The Spanish Church and the Papacy in the Thirteenth Century

Peter Linehan


[ix] It is high time that a history of the medieval Spanish Church was written, to replace Lafuente's Historia eclesiástica, which is now a century old and has aged badly. But this book is not meant to fill that gap. The materials for a work of synthesis simply do not yet exist. Hence the absence of, for example, any sustained discussion of the monastic Orders which had contributed so much to Spanish life since the eleventh century, or of the rise and fall of the Mendicants -- and particularly of the Dominicans in St Dominic's own country. Nor is it a history of the Reconquista, although I am not unaware of the part played by churchmen in that operation. Indeed, in view of the consequences for the Spanish Church of that unique movement, some such sub-title as The Infra-structure of the Reconquest might well have been appropriate.

For all this, however, it has proved impossible to exclude these topics and others from what was originally conceived as an investigation into the workings of the reform programme, pure and simple, in Spain -- the kingdoms of Leon, Castile and Aragon, that is -- in the period after the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. It soon became clear that the subject posed questions of an economic nature regarding the Church's place in society. Nor could such an investigation be limited to Spain, thus defined. The political and ecclesiastical boundaries did not coincide, and so I have not hesitated to wander across the frontier into Portugal, as occasion demanded and as churchmen did then, and to accept the old-fashioned geographical interpretation of Hispania which the statutes of the Spanish College at Bologna employed in the late fourteenth century.(1) It is to be hoped that the conclusions reached will now be subjected to criticism based on the documentary resources of particular dioceses. If they merely serve as a set of Aunt Sallies to be shied at, the book will at least have caused students to defend the old assumptions by engaging in the battle of the archives. And that activity had the blessing of Jaime Vicens [x] Vives -- the highest accolade any historian of Spain could desire.(2)

Those students who deem themselves sufficiently intrepid to undertake this task will need also to be prepared to find a cordial welcome awaiting them there. True, they will not always have those invaluable aids to research of which Professor Knowles has written: a railway system and keys that open doors.(3) R.E.N.F.E. was organised without reference to the Division of Wamba, and anyone proposing to visit Mondoñedo, for example, will be obliged either to employ other means or else, as in this case he cannot, to depend from afar upon published catalogues which, when they exist, are very often both maddeningly summary and wildly inaccurate.(4) Yet the trouble and effort will be worth while, for, despite all the depredations of Reds, rats, fires, light fingers and the damp, there is a vast amount of untouched material in the provinces, quite apart from what has been brought by one route or another to Barcelona and Madrid. The investigador will soon become rather more blasé in his work than the official who warned Heinrich von Sybel in 1851 to respect the dust on the papers of the Committee of Public Safety because it was 'the dust of 1795'.(5) On occasion he will need to employ low cunning and the sort of practical ingenuity which that frustrated bridge-builder, Vicens, possessed.(6) In some places he will discover that Férotin's strictures about the hopelessness of working at Toledo Cathedral are classic and timeless, and that Mr Cobb's excellent stories about his adventures in French provincial archives are, by comparison, quite run-of-the-mill.(7)But, above all, he will learn that that automatic defence-mechanism of los canónigos archiveros -- the shrugged eyebrows which seem to betoken an absolute veto -- is, in fact, more often than not, merely a preliminary gesture which [xi] leads before long to most generous assistance and co-operation. I should like to record my gratitude to the many archivists and sacristans who were good enough to allow a total stranger in, and on one memorable occasion eventually to let him out again. At Pamplona, Vich and Urgel, in particular, Don José Goñi Gaztambide, Mossèn Eduard Junyent and Mossèn Lluís Serdà were kindness itself. A list of archives visited will be found at the beginning of the Bibliography.

The other main source of information has been the series of thirteenth-century Papal Registers published by L'École française de Rome. Since, however, no less distinguished a scholar than Dom Luciano Serrano was convinced that the editors of that series had denied Spanish correspondence its fair share of column-inches,(8) I have taken care to read all letters to Spain of the period 1216-1303 on microfilm of Reg. Vat., vols 9-50, at Cambridge -- though even when material not previously published is alluded to, I have cited the letter in question by reference to the numeration of the École française edition. This has been done in order to devote more space to totally inaccessible Spanish material. Despite appearances to the contrary, I have tried hard not to fall victim to what Sánchez-Albornoz has called 'the Spanish craze for inflicting thousands of footnotes upon the reader' (España: un enigma histórico, I, 20). For information on the complicated subject of money values, the reader is referred to the work of O. Gil Farrés listed in the Bibliography. Finally I must mention how much I owe to the work of Don Demetrio Mansilla, now bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo. Though I have occasionally disagreed with particular judgements in his Iglesia castellano--leonesa, I have certainly learnt more from that book than from any other.

Without the help of friends in England and Spain I could not have written this book. I am particularly conscious of what I owe to Professor C. R. Cheney; El Marqués de Covarrubias and his family; Mr R. A. Fletcher; Professor Antonio García y García; D. Ramón Gonzálvez; Mr Philip Grierson; Professor Edward Miller; Dr D. W. Lomax, who read the work in draft and made a number of helpful suggestions; D. José López de Toro; Dr R. E. Robinson; and many others for much else. My debt to St John's College is incalculable. As a Research Fellow I was able to spend an unforgettable winter and [xii] a summer in the archives, and then return to genial company in Cambridge. I have also learnt much from the undergraduates here. The map is based on one by Peter Cunningham. No request, for however improbable a publication, was too much trouble for Mr N. Buck and his assistants in the College Library, or for the staff of the University Library. I am most grateful too for the company of innumerable nameless Spaniards in a hundred grubby bars who bore with and let themselves be bored by the enigmatic inglés whose attention seemed to be fixed for most of the time on the side-door of the cathedral. I take the greatest pleasure, though, in mentioning three people: Walter Ullmann, an inspiring supervisor and an excellent friend, who has chivvied me along from one hurdle to the next over the past five years; and my parents, who, though they never said so, must have wondered how many more hurdles there were to come, and to whom, at last, this book is fondly dedicated.


St John's College, Cambridge

15 February 1971


A version of part of this work was awarded the Thirlwall Prize and the Seeley Medal for 1970-1, and I am grateful to the Managers of that Fund for making a grant towards the costs of publishing the work in its present form. I am grateful also to the Syndics and staff of the Cambridge University Press for their unfailing assistance while the book was in gestation and for personal attention which far exceeded what the professional author had any right to expect.

Notes for the Preface

1. 'Intelligendo Yspanyam largo sumpto vocabulo prout continet omnia regna illa a montibus Esperie ultra': Berthe M. Marti, The Spanish College at Bologna in the Fourteenth Century (Philadelphia, 1966), 132.

2. Cf. Aproximación a la historia de España, 8.

3. M. D. Knowles, 'Denifle and Ehrle', History, LIV (1969), 12.

4. Reference are not given in the footnotes to published catalogues which are mere lists.

5. Cit. H. Butterfield, 'Some Trends in Scholarship, 1868-1968, in the Field of Modern History', TRHS, 5th ser., xix (1969), 160.

6. 'Hay en mí una frustrada vocación de constructor de puentes'. Interview of Jan. 1953 published in J. Vicens Vives, Obra dispersa, ed. M. Batllori and E. Giralt (Barcelona, 1967), 557.

7. Cf. M. Férotin, Le Liber Mozarabicus Sacramentorum et les manuscrits mozarabes [Monumenta Ecclesiae Liturgica, vol.VI, Paris, 1912], 679; Richard Cobb, A Second Identity (London, 1969), esp. 53 ff.

8. Hispania, I, 8.