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Gherardo Ortalli (1995)

Venice and Papal Bans on Trade with the Levant: The Role of the Jurist

Mediterranean Historical Review, 10:242-258.

Describes the conflicts between the Curia and the Republic of Venice about the trade with the “Saracenes”, especially in Egypt, after the fall of Acre in 1291. In August 1291 pope Nicolaus IV threatened everyone with excommunication who delivered “arma, ferrum, lignamina, victualia et alia quecumque mercimonia” to Alexandria or other cities of the Saracens in Egypt.

Venetian traders changed their routes and trade bases after the loss of Acre. The Republic followed a pragmatic policy trying to avoid both a break with the Curia and substantial material losses; this policy broke down between 1322 and 1344, as the Curia went intransigent on the question (p. 244). Venice had issued restrictions as early as 1291, in 1292 explicitly concerning the slave trade. In 1302, however, the Republic reached a trade agreement with Egypt (p. 245). Venice took the view that a trade with the goods not expressly mentioned in the Papal ban should be authorized. But Clement V opposed this as early as October 1308, when he reemphasised the ban on trading “alia quecumque mercimonia”. Since 1322 the question was also connected with conflicts over the absolution of those who had violated the decree (with corresponding penances to the apostolic chamber). The consulate of the Venetians in Alexandria was closed in 1324.

“Underlying the differences there was first the controversy over trade with the Mamluks and, secondly, the question as to which merchandise could be considered licit even within the embargo declared by the Pope. Third was the issue of fines and monetary penalties which had to be paid to the Holy See by anyone who had contravened the bans. Alongside this was the issue of bequests which, for the sake of saving one’s soul, were made to the Church or to ecclesiastical institutions by anyone wishing to clear himself of the sin of having traded with the infidels. Lastly, still with regard to the matter of wills, there was the issue of those who annulled their bequests when, after recovery, they became less fearful of divine justice.” (p. 250). The lawyer Rizzardo Malombra acted since 1315 for the community. He was in charge of a commission charged with legal action against the encroachments by the papal legate Ademaro Targa, who had excommunicated well-known members of the commune. The pope reacted by condemning all those who maintained that the export of certain goods to the Saracenes was no sin (p. 254-5 with n. 44). A change in papal attitude only occured in 1344, when trade relations with Persia and Southern Russia went difficult and Venice was part of a papal coalition against the Turks. Clement VI accorded exceptional permissions to the Venetians (p. 256). It is unclear whether the sentence of excommunication against Malombra ever became effective (p. 258).

Reviews in: Quaderni per la storia dell'Università di Padova 30 (1997), p. 288 (G. M. Varanini); Archivum historiae pontificae 34 (1996), p. 537.

Venice Italy pope trade Levant
by Christine Breckler last modified 2007-03-13 11:55

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