By Rita Ríos
Religion and Political Change in Europe: Past and Present, edited by Ausma Cimdina (University of Pisa, 2003)
Introduction: The presence of Mendicant Orders in Castile and León, particularly Franciscans and Dominicans, dates back to the unification of the two kingdoms in a single political body in 1230. Castile and León became united in the person of Ferdinand III. He had inherited the Castile Kingdom through his mother, Queen Berenguela, and when Alfonso IX, his father, died, Ferdinand became King of León. It was during Ferdinand’s reign that the presence of Franciscans and Dominicans became more evident. The number of monastic foundations of both orders increased; their members showing up as preachers, working at Universities, occupying some Episcopal Sees and in some cases, acting as confessors to the royal family1.
Little by little, the Friars made their presence felt in court and on the royal scene, especially during the second half of the 13th century, coinciding with the reigns of Alfonso X “the Learned” (1252-1284) and Sancho IV (1284-1295), and with Ferdinand’s IV minority (1295-1301). By that time the rulers turned to the services of Franciscans and Dominicans in the course of their political activity.
The purpose of this chapter is to analyse the degree of participation and involvement of Franciscans and Dominicans in three main aspects of the political activity of the kingdoms of Castile and León in the second half of the 13th century: the fecho del Imperio, the succession of Alfonso X, and the legitimisation of the matrimony between Sancho IV and Mary of Molina. This way we hope to achieve our main aim, i.e. to define the main features of the political collaboration between the Castile and León monarchy and the Franciscan and Dominican Friars during the second half of the 13th century.