight into the area’s rich archives as well, they not only paint a fuller picture of a “not so lost kingdom”, but also encourage further research.

Zusammenfassung: In diesem Beitrag präsentieren Silvia Girona und Jule Meyer die Exkursion in die Gebiete der ehemaligen Krone Aragón. Während sie den Spuren dieses “verlorenen Königreichs” durch Südfrankreich und Spanien folgen, wählen sie die eindrücklichsten aus, diskutieren ihren jeweiligen Kontext und verorten sie in der Geschichte der Krone. Darüber hinaus geben sie Einblick in die reichen Archive der Region und zeichnen so nicht nur ein volleres Bild eines “not so lost kingdom”, sondern regen auch zu weiterer Forschung an.

Die Krone Aragón gehört zu den Königreichen, die Norman Davies zu den „vanished kingdoms“1 zählt. Um sich seine Geschichte dennoch vor Augen zu führen, folgten 19 Studierende und Mitarbeitende des Historischen Seminars der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg unter Leitung von Prof. Dr. Nikolas Jaspert und Yannika Kuhlmann, im Rahmen einer zehntägigen Exkursion seinen Spuren. Im Folgenden wollen wir einige besondere Eindrücke dieser Reise vorstellen.

Schon zu Beginn wurden uns die Ausmaße des einstigen Königreichs bewusst: Nach unserem Aufbruch von der historischen Grenze der Krone Aragón in Montpellier folgten wir den Spuren nach Perpignan, wo wir den im 13. Jahrhundert errichteten Palais des Rois de Majorque besuchten. Im Jahr 1333 wurde der Palast an Peter IV. (1319–1387) übergeben und diente bis zur Herrschaftsübernahme der Trastámara (1412) als Residenz der mallorquinischen Könige.

Klöster und Kirchen sind von besonderer kunst- und kulturhistorischer Bedeutung für die Krone Aragón. Den chronologischen Anfang machten die Klöster San Joan de las Abadesses und Santa Maria de Ripoll, die beide von Wilfried dem Haarigen (†897) gegründet wurden. Beide bestechen durch ihre außergewöhnlich gute Überlieferung, an der sich sowohl das vielfältige Ordensleben als auch die politische Komponente der Herrschaftskonsolidierung nachzeichnen lassen. Im Rahmen der Eroberungen Raimund Berenguers IV. entstanden in der Mitte des 12. Jahrhunderts fast zeitgleich drei Zisterzienserklöster. Das Kloster Santes Creus ist das älteste Kataloniens. Besonders eindrucksvoll ist sein detailliert gestalteter gotischer Kreuzgang. Sowohl Peter III. (1240–1285) als auch sein Sohn Jakob II. (1267–1327) ließen sich dort bestatten. Das Kloster Santa Maria de Poblet entstand 1151 nach einer Schenkung Raimund Berenguers IV. an die Zisterzienser von Fontfroide. Auch dort befinden sich die Grablegen einiger aragonesischer Könige, darunter Alfons II. (1157–1196), Jakob I. (1208–1276) und Peter IV. (1319–1387). Gemeinsam mit dem Nonnenkloster Santa Maria de Vallbona, das wir spontan besuchen durften, bilden diese drei heute die ruta del cister. In der Vall de Boí in den katalanischen Pyrenäen befinden sich neun sehr gut erhaltene romanische Kirchen des 12. Jahrhunderts, die beispielhaft für einen besonders hohen künstlerischen Standard auch in den abgeschiedenen Bereichen des Königreichs stehen. Wir besichtigten dort unter anderem die Kirchen Sant Climent und Santa Maria de Taüll, die in ihrem Inneren einst einzigartige Fresken trugen. Zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts erweckten diese jedoch das Interesse eines amerikanischen Geschäftsmanns, der sie kaufen und in die USA überführen wollte. Dies wurde jedoch verhindert und so gelangten sie in das Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, wo sie bis heute mit weiteren romanischen Fresken der Region ausgestellt werden.

Eine weitere Spur der Krone Aragón im modernen Katalonien, welche beispielhaft für die stetige Neuverwendung von Palast- und Burganlagen steht, ist das Castell de Peñíscola auf der Halbinsel von Peñíscola in der Provinz von Castellón. Ab dem 8. Jahrhundert wurde es im Zuge der muslimischen Eroberung zu einer alcazaba (muslimische Festung) bis die Templer sie im 13. Jahrhundert abrissen und eine neue Burg bauten. Ab 1409 geriet sie unter päpstliche Jurisdiktion und wurde in den nachfolgenden Jahren zur Residenz der Gegenpäpste Benedikt XIII. (= papa luna) und Clemens VIII. Eindrückliche architektonische Spuren der Expansion der Krone Aragón stellen auch die im mudéjar-Stil erbauten Türme von Teruel dar. Denn die Eroberung des Al-Andalus war zwar von Feindseligkeiten geprägt, doch die Geschichte zeichnete sich ebenso durch Kulturaustausch und gegenseitige Beeinflussung in Sprache, Architektur und Kunst aus. Die mudéjares, also iberische Muslime unter christlicher Herrschaft, wirkten bei der Konstruktion der genannten spätmittelalterlichen Türme mit. Ihr Stil ist durch die Verschmelzung christlicher und islamischer Kunst charakterisiert. Neben diesen Phänomenen architektonischer Inkorporation, konnten wir auch solche architektonischer Exklusion beobachten. Zeugnisse davon sind nicht nur die großen Calls von Girona und Barcelona, der zweitgrößten und größten jüdischen Gemeinde der Krone, sondern auch die Mikwe von Besalú, die von nur 20 Familien genutzt wurde.

Im Rahmen der Exkursion war es uns möglich, einige Archive zu besuchen und die Geschichte der Krone Aragón auch anhand ihrer schriftlichen Überlieferungen nachzuvollziehen. Als erstes durften wir einige schriftliche Zeugnisse im Kapitel- und Diözesanarchiv von La Seu d’Urgell kennenlernen. Der Bestand des Kapitelarchivs reicht vom 9. bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, das Diözesanarchiv umspannt die Zeit vom 14. bis 20. Jahrhundert.2 Dort führte uns Benigne Marquès, der Leiter der Archive, durch das Magazin und zeigte uns einige besondere Archivalien aus seinem Bestand, unter anderem den Beatus von Urgell mit seiner eindrucksvollen Darstellung der Apokalypse.

In Barcelona hatten wir die einzigartige Gelegenheit, drei Archive zu besuchen. Im Generalarchiv der Krone von Aragón konnten wir unter anderem einen autographischen Brief des Hofnarren Mossèn Borra (†1446) aus dem Reich begutachten. In der Biblioteca de Catalunya sahen wir ein Hilfsersuchen des Jerusalemer Patriarchen Eraclius aus der Zeit zwischen 1180 und 1187. In drei Urkunden Papst Gregors X. (1271–1276), die bei einem Brand stark beschädigt wurden, zeigte sich eindrucksvoll, wie sich die Spuren der Geschichte auch in der Materialität abzeichnen. Besonders überwältigend war das Kapitelarchiv der Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia. Über das Triforium der Kathedrale gelangten wir zu einem kleinen Archivraum, der noch mit dem Originalmobiliar des 16. Jahrhunderts ausgestattet ist. Das Archiv beheimatet eine Vielzahl von Dokumenten, von denen uns die Mitarbeiter des Archivs Codices, Urkunden und kurz zuvor entdeckte Zeichnungen zeigten.

So weit sich der Herrschaftsbereich der Krone im Mittelalter streckte, so vielschichtig waren auch die Themenbereiche der Exkursion. Dank der großartigen Organisation konnten wir den Einflussbereich der Krone Aragón geographisch wie auch architektonisch und sozialhistorisch nachvollziehen. Nach erkenntnisreichen zehn Tagen auf den Spuren der Krone Aragón trennten sich unsere Wege schließlich in Barcelona. Aber die umfangreichen Archive Kataloniens lassen uns hoffen, dass bald weitere Spuren des „vanished kingdom“ ans Licht gebracht werden.


Photo: © Jule Meyer. (Innenausstattung des Kapitelarchivs der Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia)

  1. Davies, Norman, Vanished Kingdoms. The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, London et al. 2011. []
  2. Arxiu Capitular i Diocesà d’Urgell, Fons Documental, in: URL: https://arxiubisbaturgell.wordpress.com/fons-documental/. []

“[multum] aliud importat” – Venetians, Catalans and Maritime Predators

Laurin Herberich, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Abstract: At the beginning of the fifteenth century Catalan seafarers were well-known for their ruthless predatorial activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. But when it came to bringing maritime predators to justice, the Republic of Venice wasn’t of the faint hearted either. Because the Serenissima could quite literally not afford to lose face, restitution and extradition were demanded no matter the context of the individual case. In this preliminary case study PhD student Laurin Herberich shows with the help of two hitherto unconsidered incidents of maritime predation in the waters of Rhodes that our current understanding of the phenomenon of medieval maritime predation is lacking on an empirical level. He therefore suggests corpora of source material and a not only technologically, but also methodically new approach for their time-efficient exploitation.

Zusammenfassung: Zu Beginn des 15. Jahrhunderts waren katalanische Seefahrer für ihre kaltschnäuzigen räuberischen Aktivitäten im östlichen Mittelmeerraum bekannt. Aber wenn es darum ging, Seeräuber zur Rechenschaft zu ziehen, war auch die Republik Venedig nicht zimperlich. Denn einen Gesichtsverlust konnte sich die Serenissima im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes nicht leisten. Rückerstattung und Auslieferung wurden daher ohne Rücksicht auf den Kontext der einzelnen Fälle eingefordert. Mit dieser im Rahmen seines Dissertationsprojektes entstandenen Fallstudie zeigt Laurin Herberich anhand zweier bisher unbeachteter Fälle von Seeraub in rhodischen Gewässern, dass das Phänomen „mittelalterlicher Seeraub“ nicht ausreichend empirisch erforscht ist. Um dem Abhilfe zu leisten, werden anschließend Quellencorpora und schließlich ein nicht nur technologisch, sondern auch methodisch neuer Ansatz ihrer zeitökonomischen Erschließung vorgeschlagen.

Nihil aliud importat nisi […] omnes male dispositos cum bonis aliorum ad terram suam se reducere!”1 this was the reason the Venetian senate gave for the similar consequences two men ought to bear for their predatory behaviour at sea, when it sent its envoy Bartholomeo Storlato on a diplomatic mission to Rhodes in August 1423. The “robbers” should be extradited and their “loot” restituted. But were there, apart from the category of their crime, any other similarities between the two incidents that would legitimise those consequences? A closer look at the protocol of the senate session provides the different micro contexts Bartholomeo had to ignore:

The first maritime predator, a transport operator of unkown origin by the name of Clarius Archangelus, left Alexandria a year and a half earlier with his cargo bound for the port supposedly agreed upon with his Venetian employers. But he had headed for Rhodes instead. To the surprise of the senate Clarius gained the protection of the Knights of Saint John by referring to a letter of protection from the order, called “fidantia”. Since then Clarius had refused the restitution of the stolen cargo and the order his extradition already once. Now it was Bartholomeo’s job to demand both for the second time. For in spite of the heat the order was willing to take for Clarius, the senate speculated that both wanted to profit off Venice’s loss.2 The protocol even muses “cum quanta inhonestate possunt […] allegare […] fidantiam […] Clario factam”.3

The second man, a Catalan seafarer called Moysius, had, according to the senate, robbed Venetian merchants roughly a month ago in Rhodes harbour. Despite of him and his crew even trading with what were quite probably stolen goods right after the incident, the Grandmaster had refused to help his Venetian prey. Because the Serenissima couldn’t accept such disrespect, Bartholomeo was to demand restitution and the extradition of Moysius from the order.4 Even though Venice didn’t intend to let the Hospitallers off the hook easily, by the end of December 1423 the envoy made the order a tempting and ultimately successful offer: Because a settlement in favour of either party would have had positive consequences for the Catalans only, both would fare better by demanding restitution from their overlords, the Crown of Aragon: “potius erimus contenti […] satisfactionem habere a catellanis, quam a conventu suo.”5

Apart from the category of their crime being maritime predation both men were very different indeed. Why this one similarity was enough to cause identical demands for restitution and extradition can be answered looking at the macro context: In the year 1423 Venice had a firm grip on the trade routes and economic spheres of the eastern Mediterranean through her stato da mar.6 The trade volume occupied by her hegemonic position attracted maritime predators and competitors of different shapes and sizes. Be it the Genoese or the Catalans or trans-imperial actors, they liked to use Rhodes as a base for their operations.7 And the order even provided them with licenses for predatory action from at least 1413 onwards.8 Under these circumstances both incidents were not simply cases of maritime predation but occasions to diplomatically negotiate political power. It didn’t even matter, if the senate’s narrative of the incidents was faulty or not. Whoever gave way in the restitution case would not only suffer financially, but more often than not also politically in the present and future by creating a precedent.

But even though our current knowledge about the macro context can explain Venice’s reaction to this one similarity, our lack of understanding of maritime predation itself really shows as soon as we stray from Venice’s narrative and ask questions about the micro contexts of the incidents.

Here, differences between the two maritime predators themselves and in their treatment by the different entities involved raise questions in five key fields of research. The first of them is the handling of incidents like these by political entities. For example: Based on which factors did the Crown of Aragon actually decide to trust evidence in a restitution case,9 if it was so easy to manipulate according to the Venetian senate? Why was Venice seeking restitution from Clarius himself and did not team up with the order to demand it from his sovereign like in the case of Moysius? Why didn’t the order use the same “fidantia”-argument it used in the case of Clarius to excuse itself in the case of Moysius?

The second field of research regards their involvement in networks of maritime predation, because even though Clarius seems to have operated regularly in the Alexandria area, he doesn’t seem to have been attributed a “nationality” like his contemporary Moysius. Were geographical, linguistic or habitual criteria decisive for these kinds of attribution to one or the other political entitiy?

A third field is the method of both predators. Clarius was seemingly committing what can be described as fraudulent thievery. In contrast the described conduct of Moysius can be characterised as a violent robbery. But which of these two cases is more characteristic for the phenomenon of maritime predation?

Fourthly the two incidents differ in their geographical setting. Clarius “stole” his booty in Alexandria, whereas Moysius “robbed” the Venetians directly in Rhodes. But was this combination of crime scene, hideout and market common or did most other maritime predators try to change locations like Clarius?

The fifth field is their social and economic profile. Clarius was apparently a transport operator (“factor”)10 and probably owned one ship. Moysius on the other hand, even called a “deroba[tor]”,11 seems financially better situated with two ships and a crew big enough to “rob” the Venetian merchants. But were these men professional or just part-time maritime predators?

Luckily, we have been blessed with archives full of source material to empirically amend our lack of understanding. Unluckily, this poses the problem of time-efficiency. To tackle it a future project on maritime predation should firstly focus on the archives of the four most important maritime powers of the medieval Mediterranean: the ones of the republic of Genoa,12 the Crown of Aragon,13 the order of the Knights of Saint John14 and the republic of Venice.15 Secondly the technological advantages of a database oriented project could help to connect the traces left by predators in different archival records. An approach like this would not only be time-efficient by enabling multiple researchers to connect their finds from different archives simultaneously, but also represent a new method to grip medieval trans-imperiality.

By conducting an empirical comparative study like this, one could expand the micro contexts of these two incidents by explaining their differences in the five mentioned fields of research and through that our understanding of Mediterranean maritime predation on the whole. We could ensure furthermore, that not only one entity controls the narrative so that possibly misunderstood thieves like Clarius won’t get mixed up with seemingly violent robbers like Moysius in the future. Because unlike for Bartholomeo back then, in researching the phenomenon of maritime predation today it should apply that despite similar consequences “[multum] aliud importat”.16


Photo: Grünenberg, Konrad von, Beschreibung der Reise von Konstanz nach Jerusalem, Bodenseegebiet ca. 1487, in: Cod. St. Peter pap. 32, folio 20v–21r, URL: [https://digital.blb-karlsruhe.de/7061] (18.11.2021).

  1. ASV.Misti.54.141v. (28.08.1423), l. 14; Vgl. Régestes des délibérations, Bd. II, S. 209, Reg. 1902. []
  2. cf. Ibid., l. 1–20; cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 209, Reg. 1902. []
  3. Ibid., l. 13; cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 209, Reg. 1902. []
  4. cf. Ibid., l. 24–42; cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 209, Reg. 1902. []
  5. cf. ASV.Misti.54.167v (30.12.1423), l. 4, 6, 9, 11–17; cf. Bd. 1,3: CSPA, Reg. 834, p. 260. A victorious Venice would provide the Catalans with a sense of security, because they could expect the order to pay for their stolen goods in doubt. A victorious order would mark Venetian merchants as fair game for Catalan maritime predators. []
  6. Coulon, The Commercial Influence of the Crown of Aragon, 2017, p. 281; Ferrer i Mallol, La Mediterrània dels segles XIII al XV, 2004, p. 156; Katele, Captains and corsairs, 1986, pp. 45–46. []
  7. Coureas, Piracy, 2001, p. 200; Ashtor, Levant trade, 1983, ND 2014, p. 391; Balard, Le Commerce en Méditerranée, 2013, p. 27; Bonneaud, The Influential Trade, 2015, p. 396; Luttrell, The Hospitallers in Cyprus, Rhodes, Greece and the West, 1978, V, pp. 202, 204. []
  8. Luttrell, The Hospitaller State on Rhodes, 1999, VIII, pp. 177–178, 180; Bonneaud, Le prieuré de Catalogne, 2004, p. 154; Vann, Hospitallers and Piracy on Rhodes, 2013, pp. 251, 260. []
  9. cf. ASV.Misti.55.125v (13.06.1425); cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 228, Reg. 1991; cf. ASV.Misti.54.141v. (28.08.1423), l. 17–18; cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 209, Reg. 1902. []
  10. ASV.Misti.54.86r (24.02.1422), l. 1; cf. Bd. 1,3: CSPA, Reg. 810, p. 243; cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 200, Reg. 1872. []
  11. cf. Ibid., l. 33; cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 209, Reg. 1902. []
  12. Archivio di Stato di Genova, online: http://www.archiviodistatogenova.beniculturali.it/index.php?it/167/inventari-digitalizzati. []
  13. Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, online: http://censoarchivos.mcu.es/CensoGuia/inventario dinamico.htm. []
  14. Luttrell, The Hospitallers of Rhodes, 1980, pp. 245–247; Vann, Hospitallers and Piracy on Rhodes, 2013, pp. 251, 254–255, 257–260. Which could be supplemented with digitalised microfilms of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library. cf. Online Resources for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, HMML: Series 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, https://www.vhmml.org. []
  15. Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Moreveneto, Patrimonio, Serie riprodotte http://asve.arianna4.cloud/patrimonio/448 b1163-8279-467b-9094-358f38826387/repubblica-di-venezia-12-magg-1797. []
  16. ASV.Misti.54.141v. (28.08.1423), l. 14; cf. Rdd, Bd. II, p. 209, Reg. 1902. []

Mendicants and Rulership in the Crown of Aragon during the Reign of King Alfonso IV (1327–1336)

Robert Friedrich, Universität Greifswald

Abstract: In meinem Ordens- und Herrschaftsgeschichte verbindenden Dissertationsprojekt frage ich nach der Rolle der Bettelorden in der Herrschaftsorganisation der Krone Aragon unter König Alfons IV. und seiner Gemahlin Eleonore von Kastilien (1327–1336). Auch die Übergänge der Herrschaft von seinem Vater Jakob II. (1291–1327) und zu seinem Sohn Peter IV. (1336–1387) finden Eingang in die Untersuchung. Die Franziskaner- und Klarissennähe des aragonesischen Königshauses stand schon häufiger im Fokus der Forschung, vor allem in Bezug auf Fragen persönlicher Frömmigkeit. Der politischen Rolle von Ordensmitgliedern wurde bisher jedoch eher weniger Aufmerksamkeit zuteil, gleiches gilt für die anderen Bettelorden und insbesondere die Dominikaner. Im Zentrum meiner Arbeit stehen die Wechselbeziehungen zwischen dem Königshof und den verschiedenen Ebenen der Bettelordenshierarchie, vom Gesamtorden bis zum einzelnen Bruder bzw. der einzelnen Schwester. Ein besonderer Fokus liegt auf den Tätigkeiten der Brüder am Königshof, wo diese u. a. als Berater, Diplomaten und Beichtväter in Erscheinung traten. Als Quellengrundlage dienen zum einen die in ihrem Umfang einmaligen Register der königlichen Kanzlei im Kronarchiv in Barcelona und zum anderen die Akten der General- und Provinzialkapitel der Bettelorden sowie exemplarisch einige Konventsarchive. Im ersten Teil der Arbeit soll die Herrscherperspektive im Zentrum stehen und anhand konkreter Ereignisse untersucht werden, welche Rolle die Bettelorden in der Herrschaftsorganisation König Alfons’ spielten. Der zweite Teil ist prosopographisch angelegt und nimmt die Karrieren einzelner Brüder in den Blick, die auf Basis eines Personenkatalogs untersucht werden. 

The royal family of the House of Barcelona-Aragon in the 13th and 14th centuries has been called “a strikingly philo-mendicant network”1, and its spiritual proximity to the Franciscan Order has long been established by historical scholarship, especially in terms of personal piety. More than a few members of the royal family relied on friars for their spiritual guidance, founded convents, appointed them as confessors or even chose their final resting place in one of the convents. Alfonso IV was no exception here. In his testament, he declared that he wanted to be buried in the Franciscan convent of Lleida, and even obtained apostolic absolution for breaking the promise to his father that he would be buried in the Cistercian monastery of Poblet.2 However, the political role of the Friars Minor, as well as that of the Dominicans and other mendicant orders, has received far less attention. Although the Friars Preachers had developed in the same manner as the Franciscans and were considered almost equally important at court, they have inspired far less research. The same can be said for the reign of King Alfonso, who is generally overshadowed by both his famous father, James II (1291–1327), and his son Peter IV (1336–1387), who both enjoyed a very long reign.

The aim of my research project is to address these shortcomings by focusing on the relationship between the mendicant orders and the royal house of Barcelona-Aragon during the reign of King Alfonso IV. In order better to contextualize his reign, I shall include the years of his infancy, from around 1323, as well as the first years of the reign of his son and successor Peter IV, until around 1340. My analysis will take place on four levels which represent the hierarchy of the respective orders: individual friars, convents, provincial chapters, and general chapters. Interactions with the court occurred on all of these levels, sometimes individually, sometimes interconnected. All areas of the king’s political activities will be considered, including international relations as well as the internal organisation of the lands of the Crown of Aragon. Through this approach, my research will contribute to a better understanding of the interactions between these two spheres in particular but also between political and religious actors in general.

My project draws on a wide range of source material. Because documentary sources are vital to trace specific moments of interactions, the registers of the royal chancery housed in the Crown Archive in Barcelona as well as the Cartes Reials – a collection of documents of all sorts – and the Pergamins, a collection of charters, will be of utmost interest. In order to assess the orders’ perspective, I shall focus on the acts of the provincial and general chapters, documents issued by the orders’ masters general as well as chronicles such as Francisco Diago’s “Historia de la Provincia de Aragon de la Orden de Predicadores”. Archives of individual convents will only be consulted to a lesser degree, as their communications with the court can usually be traced via the royal registers. Another important perspective is provided by papal charters and letters issued during the pontificates of John XXII and Benedict XII.

My analysis will be divided into two parts. The first part will explore the king’s perspective and analyse concrete moments of interaction between the mendicants and the royal family in different areas of royal politics, considering both general matters such as the foundation of convents or international negotiations as well as more specific contexts such as the conquest and integration of the Kingdom of Sardinia. The latter represents an especially intriguing example of how the king made use of certain trusted friars in order to gain control of the island after the military conquest had been completed in 1323. This influence can be traced on all levels of the orders’ hierarchy, from the reorganisation of mendicant provinces to the foundation of new convents and the exchange of Tuscan friars for loyal Catalan clerics.3 This first part of my study will thus on the one hand illustrate how Alfonso perceived the role of the mendicants and made use of them in his political endeavours; on the other hand, it will demonstrate how this was put into practice in specific political contexts.

The second part will explore the perspective of individual friars. By adopting a prosopographical approach, I will establish a catalogue of all friars who were in one way or another connected to King Alfonso, be it as confessors, counsellors, ambassadors, or even as bishops appointed upon the king’s recommendation. Based on this catalogue, my aim is to follow the careers of individual friars and gain a better understanding of how their connection to the king shaped their careers and how their status as a mendicant influenced their service: What role did education play? What did it mean if a friar came from an important noble family? What influence could a friar’s service for the king have on the career within the order? A telling example is that of the Franciscan Arnau de Canelles who has been described as follows: “he distinguished himself more in the service of the king than in that of the order”4. Although this verdict is somewhat exaggerated – he had also served as lector and provincial minister – there is some truth to it. The degree of interaction becomes clear when Arnau is accused of supporting the Spirituals, a branch of the Franciscans declared heretic, in 1331. On the insistence of the pope, the Franciscans deposed him from all his offices. As a reaction, the king intervened and declared his trust in friar Arnau, demanding that all accusations against him be dropped. The case concludes with a letter from Arnau to the king in which he gives him spiritual advice.5

These examples shall suffice to showcase the questions and potentials of my research project. By conducting the first comprehensive study of mendicant-royal relations in the context of one particular reign, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of these interactions. I also hope to present a more nuanced view of King Alfonso IV, whose reign has – if at all – generally been presented in a rather negative light. 


Photo: Dominicans and Franciscan friars singing, conducted by Christ. Abbey Bible (c. 1250-1262), Getty Museum, Ms 107, fol. 224r (Detail). Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program. Ⓒ: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/de/

  1. Nikolas Jaspert, Testaments, Burials and Bequests: Tracing the “Franciscanism” of Aragonese Queens and Princesses, in: Princesses and Mendicants. Close Relations in a European Perspective, hg. von Nikolas Jaspert / Imke Just (Vita Regularis 75), Münster-Berlin 2019, S. 90. []
  2. Ebd., S. 89–90. []
  3. Jill R. Webster, Els menorets: the Franciscans in the Realms of Aragon from St. Francis to the Black Death, Toronto 1993, S. 68–69. []
  4. Ebd., S. 216. []
  5. Heinrich Finke, Acta Aragonensia III, S. 740–742, Nr. 48. []