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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

In Castile churchmen paid part of the alcabala


[Sidenote:

Royal attempts to reduce the financial immunities of the church.]

One of the leading preoccupations of the kings in dealing with the Spanish clergy was to reduce the immunities of a financial character which they enjoyed. Ever since the thirteenth century, efforts had been made with that object in view, and considerable success had been attained by the Hapsburg kings, while the attempts of the Bourbon monarchs to check the acquisition of lands by the church or to render at least a portion of them subject to taxation have already been traced in the chapter on social institutions. A great deal remained to be done, however, before the church would be reduced to the level of the bourgeois class in the payment of tributes. For a proper appreciation of this subject it is necessary to bear in mind the many sources of income of the Spanish church. In addition to the profits from their lands, cattle, and quit-rents (_censos_), churchmen received tithes (_diezmos_), first-fruits (_primicias_), fees for masses, marriages, funerals, and burials, alms for the mendicant orders, gifts, and still other forms of contributions from persons and lands not under their economic control. Their seigniorial rights were still extensive, for as late as 1787 there were 3148 towns of one type or another under their rule. To be sure, portions of these revenues were already being paid to the crown, while many former ecclesiastical earnings had altogether disappeared, or had

been taken over by the state. In some places the clergy were subject to certain taxes, and in others they were not; in Castile churchmen paid part of the _alcabala_; in Catalonia they paid all the royal tributes. The laws of the century displayed a consistent intention on the part of the kings to reduce their financial immunities still further. Thus in 1721 the clergy of Castile and the Canaries were required to pay customs duties which had not previously been exacted from them; in 1737 a tax of thirty-three per cent was levied on all new landed possessions of the church in Valencia; in the concordat of the same year the pope granted that all lands thenceforth coming into the possession of ecclesiastical institutions might be taxed in the same manner as those of lay individuals, if the king should so decide; when Charles III was about to ascend the Spanish throne, Pope Benedict XIV granted him the eventual subjection of the clergy to the same tributary basis as laymen; in 1763 the clergy of the crown of Aragon were ordered to pay the _alcabala_ from that time forth; in 1765 churchmen in general were made subject to the military tax of the _milicias_ (militia), and in 1780 the pope authorized the king to collect up to one third of the income of benefices to which the king had the right of nomination. These provisions were not carried out in full; there would no longer have been any financial question between the kings and the church if they had been. Aside from the royal gains of a legislative character the clergy were often induced, or compelled, to make special grants to the state in times of war, and occasionally they came forward of their own free will. When the Jesuits were expelled in 1767, their properties were confiscated, although the government announced that in applying the proceeds it would bear in mind the objects of donors to the Jesuits, the interests of religion, and public utility. Nothing definite is known as to the amount of wealth this yielded to the state, although it must have been considerable. Many writers have made fanciful estimates as to the Jesuit properties, especially with regard to their holdings in the Americas, some of them exaggerating their value, and others going to the opposite extreme to make them appear inconsequential. Nevertheless, despite the progress made by the Bourbons, the church was still enormously wealthy at the end of the era; it is said that their annual income reached 1,101,753,430 _reales_ (about $70,000,000).


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