A Process of Secularization? Venetian Hospitallers and Hospitaller Estates on Cyprus after 1474
KeywordsMilitary Orders, Late Middle Ages, Hospitaller Order, Cyprus, Venetians, Catalans
In this paper the appointment of Venetian Hospitallers from 1474 onwards to manage the Hospitaller estates on the island of Cyprus will be examined. The main issue to be discussed with regard to their appointment, which coincided with the imposition of Venetian control over Cyprus, is whether this constituted secularization. Under Queen Catherine Corner (1473–1489) Venetian troops garrisoned Cypriot castles and Venetian officers were appointed to oversee the administration, marking a transition to Venetian governance. Non-Venetian Hospitallers and especially Catalans were viewed with suspicion, given the involvement of at least one Catalan Hospitaller in an unsuccessful plot to expel the Venetian in late 1473. Yet it can be argued that technically there was no secularization and that Venetian Hospitallers simply replaced non-Venetian ones. Nevertheless, given the participation of some of these Venetian Hospitallers in Venetian state diplomacy as well as in commerce involving Venice, a case can be made that in practice secularization did take place, despite the nominal assent the Order gave to the appointment of these Venetian Hospitallers.
The appointment of Venetians to manage Hospitaller estates in Cyprus provoked rivalry among powerful Venetian families within Venice. The two families concerned, the Corner and the Grimani, were powerful and pro-papal, providing most of the Venetian cardinal in the period 1500–1550, so this rivalry can be placed in a wider context. Furthermore, the imposition of Venetian taxes on such estates, despite the Order’s protests, also constitutes proof of secularization. Even so, the Hospitaller Order did maintain limited influence over appointments in Cyprus and sent members of the Order to the island to examine conditions on its estates, an indication that it did not lose complete control of its Cypriot properties.
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