Regnum Albaniae, the Papal curia, and the Western visions of a borderline nobility
By Etleva Lala
PhD Dissertation, CEU, Budapest College, 2008
Abstract: Almost all the territories of the Southwestern Balkans became Catholic in the second half of the fourteenth century. This success of Catholicism in this region, which was on the cost of the Eastern rite, had various reasons, which have not been articulated clearly in the historiography.
In my thesis I argue that the most important one for this phenomenon is the interaction of the Holy See with the local nobility through the political structure of the Regnum Albaniae. Regnum Albaniae, a political structure created in the seventies of the thirteenth century by Charles I of Anjou, was studied only as a negative phenomenon for the Albanians and its interaction with the locals was only seen in a negative light and simplified into a relation between occupiers and occupied. In this study, I try to shed light on the positive role of the Regnum Albaniae especially for the establishing 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.
Through the correspondence of the Holy See with the representatives of the Regnum Albaniae, the local nobles of the Southwestern 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 required. Catholicism was one of the key ideologies that connected the political and religious visions of the Avignon Popes and the local nobility of the Regnum Albaniae in the fourteenth century.
While the Avignon Popes saw it as a means of religious and political outreach in 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 was 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.