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To what extent did Ferdinand and Isabella succeed in dealing with religious problems in Spain?

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Introduction

To what extent did Ferdinand and Isabella succeed in dealing with religious problems in Spain? Ferdinand and Isabella faced a range of religious problems during their reigns. A potentially major threat was posed by the Catholic Church - it was an immensely wealthy institution that owed allegiance to the Pope in Rome, not the crown. Convivencia was becoming increasingly strained and tensions were developing between conversos and Old Christians. Military orders had developed into very powerful organisations, which Isabella wanted to bring under her control. Isabella also wanted to improve the spiritual life of Castile by reforming the Church. Changing attitudes towards Muslims and Jews provided further problems. The crown had little power over the church at the dawn of the Catholic Kings' reigns. It had become increasingly powerful through its involvement in the reconquista, and was a wealthy landowner. Ferdinand and Isabella held a synod of Spanish clergy in Seville in July 1478 - by consulting their clergy directly they managed to secure support for reforms such as cooperation with the crown and greater autonomy from Rome. The church became increasingly erastian under Ferdinand and Isabella - by 1516 the monarchy effectively held complete control over the church. ...read more.

Middle

The inquisition at least spared Spain the religious conflict rife in many parts of Europe in the sixteenth century; it succeeded in enforcing religious uniformity. France, Germany and England were all divided by religious wars - the inquisition ensured that this did not happen in Spain. The military orders of Santiago, Alcantara and Calatrava in Castile, and of Montesa and St. John in Aragon had become very powerful military organisations, which might not support the crown in a crisis. They were dominated and exploited by the nobility, were wealthy in land and treasure and did not observe their religious duties - in 1540 the members of two orders were allowed to marry. However, Ferdinand and Isabella dealt successfully with the problem posed by the military orders. Isabella had been keenly involved in gaining control of them; when the Master of Santiago died in 1476 she visited the electors to suggest they choose Ferdinand. Although not officially confirmed by the Papacy until 1523, by 1494 the military orders had effectively become a branch of government. Ferdinand and Isabella wished to end the long-running reconquista by taking control of the last Moorish stronghold in Spain - Granada. ...read more.

Conclusion

Initially, the appointment of bishops lay with the Papacy, which weakened royal control. The Catholic Kings were successful in gaining patronato over all church appointments in Granada and the Canaries in 1486. They assumed that it would also be granted for the establishment of new bishoprics in New Spain - however, the papal bull of 1504 refused to acknowledge royal authority. It was not until 1508 that the Pope relinquished control. In 1493 the Pope authorised the crown to investigate monastic houses. However, Ferdinand and Isabella did little more than establish the right to do so; visitations were often not as rigorous as intended. Monastic houses suffered from indiscipline, lax observance and a lack of external control. Ferdinand and Isabella left much reform still to take place by the time of their deaths; however, they had gone a significant distance towards their goals. Ferdinand and Isabella were significantly successful in dealing with many of the religious problems encountered during their reign. Church reform seems to be an area where they achieved least; this is not particularly unexpected since the need for it did not pose an imminent threat to the security of Ferdinand and Isabella's kingdom. Perhaps most important in measuring their success is the fact that Spain did not descend into widespread religious conflict in the sixteenth century, unlike many other states in Europe at the time. ...read more.

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