Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Larry J. Simon

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Berkhofer III

Third Advisor

Dr. Kevin J. Wanner


Mercedarians, Catalan, Captives, Ransoming, Medieval

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The Medieval advent of institutionalized religious ransoming marked a clear shift in popular concern for captive aid. The present study examines the Catalan based Order of Merced in an attempt to reevaluate the role of religious ransoming in Christian communities. This project reconstructs internal and external perceptions of the Mercedarian brothers and their chosen vocation of ransoming through an analysis of contemporaneous discourse about the order and patterns of lay engagement with the brothers. The first section utilizes published collections of papal and royal records. These documents, combined with the polemic and apologetic texts of the thirteenth-century Christian author Pedro Pascual, reveal distinct associations between the role of the Mercedarians and their mendicant and military contemporaries. The second section turns to unpublished records of donations and ransoming activities in the Order of Merced. The patterns of uncharitable practices, which these records reveal, suggest a Mercedarian social role beyond religious ransoming. Together, the observations from this project challenge the popular scholarly view of the Mercedarians as embodiments of a late medieval increase in Christian impetus towards charity. This study instead suggests scholarly adoption of a conceptual model which identifies the Mercedarians as evangelical pastors of the Christian faith in threatened communities allows researchers to more fully embraces the diverse nature of the brothers’ medieval existence.