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Title: The state of the Hospitaller commandery of the Santissima Trinità of Ferrara in the late eighteenth century
Authors: Attard Cassar, Christine
Keywords: Hospitaller Commandery of the Santissima Trinita of Ferrara
Knights of Malta
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: The purpose of the present dissertation is to gain a clear idea of the state of one particular Hospitaller commandery in the late eighteenth century. The commandery of the Santissima Trinità in Ferrara formed part of the Grand Priory of Venice. I have relied almost entirely on the few surviving documents intimately related to the historical development of this group of Hospitaller estates. The information on the commandery under survey was principally gathered from the prioral visit and miglioramenti records found at the Archives of the Order of St.John at the National Library of Malta in Valletta. These cover two decades in the late eighteenth century. Although the number of sources was somewhat limited, I have tried to create as accurate an image of the commandery as possible. Here I wish to make a confession. I feel I must draw the attention to the fact that I have been made aware from the very start of my archival research for the present dissertation that a similar dissertation on the same subject and based on the same set of documentation had been written recently for the MA degree in Hospitaller Studies. I was advised to consult it only when my work had been completed. I accepted that advice, at first not without some reluctance. With hindsight, I think that advice helped me considerably in trying to think independently my own mind and independently reach my own conclusions, without being influenced by somebody else’s work. To have consulted it at the outset would definitely have conditioned both my approach, the way I have divided the dissertation, and my conclusions. As the present work now stands, with a few strengths and many flaws, I can claim that it is my own work, entirely and absolutely. I am glad to have taken my tutor’s advice. The first chapter of the present dissertation is of an introductory nature where the different features of the Hospitaller commandery in general are brought to life. This includes, first, an overview of the commandery from its origins to its three main functions – economic sustainability, continuous recruitment of brethren, and social relations; secondly, an attempt at placing the commandery in focus with information related to its administration, structure, sources of revenue and expenditure, as well as a few introductory comments on the church of the commandery. The second chapter deals the administrative methods employed on the commanderies by the Hospitallers. The commander, the person immediately in charge of the commandery, was first answerable to the grand prior. Here a brief introduction is provided on the Grand Priory of Venice. Focus is next placed on how the prioral visit, the Miglioramento, and the cabreo were administered, whilst direct reference is made to the surviving documents on the commandery. The third chapter attempts to analyse the history and physical structure of the commandery of the Santissima Trinità. Although the commandery formed part of the Grand Priory of Venice, it also fell within the jurisdiction of the pope. Ferrara was part of the Papal States. Chapter three explains the historical aspect of how a rival relationship came into being between the Venetian Republic and the papacy. The focus is then shifted on the physical structure of the commandery. Although reference to the actual location and size of the commandery is not provided in the surviving documents, thanks to the detailed accounts in the manuscripts, I attempted to locate some of the estates the commandery owned. Detailed descriptions of every single possession and size (where available) are found in this chapter. The fourth chapter gives particular importance to the church found on the commandery. Being the only church on the commandery, I felt that it is important to give a detailed description of the main body of the church (including the altars), the sacristy, the choir and the other rooms found within the structure of the church. The fifth chapter traces the financial aspect of the commandery. The miglioramento of 1780 was the basic document for this particular chapter, since it provided detailed accounts of rents and all the maintenance done on this commandery, including the raw materials needed and the expenses made to purchase them. The chapter further compares and contrasts the miglioramenti records of 1780 and 1790. The first part focuses on the revenue of the commandery, since, in this sense, it played a vital role in the survival of the Hospitaller Order. Secondly, focus was also placed on the expenses of the commandery, which were mainly related to the maintenance of the estates. The commandery had a number of burdens to pay, including the wage of the procurator. Finally, the chapter gives a brief account of some laws and penalties related to the agricultural land on the commandery. The concluding section of the present dissertation focuses on the link between Hospitaller commanderies (with particular reference to the Santissima Trinità) and the rest of Europe. First, a general historical overview of the eighteenth century is given, in order to try and understand why certain crucial factors of the eighteenth century, like the Seven Years War, the plague, and other natural disasters, were not mentioned in the surviving documents that have been consulted for this work. Secondly, this section discusses the possible link between European society and society on the commanderies. Unfortunately, the surviving documents lack references to society, such as activities, punishments, and crime, which makes it difficult to actually create a link between the two. However, the absence of such social activities underscore the fact that the ultimate purpose of the Hospitaller commandery was purely economic. The main focus of the records is on income and expenditure. Finally, a comparison to another commandery is provided in the concluding section, pointing out some dissimilarities between the two.
Description: B.A.(HONS)HISTORY
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2012
Dissertations - FacArtHis - 2012

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