The Public Defense of the Doctoral Thesis in Medieval Studies

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The Public Defense

of the Doctoral Thesis in Medieval Studies

Etleva Lala

Regnum Albaniae, the Papal Curia, and

the Western Visions of a Borderline Nobility

will be held on

Wednesday, 26 November 2008, at 11:00

in the

Gellner Room – Monument Building

Central European University (CEU)

Nádor u. 9, Budapest

Examination Committee

Chair Victor Karády

(History Department, CEU)

Members Gerhard Jaritz - PhD supervisor

(Department of Medieval Studies, CEU)

Gábor Klaniczay

(Department of Medieval Studies, CEU)

József Laszlovszky

(Department of Medieval Studies, CEU)

Felicitas Schmieder

(Geschichte und Gegenwart Alteuropas

Historisches Institut, Fernuniversität in Hagen)

Katalin Szende

(Department of Medieval Studies, CEU)

External Readers Alain Ducellier (Professor Emeritus, Université de Toulouse)

Pellumb Xhufi (University of Tirana)

The doctoral thesis is available for inspection

in the CEU-ELTE Medieval Library, Budapest, 6-8 Múzeum krt.
Almost all the territories in the Southwestern Balkans became Catholic in the second half of the fourteenth century. If we bear in mind that this area laid on the borderline between the Eastern and Western Churches, that the majority of its territories had been Byzantine and that the Eastern rite was practiced there until the late thirteenth century, the Catholicization of the region cannot be considered a self-evident phenomenon. There were various reasons for the success of Catholicism in this region at the cost of the Eastern rite which have not been articulated clearly in the historiography. In my thesis I argue that the interaction of the Holy See with the local nobility through the political structure of the Regnum Albaniae played a very significant part in the conversion of the region’s populations to Catholicism.

Regnum Albaniae was a political structure created in the 70s of the thirteenth century by Charles I of Anjou. It has been studied thoroughly by many scholars because it was created to be a basis for the ‘universal’ plans of Charles I Anjou. These plans included the recapture of Jerusalem, the restoration of the Latin Empire in Constantinople and the creation of a Mediterranean Empire. The general attitude of scholars has been that it was simply an Anjou invention that had little or almost no impact on the Albanians themselves. As such, Regnum Albaniae was studied only as an isolated political structure in the Albanian territories and its interaction with the locals was seen only in a negative light and simplified into a relationship between occupiers and occupied. In this study, I try to shed light on the positive role of the Regnum Albaniae within the southwest Balkans, especially with regard to the establishment of an identity of the local nobility, for the implementation of the papal plans in the Southwestern Balkans and as a result, for the flourishing of Catholicism in the region.

After the Sack of Constantinople (1204), when the Byzantine Empire lost its power as the central authority in Byzantine lands, the local nobility of the Southwest Balkans had a crisis of identity. The fragmented political powers that emerged aimed to acquire this central authority, at least in their purported territories, but managed it only with various levels of success. The local nobles of the Southwestern Balkans also tried to create their own political power center called Principatum Albaniae, but they had no continuous success with it. As a result of this failure, the local nobles tended to attach themselves to what they perceived as the strongest political powers. Thus, at any one time, the smaller territories controlled by local nobility came under the sphere of influence of various power centers outside these territories. The opportunistic political worldview of the local nobles created a fluid situation where political alignments were taken up and dropped with an array of large power centers in the greater region. The way they chose a central authority to submit to and self-identify with determined whose “periphery” they wanted to be in.

After the immergence of the Regnum Albaniae, the local nobility in this region thought of its king, Charles I of Anjou, as their protector against neighboring aggressive powers. The Regnum Albaniae was for them a kind of mental fortress which they could call upon when they came under attack by their neighbors; that is why they joined or abandoned it according to their need for protection and also based on the shelter this Regnum provided for them.

After the Sicilian Vespers in 1283 and the death of Charles I of Anjou in 1285, the Regnum Albaniae continued to operate within a very limited territorial space with uncertain and fluctuating geographical boundaries. The descendants of Charles I had various degrees of success in keeping the Regnum Albaniae alive but more in name than reality. However, it needs to be stressed that this ‘nominal existence’ seems to have exerted a significant influence on the subsequent development of the political and religious situation in the Southwest Balkans in the fourteenth century.

The Southwest Balkans was important in the plans of the Holy See during the Middle Ages. Geographically, the Balkans offered the shortest and the most convenient terrestrial routes to Jerusalem and the East. They acquired a special importance, not only during the crusading campaigns, but also for pilgrimages and passages of papal envoys to the East. Politically they represented the frontier between the Byzantine Empire and the Latin sphere of influence. Having one foot in the Southwest Balkans, reflected the Papal Curia’s hope for eventually acquiring control in Byzantium. Religiously, the Southwest Balkans also represented a frontier between the Byzantine Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. The installation of the Anjou Regnum Albaniae at the end of the thirteenth century opened new perspectives for a successful papal impact in the region and beyond. The universal visions of Charles I of Anjou corresponded with the visions of the Holy See in terms of reaching out towards the East, leading sometimes to successful collaborations.

Local nobles eventually grew aware of the papal powers, on the one hand, through the crusading attempts of the Holy See and, on the other hand, through the negotiations of the latter with the Byzantine and Serbian orthodox rulers. During the fourteenth century, the Holy See showed itself to be quite a powerful force in effectively threatening kings and emperors of the Eastern commonwealth with military crusades and in making them recognize the papal authority at least pro forma. On these grounds, local nobles who were eager to align themselves on the side of the most powerful entities, started to figure out the ways they could become part of the western coalition of power centers led by the Holy See.

Through the correspondence of the Holy See with the representatives of the Regnum Albaniae, the local nobles of the Southwest Balkans realized that the Regnum Albaniae was considered an important political power in the Balkans from the pontifical point of view, a power upon which the Papal Curia relied. In this context, Regnum Albaniae represented a source of power, identification and self-representation for the local nobility as they required. Although the Regnum Albaniae was almost physically nonexistent in the fourteenth century, local nobles started to be interested in perpetuating the Regnum Albaniae because they realized that it provided them with a political status which was recognized by the powers they wished to ally themselves with such as the Holy See, the Hungarian Kingdom, the Ban of Bosnia, the French king, the Venetians etc. The local nobles began to develop ways they could and should personalize the Regnum Albaniae in order to use it as a political costume, one which they had to assume in order to be recognized and treated as allies of the western powers, especially the papacy.

The Regnum was created by the Anjous and the Holy See recognized it as Catholic. From this point of view, one of the ways to personalize the Regnum Albaniae at the royal level was the Anjou origin of the pretender to the throne. Since Regnum Albaniae was an Anjou creation, claiming connections to the house of Anjou became was one of the codes that helped them reach out to the royal throne, a tactic extensively used by the local nobleman, Charles Thopia. The other way to personalize it that was available to the other local nobles who could not pretend any kind of French or Anjou origin, was the Catholic status of the Regnum Albaniae. The local nobles who pretended to be recognized as barones of the Regnum Albaniae, considered their conversion to Catholicism to be the most important step towards this aim.

Catholicism thus became one of the key ideologies that connected the political and religious visions of the Avignon Popes and local nobility of the Regnum Albaniae in the fourteenth century. While the Avignon Popes saw it as a means of religious and political outreach into the Balkans, the local nobility considered it a political means to connect with the West and reap power benefits by association. At this moment of apparent triumph, the French religious influence in the region grew quite strong. Supported by both the Holy See and the local nobility, the number of Catholic religious houses and clergy increased, and the territories of the nobles who considered themselves members of the Regnum Albaniae became true strongholds of Catholicism against the Orthodox rite in the area. The religious and political visions of the Avignon popes and of the local members of the Regnum Albaniae were again united on the eve of their almost simultaneous downfalls.

Etleva Lala
Current Address Permanent Address
Nádor u. 20, A, ½, no. 6 Lagjja Aqif Pasha,

H-1051, Budapest Rruga Vasil Taja, no. 6

Hungary Elbasan, Albania

Tel: 06 30 422 0763 Tel: +355 54 40 730


August 1998 – June 1999 Master of Arts at the Department of Medieval Studies.

Central European University Thesis: “The Concept of Poverty in the Cistercian and

Budapest, Hungary Carthusian Orders.” Supervisors: Gerhard Jaritz, James Hogg.

September 1993 – August 1997 Diploma in German Studies at the Department of Foreign

Universiteti “A. Xhuvani” Languages. Awarded as the student with the highest results

Elbasan, Albania at the final exams.

2003 – 2006 Member of the Institutum Romanorum Finlandiae in Rome.

Rome, Italy
March 2003 – present External member of the General Directory of the Albanian State Tirana, Albania Archives.
2001 – 2006 Archival Research conducted in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano, in

Vatican City the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, in the Archivum Romanum Societatis Jesu, and in the De Propaganda Fide
2004 – 2006 Research conducted in the Manuscript and Rarae halls of the

Italy Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Rome, Biblioteca Angelica,

Biblioteca Vallicelliana, and in the Ėcole Française de Rome; in the Biblioteca del Museo Correr and also in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice; in the archive of the Biblioteca Medicea and in the manuscript hall of the Biblioteca Nationale, Florence.
2002 – 2003 Archival research conducted at the Državni archiv u Dubrovniku,

Dubrovnik, Croatia and also in the Biblioteka “Mala Braća u Dubrovniku, OFM


October 1997 – present Lecturer at the Department of Foreign Languages/ German Section

“A. Xhuvani” University Courses taught: History of the German Speaking Countries, Art

Elbasan, Albania History, Civilization.
March, 2004 Participated as a lecturer of “Thinking Critically for Learning” in the

Tirana, Albania Albania Winter School in Academic Writing and Critical Thinking in Tirana, organized by CEP and Open Society Foundation, Albania.
September, 2001 Organized and run a workshop on Academic Writing, initiated by

Kotor, Montenegro WUS Austria. 22 students from all faculties of the University of Montenegro attended this workshop.
May, 2001 Participated as a lecturer at the Regional Workshop on Teaching

Kotor, Montenegro Methods in Higher Education, a Teacher Training Seminar, organized by the Civic Education Project and WUS Austria.

December 2007 Awarded Grant awarded by the Albanian Ministry of Science

and Education as one of 25 young excellent Albanian scholars

September, 2002 – March, 2003 Grant awarded by Central European University to conduct

Doctoral Research Support Grant research in the Vatican City, attached as a full researcher at the

Institutum Romanorum Finlandiae
1998 – 2002 Scholarship awarded by Open Society Foundation scholarship

Central European University to participate at the M.A and Ph.D. programs in Medieval

Studies at the Central European University

October 2000 – July 2001 Grant awarded by the Southeast European Faculty

HESP - Returning Scholar Development Program to teach for a year at the “A. Xhuvani”

University in Elbasan, Albania.

LANGUAGES: Albanian (native)

English, German, Italian: fluent written and spoken

French, Latin: fluent written


With Musa Ahmeti. Registra Lateranensia, annos 1401-1454 continens. Acta et diplomata res Albaniae mediae aetatis illustrantia. Vol. III. in print.

With Musa Ahmeti. Illyricum Sacrum 10: Burime dhe Dokumenta Botohen për herë të parë (Illyricum Sacrum 10: The Unpublished Source Material). Tirana: Ombra GVG, 2007.
“Skanderbeg und der Heilige Stuhl.” In Nach 450 Jahren Buzukus ‘Missale’ und seine Rezeption in unserer Zeit. Ed. Bardhyl Demiraj. Albanische Forschungen 25 (Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz Verlag, 2007): 317-328.
“The Survival of the Catholic Church in Albania during the Period of Direct Contact with the with the Ottomans (1458-1484).” In ...Et usque ad ultimum terrae – The Apostolic Penitentiary in Local Contexts. Eds. Gerhard Jaritz, Torstein Jørgensen, Kirsi Salonen. CEU Medievalia (Budapest: Central European University, Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University Press, Rome: Hungarian Academy, 2007): 115-122.
“Historia e trojeve etnike shqiptare në shekullin XVII, sipas dokumenteve të Archivio de Propaganda Fide” (The history of the ethnic Albanian territories during the seventeenth century according the the documents of the Archivio de Propaganda Fide). Vjetari i Arkivit të Kosovës XXXV-XXXVI (Prishtina, 2006): 181-210.
“Dorëshkrimi shqip i Rajnholdit” (The Albanian manuscript of Rainhold). In Seminari Ndërkombëtar për Gjuhën, Letërsinë, dhe Kulturën Shqiptare 23/1 (Prishtina, 2005): 181-210.
“The Papal Curia and Albania in the Later Middle Ages.” In The Long Arm of Papal Authority. Ed.Gerhard Jaritz, Torstein Jorgensen, Kirsi Salonen. Medium Aevum Quotidianum. Sonderband XIV – CEU Medievalia 8 (Bergen, Budapest, Krems, 2004): 89-101.
“Mbretëria e Arbërisë në Dokumentet Papnore në dhjetëvjeçarin e dytë të shekullit XIV” (Regnum Albaniae in the papal documents in the second decade of the fourteenth century). Phoenix (2004)
“Mbretëria e Arbërisë dhe Papati në gjysmën e parë të shek. XIV” (Regnum Albaniae and the Papal Curia in the first half of the fourteenth century). In Kuvendi i Arbënit 1703 në 300-vjetorin e mbajtjes së tij (Prishtina: Shpresa, 2004): 150-188.
“Rëndësia e Arkivit të Vatikanit për historinë e shek. XIV të popullit shqiptar” (The significance of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano about the history of the fourteenth-century Albania). In Seminari Ndërkombëtar për Gjuhën, Letërsinë, dhe Kulturën Shqiptare 22/1 (Prishtina, 2004): 83-93.

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