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Urban Communities and Dominican Communities In Castile-León Crown During Middle Ages: A Historiographical Outcome

Urban Communities and Dominican Communities In Castile-León Crown During Middle Ages: A Historiographical Outcome

By Rita Ríos de la Llave

Religion, Ritual and Mythology Aspects of Identity Formation in Europe, edited by Joaquim Carvalho (Pisa University Press, 2006)

Introduction: The mendicant orders liked to establish themselves in urban settings in the Middle Ages, and the Dominican friars were no exception. According to the De eruditione Praedicatorum of Humbert of Romans, preaching was not only more effective in the cities, because there were more people, but also more necessary, given that behaviour was worse; moreover, preaching in town had an influence on the surrounding countryside, since the country tended to imitate the city.

In any case, religious orders that depended on organised mendicancy could be successful only in the cities. Country people had hardly enough for bare subsistence: the only places where there was a surplus that could be donated to the mendicant friars were the towns2. But there were some differences: the Franciscan friars liked smaller towns, while the Dominicans settled in the bigger cities. As the famous medieval poem said:

Bernardus valles, montes Benedictus amabat,
Oppida Franciscus, celebres Dominicus urbes.

Study of the mendicant communities is fundamental in understanding the evolution of the medieval urban world, and this paper examines earlier historiographical work, aiming to show some of the key aspects of this relationship in the kingdom of Castile-León, and focusing on the Dominicans, including their female branch. My main interest is to show the most important aspects that have been studied up till now, and the issues that are still waiting to be explored in greater depth.

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