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The Catholic Historical Review 87.2 (2001) 165-184

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The Church of Castile-León and the Cortes of 1295

Paulette L. Pepin

Until the later thirteenth century the prelates of the Church of Castile-León had not found it necessary to protect their traditional liberties by regularly holding provincial and diocesan councils 1 but instead relied on their prerogative to demand the redress of their grievances in the cortes or parliament. As long as the crown respected this right, the Castilian clergy were willing to tolerate the king's infringement on their liberties. 2 When the townsmen forced the regents to expel the prelates from the cortes of 1295, toleration of such abuses was no longer acceptable. The principal sources for our understanding of the subject are the comparatively brief Chronicle of Jofré de Loaysa [End Page 165] (d. 1307/1310), 3 contemporary with these events; the Royal Chronicle of Fernando IV written in the early fourteenth century by Fernán Sánchez de Valladolid, 4 the documentation of the cortes, and some other privileges and charters. Although many eminent historians of medieval Spain, including César González Mínguez, Peter Linehan, José Manuel Nieto Soria, Joseph F. O'Callaghan, Waldimiro Piskorski, and Evelyn Procter, 5 have explored the relationship between the Church of Castile-León and the state, no comprehensive study has appeared with regard to the Church of Castile-León and the cortes of 1295. Therefore, this article will present an intensive analysis of the tripartite struggle for power which occurred in the cortes of 1295 amongst the townsmen, the nobility, and the church, culminating in the attempt of the Castilian prelates to defend their libertas ecclesiastica (i.e., meaning exemption from royal taxation, the right to judgment in ecclesiastical courts, protection of ecclesiastical property, and payment of tithes). 6

Tensions between secular monarchs and the ecclesiastical estate were not unique to the Kingdom of Castile-León but reflected the escalating conflicts between feudal kings, who were becoming less acquiescent to challenges to their sovereignty, and an ambitious papacy, that sometimes subscribed to the political theory that popes were the temporal as well as the spiritual ruler of Christendom. Were the Castilian clergy to fare any better than either of their spiritual brothers in England or France as they attempted to defend their rights and liberties? In order to answer this question one must begin by examining the political [End Page 166] situation in the Kingdom of Castile-León at the inception of Fernando IV's reign.

In 1295 Fernando IV (1295-1312), the nine-year-old son of Sancho IV, succeeded to the throne of Castile-León. His minority caused anxiety for the Castilian clergy and fostered dissension throughout the entire kingdom. Moreover, the regency was only one of several volatile complications that made Fernando IV's right to the throne vulnerable. His parents, Sancho IV (1284-1295) and María de Molina, were third cousins, in violation of the laws of consanguinity. Since they had never obtained a papal dispensation for their union, the papacy had condemned their marriage. Until a papal dispensation could be obtained, Sancho and Maria's children were considered illegitimate. In addition, Sancho IV's rebellious actions against his father, Alfonso X (1252-1284), had resulted in his disinheritance in favor of his nephews the Infantes de la Cerda, who were the sons of Alfonso X's late son and heir Fernando. Also Alfonso X's younger sons, Juan and Jaime, had reconciled with their father before his death and had been granted Seville and Murcia, respectively. This obstacle had not prevented Sancho IV from claiming his kingship in 1284. 7 Nevertheless, as Fernando IV was about to ascend to the throne of Castile-León the other rival claimants, the Infantes de la Cerda, Infantes Juan and Jaime, supported by their own allies, were actively vying for control of the kingdom.

The archbishop of Toledo, Gonzalo García Gudiel (1280-1299), and many of the other prelates "who knew from...


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