Theologian, philosopher, missionary, and crusade theorist.
Ramon Llull (or Lull) was born in Mallorca, where he lived an essentially secular life until the age of about thirty, having married and had two children. Around 1263 he experienced an inner conversion and resolved to devote his life to God’s service, particularly to mission to the Muslims. Over the following years he studied philosophy and theology and learned Arabic from a Muslim slave on Mallorca.
Llull first preached to the local Muslim population, but eventually, between periods of residence in Mallorca, Montpellier, Aragon, and Italy, and various other travels, he undertook three preaching missions to North Africa. In 1292 he took ship at Genoa and travelled to Tunis, but was soon arrested and expelled by the Hafsid authorities. In 1307 he sailed to the more westerly port of Bougie (mod. Bejaïa, Algeria); there he was able to conduct a theological disputation with Muslim scholars, but was imprisoned for six months before being released. In 1315, now at a very advanced age, he again went to Tunis, where he was able to remain undisturbed by being more circumspect in his missionary activities than he had been previously. Yet when he travelled to Bugia for a second time, he was recognized and stoned by the irate populace, dying soon afterward.
Llull was a profound thinker and a prolific writer. He is known to have written well over 200 surviving works, plus others now lost, ranging through theology and doctrinal debate, mysticism, philosophy, romance, and poetry as well as an autobiography. These included several detailed proposals for crusades, which were refined and revised in the course of Llull’s long life, and often conceived in conjunction with schemes for missionary activities.
In 1294 he presented to Pope Celestine V a petition (Peti- tio Raymundi pro conversione infidelium) that pleaded for invasions of other Muslim countries as well as a crusade to the Holy Land. He put forward a similar proposal (Petitio pro recuperatione Terrae Sanctae) to the next pope, Boniface VIII, which stressed the need for a peaceful preaching mission to the infidels and study of their languages as well as a crusade. These ideas were elaborated in the Liber (or Libel- lus) de Fine (1305), which discussed the organization, finance, and strategy for a new crusade. In it Llull proposed that the different military orders should be combined and placed under the authority of a leader of royal blood (to be chosen by the papacy), who would also act as the commander of the expedition. In his discussion of strategy, he considered the merits of the different possible theaters of war in the Mediterranean region that would ultimately offer the best route to the Holy Land. He argued that the best course was to attack the Moors in Spain and then to invade North Africa, but also stressed the importance of using Rhodes and Malta as naval bases.
The ideas of the Liber de Fine resurfaced in the Disputa- tio Raymundi Christiani et Hamar Saraceni, a discussion of the relative merits of Christianity and Islam in debate form, written during Llull’s imprisonment in Bugia. A later treatise, the Liber de acquisitione Terrae Sanctae (1309), proposed a multipronged attack on the Muslim world, in which the Iberian and North African campaign, as originally elaborated in the Liber de Fine, was to be augmented by an expedition going to Anatolia via Constantinople, and a naval attack on Egypt. Llull was able to present many of his ideas to the pope and leaders of the church in person at the Council of Vienne (1311-1312), which spent considerable time discussing plans for a new crusade.