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Patricians’ Embrace of the Dominican Convent of St. Catherine in Thirteenth-Century Barcelona

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Abstract In this article, I examine patterns of charitable giving to the mendicant orders in surviving testaments from thirteenth-century Barcelona. My findings reveal that an elite group of wealthy and influential merchant families, the city’s emerging patriciate, provided the majority of charitable contributions to the mendicant friars. The friars’ urban religiosity and propagation of the doctrine of purgatory appealed to patricians, who were heavily involved in commercial activities and increasingly concerned with the fate of their souls in the afterlife. Patricians also utilized their pious contributions to the mendicant friars to bolster their social prestige and legitimize their monopolization of political power in the city. While patricians donated generously to the two largest mendicant orders (Dominicans and Franciscans), they contributed more money to the Dominican convent of St. Catherine. Patricians favored the Dominicans because of the latter’s superior educational training, their close ties to the kings of the Crown of Aragon, and their association with the city’s municipal government.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, University of California Los Angeles 6265 Bunche Hall, Box 951473, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473 USA

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