The thirteenth-century Catholic missionary, apologist, systematic theologian, mystic, and activist, Ramon Llull, is virtually unknown to modern Westerners. However, Llull was the first European writer to compose philosophical and social novels and Llullís thought gained a large following in successive centuries and numerous schools of "Lullism" were formed to study and disseminate his writings. From the mid-fifteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century, Lullism exerted a considerable force in European thought, influencing such famous thinkers as Nicholas of Cusa, Cisneros, díEtaples, Bruno, and Leibniz. During his life, Llull developed a scheme called the Art, in which he attempted to systematize all knowledge. According to historian Anthony Bonner, Llull was a thinker of great importance during the Renaissance, so much so that the Renaissance goal of systematizing human knowledge "ultimately stemmed from Llullís Art as a system which would provide a key to universal reality." For centuries, many philosophers believed Llullís Art did provide just such a key. For example, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535), the first German commentator on Llull, stated:

the Art . . . is to be regarded as the queen of all arts, an easy and sure guide to all sciences and all doctrines. [The Art] . . . is characterized by its universal applicability and certainty; aided only by this Art, men will be able, without being required to possess any other knowledge, to eliminate all possibility of error and find лde omni re scibili veritatem et scientiam.í The arguments in the Art are infallible and irrefutable; the principles and theorems of each particular science are eliminated by it and derive their validity from it; finally, because it embraces every science, the Art has the task of ordering every facet of human knowledge.


Despite such laud from many, Lullism began to decline in the late seventeenth century. Within the empiricist outlook which dominated Western thought after Galileo and Newton, Llullís system "began to seem ungrounded." However, in recent times, Llull has begun to slowly reemerge as a figure of great intellectual importance, a reemergence which Bonner credits to "reduced hostility to apioristic modes of thought" in the twentieth century. The roots of symbolic logic and computer science have even been traced to the Lullian Art. It is essential to remember, however, that Llull himself viewed his work, and especially the Art, as "divinely revealed" expressly for the purpose of convincing Muslims of the truth of Christianity. Indeed, Llullís expansive intellectual interests-philosophy, medicine, astronomy, cosmology, psychology, logic, physics, geometry, knighthood, politics, polemics, literature, mysticism, natural science, Judaism, Islam, jurisprudence, social reform-were for Llull, "tools to further his main purpose, the conversion of unbelievers by means of a method based on the general principles that govern the natural order of the universe." So, Llullís missionary impulse is the heart of all his remarkable work; in the words of R.D.F. Pring-Mill,

Being a philosopher and a theologian was purely incidental to this purpose. He was not interested in shaping doctrine or in devising a new philosophical system. What he wanted to do was to create a thoroughly practical art of finding truth as the basis of the practical arts of conversion and salvation.


Within the scope of this paper, there is not space to deal with Llullís Art, so instead we will concentrate on Llull as a missionary, the end to which his Art was directed. In order to understand Ramon Llull as missionary to Saracens, we must consider the course of his life, along with his motivation, goals, and methods, within the context of the thirteenth-century western Mediterranean world in which he lived.

Llull was born in 1232 or 1233 in Ciutat de Mallorques, the capital of the island of Majorca. (Ciutat de Mallorques has been known as Palma since the sixteenth century). Majorca had been a Christian possession for only three years when Llull was born, having been captured in 1229 by James I of Aragon, thereby ending three centuries of Muslim possession of the island. For the five centuries prior to the beginning of the twelfth century, the western Mediterranean had been a "Muslim lake," with the Iberian peninsula dominated by Muslim ever rule since the Muslims had invaded the peninsula from North Africa in 711. The Christian kingdoms in northern Iberia had reconquered some lands, but had been generally unsuccessful during the twelfth century due to the strength of the successive Almoravid and Almohad empires ruling from North Africa. During the early thirteenth century, this situation changed. The Almohad dynasty collapsed, and within two decades between 1226 and 1248, the Christian kingdoms had reduced Muslim control of Iberia to the "petty kingdom of Granada," which the Muslims would hold until 1492.

Catalonia, a "mercantile, urban, and maritime" region of Iberia, had joined itself with Aragon, a "more rural, feudal, and landlocked" region, in the twelfth century. Catalonia provided the "demographic, economic, and cultural motive force behind the effective strength of the kingdom," and it was the Catalan language which was rapidly becoming a widespread language of international diplomacy and trade in the western Mediterranean. The kingdom of Aragon, and especially Catalonia, was able to gain influence in the region so quickly because of the power vacuum created by the weakness of Aragon, the collapse of the Almohads, and the conquering of southern France by northern France with the support of the papacy, which wanted to eradicate the Catharist heresy from southern France. Many people fled to Catalan from southern France at this time, which added to Catalanís rapid cultural rise. Majorca, located half-way between Barcelona and Algiers, became an important stopping-point for trading ships from ports as distant as Alexandria. According to Bonner, "probably only a handful of thirteenth-century European cities were more cosmopolitan than[Ciutat de Mallorques]." During Llullís lifetime, about one third of the population of Majorca was Muslim, some of whom were artisans, traders, and farmers, and most of whom were slaves. Ciutat de Mallorques was among "the most Muslim of Christian cities," in the words of Havelock Ellis. Additionally, there were Jews living on Majorca, many of whom were prominent in economic and diplomatic spheres of life.

So, Llull lived in a region which has been dominated by Muslims for centuries, and where Christians had only recently gained political power and commercial influence. At Majorca, he was keenly aware of being surrounded by Muslims, both on the island, and in Iberia and North Africa. Born and raised in a dynamic, cosmopolitan city, Llull most likely interacted with representatives of many nations, cultures, and religions frequently. Given this context, it makes sense that when Llull decided to devote his life to serving Christ, missionary work was his immediate, almost instinctive, reaction. As J.N. Hillgarth explains, "[Llullís] mind naturally turned to the conversion of Islam, the hostile faith he saw all around him on his native island." Moreover, since Llull lived at the beginning of an era of reconquest, he was almost certainly affected by the sense that Christianity was going to reassert itself over Islam just as Christian political and economic power was reconquering the region. Catalan, the language in which he wrote many of his works, was well-suited for the international missionary purpose of his writings.

Llull was probably the son of a rich citizen or noble and he gained employment as the seneschal (estate manager) for Prince James, the son of the King James I of Aragon. At age 25, in 1257, Llull married Blanca Picany, and they had two children, DomИnec and Magdelena. Llull converted to Christianity in 1263, at age 31, after a series of visions. We know very little about the first three decades of Llullís life, except that his lifestyle was "licentious and worldly" (his own later description), and that his marriage seems to have brought little or no emendation of his loose lifestyle. Later, reflecting on the pre-Christian part of his life, Llull wrote, "I, Lord, have loved women many times, so much that neither night nor day was there anything in my heart but love of them. In my great folly, Lord, I took those things I loved as if they were gods." His licentious youth plagued him with painful memories for the rest of his life, often provoked by the most natural things (apples, flowers, soft beds, human skin), and he recounted that were it not for Christís great mercy towards sinners, he would have considered himself too guilty and unworthy to serve Christ. The education Llull received as a young man was substantially less than would be required for his future work. Most of our knowledge of Llullís life comes from his autobiography, Contemporary Life, which he "recounted and allowed to be put down in writing" at the "instance of certain monks who were friends of his," as the introduction to the work explains. The Contemporary Life was composed in 1311 in Paris and was included in the Electorum, an extensive anthology of Llullís works compiled by Llullís disciple, Thomas le MyИsier, soon after Llullís death in 1312. The Contemporary Life is considered a generally reliable historical source, as seen by its constant use by historians. It begins with Llullís conversion experience.

One night, as Llull began to compose a love song to a Majorcan woman whom he "loved with a foolish love," he saw a vision of Christ on the cross suspended in the air beside him. In the course of two weeks, Llull saw the vision four more times whenever he began to work on the long song. After the fifth appearance, Llull pondered the meaning of these visions, and decided that their meaning must be that he should give up his life for Christ (i.e. service and martyrdom), which he concluded he could best do by "converting to His worship and service the Saracens who in such numbers surrounded the Christians on all sides." At this time also, he was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that he "would have to write a book, the best in the world, against the errors of unbelievers." Llull concluded that he should seek institutional support from the pope and various kings and princes for the establishment of monasteries for training missionaries, especially in the languages of the unbelievers. As Hillgarth notes, these three convictions from Llullís conversion experience-giving up his life in Christís service, rational apologetics and missionary training for the conversion of unbelievers (the writing of the book), and effort to secure institutional support-would broadly outline the rest of his life. Hillgarth confirms the likelihood that Llull did formulate an immediate response of grave commitment, as this was entirely consistent with his impetuous nature, seen in the daring of his earlier love affairs.

Llullís ideas were not completely novel. The Dominican and Franciscan Orders, founded in the early thirteenth century, had brought with their establishment "great activity and zeal on the part of the Church in missionary efforts." At least since the twelfth century, many Christian leaders (especially Peter the Venerable of Cluny) had been keenly aware of the enormous demographic challenge facing Christianity, and the necessity for Christian missionaries to go out to convert the heathen. After the Mongol invasions in the thirteenth century, it became broadly known that unbelievers outnumbered Christians ten- to one-hundred-fold. To those few who really grappled with the problem, such as the Franciscan Roger Bacon, Islam was the natural focus of immediate attention, because Christian Europe was surrounded by Islam, because it presented the most challenging opposing creed known then in Europe, and because the Mongols would probably convert to Islam if they did not convert to Christianity. The Churchís renewal of enthusiasm for missions in the early thirteenth century almost certainly had an effect on Llull, encouraging him in the direction of missions as the way for him to best serve Christ. The attention given to Islam by Franciscan and Dominican leaders at this time also probably played a role in the formation of Llullís outlook on Islam as the "greatest obstacle to the conversion of the world," a phrase he often repeated.

In the decades of Llullís childhood and adolescence, the Dominican Order, especially, had begun working toward goals very similar to those Llull would embrace in 1263. Four prominent Dominicans, St. Ramon de Penyafort (ca. 1185-1275), Frater Paulo (Pablo Christiani), Frater Raymundus Martini (Ramon Martin), and St. Thomas Aquinas were especially important in the fields of apologetics, missions, and polemics. Penyafort was the third Master General of the Dominican Order from 1238-40. Before assuming this office, he had obtained permission to have twenty or more monks trained in Arabic. According to reports, these monks were very successful as missionaries to the Saracens. At the same time, upon his suggestion, a number of brothers were trained in Hebrew with the goal of converting the Jews by showing the agreement between early Jewish interpreters and Christian claims of messianic fulfillment. Later, while he was Master General, Penyafort established an institute for the study of Arabic, Hebrew, and Chaldee. According to Bonner, Penyafort organized schools of Arabic and Hebrew for missionaries-in-training in Tunis, Murcia (Castile), and perhaps Majorca around 1245. Hubert de Romans, Master General of the Dominicans from 1254 to 1263, continued to establish missionary schools where languages were taught. Llull probably knew about Penyafortís schools and probably derived his plan to create language schools for training missionaries at least in part from his knowledge of Penyafortís schools. If Penyafort did establish a school in Majorca, this account is especially likely. Penyafort promoted non-violent missions, arguing that "Jews and Saracens ought again to be drawn to the Christian faith by the citation of authorities, by reasons, and kindnesses rather than by asperities. They ought not to be compelled because compulsory services are not pleasing to God." Penyafortís persuasion-apologetics approach to may have influenced Llull.

Fra Paulo converted to Christianity from Judaism. He became a Dominican monk and is best known for presenting the Christian arguments in the Disputation of Barcelona in 1263. Paulo taught Hebrew at Penyafortís language school for many years. He also spent some time as a missionary in Aragon. Pauloís "greatest accomplishment," according to Oliver Rankin, "was the training of [Raymond] Martin."

Raymond Martin was, according to Rankin, "the most remarkable product of the linguistic training encouraged by the Dominican Order." In 1250, Martin was specially chosen by Penyafort to study Oriental languages with Paulo. Martin studied Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, and is said to have been "the first Christian to possess a knowledge of Hebrew that was greater than that attained by Jerome." Martin wrote several books of apologetic theology, including his Explanation of the Creed (1256-57), Summa against the Errors of the Koran (1260), Capistrum Judaeorum (1267), and The Dagger of the Faith against Moors and Jews (1278). Since two of these works were published before Llullís conversion, it is very possible that his idea of writing "the best [book] in the world against the errors of unbelievers" was related to knowledge he had of Martinís books and apologetic work. Martin taught Hebrew in Barcelona when Hebrew and Arabic studies were instituted there in 1281. His Dagger of the Faith against Moors and Jews was an influential apologetic work full of arguments for preaching monks to use in their work among Muslims and Jews (which was used even centuries later by Pascal). Martin had been a fellow student with Aquinas under Albert the Great in Paris, and Aquinas used his Capistrum in his own Summa Contra Gentiles (1270-72), which Aquinas wrote at the request of Penyafort. It seems that Llull was familiar with Aquinas and the Summa, for he cites it in a 1309 work. It would seem though that Aquinasí writings did not impress Llull overmuch or influence him in any significant respect.

In July 1263, the year of Llullís conversion, Penyafort participated in the famous Disputation of Barcelona between Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (Nahmanides) and Fra Paulo at the Royal Palace before King James I. Penyafortís role in the debate was relatively minor, but he "gave a discourse on the subject of the Trinity and asserted that the Trinity was wisdom and will and power." Pring-Mill has suggested that Llullís "orientation towards proselytism and apologetics might have been influenced by the disputation of Barcelona." This seems entirely conceivable, especially given the fact that in 1265 Llull went to meet with Penyafort and subsequently followed his advice, indicating that Llull held him in high regard. However, Llullís Contemporary Life indicates that Llull "firmly made up his mind about [his] three intentions," on the day after his fifth vision, which occurred in late June or early July 1263. So, he most likely reached his decisions before the Disputation occurred, and therefore the disputation could not have been a cause for his apologetic goals, though the disputation probably did encourage Llull in his conviction that rational argumentation, especially concerning the Trinity, was necessary for the advancement of the gospel among Jews and Muslims. Another possibility is that the Life, based on recollections 48 years after the fact, inaccurately compresses Llullís visions and decisions about how specifically to serve Christ, and that the Disputation did play a formative role in Llullís commitment to apologetics. As Hillgarth explains, "it is possible that the contemporary Life has somewhat anticipated Lullís plans and that they were not so clear in his mind at the time of his conversion as they later became."

Between 1268-69, Martin attempted to convert the sultan of Tunis, al-Mustansir, to Christianity. Though Martin was unsuccessful at converting the sultan, he did convince him that Islam was not true. However, by dissuading him of the truth of Islam without being able to prove to him of the truth of Christianity, Martin provoked the sultanís anger against him. This event was very important for Llull, who alluded to it seven different times in his writing to illustrate the necessity that Christian missionaries be prepared to present rational arguments for the Christian mysteries of the Incarnation and the Trinity, "the two Christian dogmas which had proved the greatest stumbling block to Muslim and Jewish understanding of Christianity." Here is one of Llullís references to the event:

[A] certain Christian religious learned in Arabic was in Tunis disputing with the king. The religious proved by an attack on Moslem morality that the law of Mahomet was erroneous and false. The king, who knew something of logic and of natural philosophy, was convinced and said to the Christian: лFrom now on I refuse to be a Moslem; prove to me that your Faith is true and I will embrace it and see that it is adopted in my whole kingdom under pain of death.í The religious replied: лThe Christian faith cannot be proved, but here is the creed in Arabic, accept it.í . . . The king replied: лI refuse simply to abandon one belief for another without proof and without understanding the new faith. You have done ill, for you have taken from me the belief I had and given me nothing in return.í The king then had the religious and his companion banished from Tunis.

Llull was convinced that "no previous [apologetic] method [before his own] had been able or willing to deal with [the Christian mysteries] in any reasonably convincing way." In other words, the lack of success Penyafort, Aquinas, and Martin had met with among unbelievers was "due to their unwillingness to face up to the latter problem [of the need for a proof for the mysteries]." Llullís Art is very obviously an attempt to face up to the problem and to fill this need. It is interesting that in subsequent years, the Dominicans were less receptive to Llullís Art than the Franciscans. Llull explains that "the Franciscans had accepted the Art which God had given him on the mountain much more willingly than the . . . Dominicans." There are several possible reasons for this, though none of them substantiable. First, the Dominicans might have been resentful of Llullís criticism of their apologetic efforts. Second, they might have considered his goal to prove the Christian mysteries to be too rationalistic and therefore destructive of Christian faith, which was a danger of which they were certainly aware.

So, it is clear that Llullís goals were quite similar to those of preceding Dominicans. Like them, he aimed to found missionary schools for training in languages, to compose effective apologetic books, and to engage in disputations to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity to Judaism and Islam. The only significant difference in goals was that unlike the Dominicans, Llull aimed to provide a rational demonstration of the Incarnation and the Trinity. However, even this goal has Dominican parallels, for example, Penyafortís arguments concerning the Trinity at Barcelona in 1263. In his motivation, Llull was probably similar to Dominicans like Penyafort and Martin in the desire to serve Christ through bringing Him worship and service from the numerous unbelieving Saracens. However, Llullís motivation is distinctively related to his own conversion experience, in which he "understood with certainty that God wanted him, Ramon, to leave the world and dedicate himself totally to the service of Christ"-a service to be discharged through his work to convert the Saracens. While Llullís goals and motivations were similar to others, especially Dominicans, in the western Mediterranean just before and contemporaneous with him, his methodological use of the Lullian Art, is thoroughly unique and distinctive.

Llull began to work on the Art in 1274 at age 42, about eleven years after his conversion. Much happened during those eleven years. In the months after his conversion, Llull "returned to his own affairs" and was "quite lukewarm and remiss in carrying out the above-mentioned three projects," due to the fact that "he was still too imbued with his worldly life and licentiousness." However, on the feast day of St. Francis, October 4, 1263, Llull listened to a Franciscan bishop preach on St. Francisí abandonment of the world to be "more fully united to Christ and Christ alone" and was so inspired that he likewise sold all his possessions. Llull reserved some funds for his wife and children, then set off on a pilgrimage in search of guidance for his three tasks, with the intention "never to return" to Majoroca. On his pilgrimage, Llull visited St. Mary of Rocadour, a shrine in the Dordogne, and Saint James (Santiago de Compostela) in northwest Spain.

In 1265, Llull met with Penyafort (then about ninety), probably in Barcelona, and Penyafort advised him not to go to Paris to study grammar and other necessary knowledge, but instead to return to Majorca to gain the grounding he needed in Latin and Arabic. As Hillgarth argues, this was sound advice, for Majorca offered Llull "something unavailable at Paris, a thorough training in Arabic, together with an intimate knowledge of Islam as a living faith." Back in Majorca, Llull assumed the habit (which brought him contempt and derision) and settled into nine years of preparatory studies, a remarkable task for a man of 36-"far from young by medieval standards." Llull bought a slave who served as his personal tutor of Arabic. During this nine-year period from 1265-1274, Llull lived with his family and studied (in addition to Arabic language) the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, Plato, at least ten works of Aristotle, al-Ghazaliís logic, Arabic philosophy, and Christian philosophy and theology. At this point it becomes clear just what an unlikely task Llull had assumed, and just how determined and devoted to his aim he was, "fully conscious of his own complete lack of training for the tasks he had undertaken." During this time, from 1270-72(?) Llull wrote, in Arabic, what was probably his first work, the Book of Contemplation . The Book of Contemplation includes the "first draft of much of Llullís philosophy and the foundations of his mystical theology."

As he wrote it, Llull longed to be finished with the book and depart for the Holy Land, with the hope of being martyred as a missionary. This theme of longing for martyrdom recurs through the book; in one passage, Llull writes, "лMay it please you, merciful Lord, that . . . the last thing I taste may be the blood flowing from my body, dying for your loveí" From this, we can learn something about his motivation. Llull seems driven by an intense desire to give everything he could, even his life, for Christ, who mercifully intervened in his life, to deliver him from a dissolute lifestyle and the destruction toward which it was headed. Llull eagerly embraced the idea of martyrdom from the time of his conversion onward, and his second journey to North Africa in 1307 seems intended to provoke martyrdom. While Llullís desire to die soon (!) as a martyr and his intentionality about provoking martyrdom may seem strange to moderns, it was not without precedent. Beginning in 851, a series of Christians in Cordoba (then the capital of the Islamic Iberian kingdom) "deliberately and provocatively" aroused Muslim action against them, with the precise intention to provoking the Muslim authorities to execute them. The "Christian martyr movement, in which a number of Christians followed this course of action, lasted from 850-859, and we have no reason to think that such martyrdoms did not continue after two more martyrs in 925 and 931. While we have no way of knowing if Llull was aware of these martyrs, this evidence does suggest that the concept of a deliberate, active martyrdom as an excellent expression of devotion to Christ was current among Christians living among Muslims in the western Mediterranean at this time period. So, Llullís longing for a deliberate martyrdom is easier to understand in its historical context. It should be noted, though, that Llullís desires were far more individually-driven than those of the Cordoba martyrs, who often died in groups and may have reached their decisions to pursue martyrdom together.

An unfortunate incident with his slave ended the preparatory period of Llullís life in 1274. While Llull was away, his slave blasphemed Christ, which so enraged Llull that when he heard about it, he struck the slave. Embittered, the slave plotted to murder Llull, which he attempted one day by rushing at him with a sword when Llull was alone. The slave wounded Llull seriously in the stomach, but Llull deflected the sword enough that he was not killed. At that point, Llullís servants arrived and bound the slave and took him to jail, for Llull did not allow them to kill the slave. Llull went to a nearby abbey for three days, praying for guidance about whether to have the slave executed (which seemed harsh) or not (which would mean his life would not be safe). Llullís dilemma resolved itself, for the slave had hanged himself while Llull was at the abbey. Next, Llull went to Mt. Randa, a nearby hill on Majorca, in order to contemplate God. After a week, "it happened that one day while he was gazing intently heavenward the Lord suddenly illuminated his mind, giving him the form and method for writing the afore-mentioned book against the errors of the unbelievers." Having received this illumination Llull went to the abbey where he had recently prayed and began to write his book. While it is impossible to know the exact nature of Llullís illumination, Hillgarth speculates that Llull was caught up in the "dance" of the Neoplatonic spheres which were thought to represent the ladder of being, and this dance "sunk into his mind on Mount Randa with the force of a divine revelation." However, Hillgarthís interpretation seems dubious in light of the startling originality of Llullís Art and the distinctiveness of his apologetics from Neoplatonism.

So, in 1274 Llull wrote, in Arabic, the Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men. This book is "Llullís most important apologetic and polemical work," though for our purposes we will consider only what the book can tell us about Llullís missionary motivation. The book narrates the story of a Gentile, deeply agonized by his inescapable certainty of death and hopelessness for anything more, who meets a group of theologians, one a Jew, one a Christian, and one a Saracen. (The term "Gentiles," as also in Aquinasí Summa contra Gentiles, signified those "without religion," in Llullís words, including "Mongols, Tartars, Bulgars, Hungarians from Lesser Hungary, Kumans, Nestorians, Ghanians, and many others.") The theologians persuade the Gentile of the existence of God and the fact of the resurrection by use of Llullís Art in a popularized form. At this point, Llull describes the joyful reaction of the Gentile, which has echoes of his own repentant confessions in the Contemporary Life and The Book of Contemplation:

Alas, sinful creature! You who for so long have received divine gifts in worldly life from the Lord on high, who gave you being, whose goods you have eaten and drunk, who gave you your clothing, gave you children, and gave you whatever wealth you have, who has kept you alive and has honored you among people, you have never, for a single day or even for a single hour, thanked him for all these things. . . . I give you thanks for having deigned to remember this sinful man, who was at the door of infinite, eternal condemnation.


Concerning himself, Llull wrote, "never, without Your aid, Lord, would contrition or repentance of my sins would have entered my heart." Like the Gentile, he was overwhelmed by Godís mercy and condescension to him in the midst of a life of eating, drinking, family, wealth, and status. Just as the Gentile responds to this mercy with the desire to "lead to the path of salvation so many people who are on the path to eternal fire," so Llull, too, was convinced that a life devoted to the conversion of unbelievers was the only appropriate response to Godís mercy. This is especially clear in the Gentileís reflections which follow his initial exuberance:

While the Gentile was worshipping our Lord God in this way, to his soul came remembrance of his land, of his father, of his mother, and of the lack of faith in which they had died; and he remembered all the people living in that land who were on the path to eternal fire without realizing it, and on which they found themselves for lack of grace. When the Gentile remembered these things, because of the compassion he felt for his father, his mother, his relatives, and all those who had died in his land and lost the glory of God, he wept bitterly and said to the three wise men:

лAh, wise men! You who have been blessed with the gift of grace, have you no pity for the many people who are in error and have no knowledge of God nor feel any gratitude toward God for the good they receive from him? And you, whom God has honored so much more than others, why do you not go and honor God among people where God is dishonored, where nobody loves Him, nor knows Him, nor obeys Him, nor as hope in Him, nor fears His high dominion? For the sake of God, I pray you, gentlemen go to that land and preach there.


This passage is quite indicative of Llullís motivation, with the Gentile expressing many of the concerns which must have driven Llull as an apologist and missionary. As a European, Llull had access to the Christian gospel which Gentiles did not, and as a profligate whom God had enlightened and called to serve Him-as one "blessed with the gift of grace"-Llull felt especially indebted to God. Llull was moved most of all by his desire to serve Christ, and "give up his life and soul for the sake of His love and honor," and he derives his intention to be a missionary to Saracens as a means of bringing Christ that love and honor. Just so, the Gentile in Llullís story appeals to the wise men to become missionaries "for the sake of God," thereby bringing God love and honor and worship. Only a step below his concern for Godís honor is Llullís compassion for the Gentiles, Saracens, and unbelievers of all sorts, whom he believes will face eternal torment if missionaries from among blessed Christendom do not go preach to them. Finally, this passage suggests that Llullís attitude towards Christian leaders was often critical: how could they "no pity for the many people who are in error and have no knowledge of God"? The Gentileís appeal to the wise men probably parallels Llullís own appeal to Christian leaders to take up missions, which in Llullís mind, was clearly the most important and urgent task for any Christian leader. Llullís disappointment with the response of Christian leaders would only increase during his lifetime, but he never became self-righteous or embittered, as we see in Roger Bacon (c. 1220-92) when he was unsuccessful in gaining support for his very similar goals.

Another of Llullís motivations can be seen in the passage where the wise men agree to debate in order to try to together determine the one true belief. One of the wise men says, "What a great fortune it would be if, by means of [disputation], we could all-every man on earth-be under one religion and belief, so that there would be no more rancor or ill will among men, who hate each other because of diversity and contrariness of beliefs." These comments are representative of Llullís own feelings. Later in his life, Llull would argue that disputation might take the place of crusades. He suggested that learned Christian and Moslem scholars meet in Tunis "to dispute on the subject of faith," thinking "perhaps by this means, if it were applied throughout the world, there could be peace instead of war, Christians destroying Saracens and Saracens Christians." The desire to bring peace to mankind was a major motivation for Llull, too, but this motivation was of course subservient to his motivation that God receive worship and that unbelievers come to true faith, for Llull was absolutely unwilling to buy peace at the price of syncretism or religious compromise. As one of the wise men explains, "war, death, and servitude prevent us for giving the praise, reverence, and honor we owe God every day of our life," which is to say, that war is undesirable primarily because it undercuts true worship. Interestingly, Llullís vision of human unity stipulated that the world would ideally be governed by a benevolent emperor in cooperation with the Pope.

Also in the Book of the Gentile, we are reminded of Llullís method, his apologetic approach to the missionary task. When the Gentile first hears that the wise men believe in God and in the Resurrection, he is not willing to "take it on faith" nor on authority. He states, "[W]hoever could explain or prove the resurrection to me by convincing arguments would banish the pain and sorrow from my heart. . . . [I]f it is something you can explain in such a way that my spirit might have knowledge of the resurrection, please do it." Through the Gentile, we can hear Llull addressing his Christian contemporaries: in order to give people knowledge about Christ, so that they may reasonably put their faith in him, we must offer convincing rational arguments. In the very next passage, Llull alludes subtly to Ramon Martinís encounter with the sultan of Tunis. When the Gentile becomes aware of the differences in the three theologiansí beliefs, he says, "now you have plunged me into much greater ire and grief than before, for . . . now I am sure that if I am not on the true path, every kind of punishment is waiting to torment my soul endlessly after I die" The sultan of Tunis, like the Gentile, found that Martinsí witness had left him in a worse place than he was before because Martin could not give a positive argument for his own belief. Llullís great confidence in rational argumentation to settle disagreements of belief is seen at the end of the book when the Jew, Christian, and Saracen agree to meet together for disputation "until all three of us have only one faith, one religion, and . . . we can be in agreement."

In the middle of the book, the Christian theologian tells the Gentile, "лTo our great shame, we Christians are negligent about explaining and demonstrating our belief to unbelievers.í" This statement highlights again the themes of Christian negligence, the need for missions, and the need for apologetics which were at the heart of his motivation and method. A final point concerning Llull as a missionary which the Book of the Gentile presents is Llullís respect for non-Christians. The book is structured with the three apologetic presentations of the Jew, Christian, and Saracen to the Gentile, and Llull presents the Jewish and Saracen arguments accurately and as favorably as possible. After the Jewsí presentation, for example, the Gentile says he is "satisfied, with the possible reservation of what he might hear from the other wise men." At the end of the book, Llull does not disclose which of the three religions the Gentile choses, which shows an effort on Llullís part to be as unbiased as possible. This respectful attitude will be seen again in Llullís first trip to Tunis. Hillgarth credits Llull with "a tolerance and objectivity rare for the age" and with "an emphasis on the necessary for free, not forced conversion." Llull urged a return to the peaceful missionary methods of the Apostles and even his advocacy of the Crusades was only as a "subordinate but necessary means" to "secure a free [uncoerced] hearing for missionaries" (the same reason under which Aquinas allowed Crusades)." According to Hillgarth, Llull discouraged character attacks on Muhammed, was "greatly attracted by Arabic culture" and "understood [Islamís] psychology, he celebrated the beauty of its liturgical language, the depths of its religious spirit, and he recognized how close it was to Christianity." Llullís intimate familiarity with Islam and Arabic language and culture is no doubt a product of his studies in Majorca rather than Paris, and in this regard, he was at a considerable advantage over contemporaries like Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Albert the Great, who studied in Latin in Paris, and were familiar only with the Christian world. Llull had a great deal of understanding of and respect for Islam, for Muslims, and for their culture, and his methods and motives reflect this respect and compassion.

After completing the Book of the Gentile and several other books, Llull spent four months praying at a hermitage he had built on the site where he received the illumination. (The Franciscan Oratory of Cura occupies the spot to this day.) After being blessed by a mysterious shepherd, Llull was summoned by the new King of Majorca, James II, whose seneschal he had been as a young man. In 1275, James had Llullís writings examined and approved, and in 1276, he agreed to found Llullís proposed monastery (called Miramar), where thirteen monks would study Arabic language and Lullian Art. A Papal Bull confirming James IIís establishment of Miramar would be the only affirmation or support from the papacy Llull would receive until almost the end of his life in 1311.

In 1287, Llull made his first trip to Paris, where he lectured on the Art, which was not well-received. In Europe, and especially in Paris, Llull was seen as "fantastic," a perception based largely on his claims to have received divine revelation and the unusual, symbolic figures of his Art. Subsequently, he spent time in Montpellier, Genoa, and Rome, where he sought, without success, papal support for founding more language-training monasteries. Back in Genoa, Llull prepared to embark on a personal mission to North Africa, but just when the ship was packed and ready to set sail, Llull decided not to go, seized by the "fixed idea that if he traveled to the land of the Saracens they would slaughter him the moment he arrived." What followed was an episode historians call the "Psychological Crisis of 1293." Hillgarth describes Llullís experience as "extreme nervous depression," but Llull himself describes it as a firm religious conviction that he would be damned because of his cowardice. He became very ill, and while attending a Dominican service at the feast of Pentecost, Llull had a vision of a tiny light, like a star, and heard a voice saying, "In this order you can be saved." Llull, however, recalling that the Dominicans were much less receptive to his Art than the Franciscans, decided it would be wiser to join the Franciscans. As he thought about this, he heard the voice say, "Did I not tell you that you could be saved only in the Dominican Order? Be careful what you do!" Llull decided that the preservation of the Art, which God had revealed to him for such a crucial purpose, was worth the cost of his own eternal damnation. So, Llull chose not to join the Dominicans despite another vision of the light and a voice reminding him of the punishment that would accompany this choice. The recorder of the Contemporary Life comments at this point that Llullís choice "was most admirable of him" and "proved that he loved God and his fellow man infinitely more than himself." In a state of extreme ill-health, Llull boarded a ship bound for Tunis, but was dragged off the boat against his will by friends who feared he was about to die. This whole episode gives considerable insight into Llullís motives as a missionary. It is clear that Llull was firmly convinced of the divine revelation of the Art and that he saw the mission to Muslims as of such eternal significance for Godís glory and the eternal salvation of the Saracens that he counted his own eternal salvation of subsidiary importance.

In 1293, at age 60, Llull made his first missionary trip, to Tunis. As soon as he had embarked, he recovered from his depression. In Tunis, Llull gathered together learned Muslims and asked them to teach him about Islam, as he had come with the intention of converting to Islam if he found it more reasonable than Christianity after hearing their account. After their presentation, Llull explained that he did not find Islam convincing, thus entering into a brief presentation of his apologetic argument for the Trinity, concluding with an offer for a further presentation of "clear arguments based on a certain Art, divinely revealed, as it is believed, to a Christian hermit not long ago." Llullís argument for the Trinity was not a demonstrative proof, but an argument by analogy and congruence based on the attributes which both Muslims and Christians assigned to God: goodness, greatness, eternity, power, wisdom, love, perfection. As Hillgarth explains, Llullís argument was that the Trinity and Incarnation are

more appropriate to belief in the unity and power of God than are the Islamic definitions. The Moslem belief implies the Christian creed. Llull therefore presents it as incomplete rather than false. . . . Christianity alone fully honors God [and] asserts his unity. . . . Llull argues that the Moslem or Jew of goodwill who already admits the existence of God and of his principal attributes cannot rationally refuse to accept Christian doctrine.


Specifically, Llull argued that all the divine dignities beside wisdom and will would, according to the Muslim view, be idle for all eternity until the creation of the world, "placing discord between them, which is not right," whereas, according to the Christian view, they would be equal and in concord. As Llull explains elsewhere in proving the Trinity,

Every being which is perfectly good is so perfect in itself that it does not need to do good, nor ask for any, outside itself. You [Muslims] say that God is perfectly good from eternity and for all eternity, therefore he does not need to ask for, nor to do any good outside Himself; for if he did, He would then not be perfectly and absolutely good. Now since you deny the most blessed Trinity, let us suppose that it did not exist; in that case God would not have been perfectly good from eternity until he produced, in time, the good of the world. You do believe in the creation of the world, and therefore, when God created the world in time he was more perfect than before, since goodness is better diffusing itself than remaining idle. This, I claim is your position.

Mine, however, is that goodness is diffusive from eternity and for all eternity. And it is of the nature of the good that it be diffusive in and of itself, for God, the good Father, from his own goodness generates the good Son, and from both is breathed forth the good Holy Ghost.


In proving the Incarnation, the Passion, and the Redemption, Llull stated:

[I]n the Incarnation of the Son of God, through participation, that is to say, union, of Creator and creature in the single person of Christ, the first and highest cause agrees and accords with its effect in the most rational way; . . . this becomes apparent in the greatest and noblest degree in the Passion of Christ the Son of God, which He voluntarily and mercifully deigned to suffer in the humanity He had taken on in order to redeem us sinners from the sin and corruption of our first forbear, and to lead us back to that state of glory and divine fruition on account of which and for the final purpose of which the Blessed Lord created us.


These particular arguments, a summary of the thrust of Llullís Art, are apparently original to Llull. Llullís apologetic strategy, as seen above, was intelligent, positive, and relevant, starting from the those assumptions Muslims were most eager to uphold, i.e. the unity and goodness of God. This demonstrates that his method as a missionary was, as we have already seen in his emphases on learning Arabic and studying Islamic thinkers like al-Ghazali, designed to come to Muslims on their own terms and beliefs, a striking difference to Martinís approach of assaulting Islam without providing any positive reasons for accepting Christianity. Llullís deceptiveness about his motives in Tunis is difficult to judge, since his intellectual integrity suggests that had the Muslims presented him with new knowledge about Islam which he found compelling, he might have accepted it. It is certain, though, that he never expected that this could occur.

Once Llull had presented his rebuttal, the sultan Abu-Hafs realized Llullís missionary intentions, and before long, Llull was expelled and told never to return, or else face stoning. Llullís mission apparently met with some success, for "he had already arranged for the baptism of some men of considerable reputation as well as many others whom he was aspiring to lead to the full light of the orthodox faith." Llullís mission was cut short by his expulsion, however, and so he returned to Naples where he lectured on the Art from 1293-94. When a new Pope was elected in 1294, Llull traveled to Rome again to seek support for his projects, and again was unsuccessful. He followed the papal court for a year and sought "with all his might" the help of the next pope, who also was uninterested. The papacyís unwillingness to help Llull should not be seen entirely as a statement of its disregard for Llullís efforts and his goals, for the papacy was overwhelmed at the time with its wars against the Silicians and the House of Aragon (starting in 1282) and against the French (later). It was probably about this time (1296) that Llull wrote his Desconhort, a poem in which Llull laments the failure of his attempts to gain support for his projects, the failure of his Art to elicit the response befitting a God-given revelation, and the collapse of Miramar. Llullís extraordinary ability to persevere over profound discouragement testifies to the sincerity and selflessness of his motives as a missionary.

Around 1300, following the return of Majorca to James II by the king of Aragon in 1298 (Alfonso III of Aragon had captured it in 1285), Llull returned to Majorca for the first extended visit for many years. There he wrote several books and endeavored to convert the Saracens by means of sermons and disputations. Next, he traveled to Cyprus, where he asked the king to encourage Cypriot Jacobites, Nestorians, and Muslims to come dispute with him or hear his sermons, and further, to send him to the Muslim sultan and kings of Egypt and Syria to instruct them on Christianity. The king refused both requests and Llull, after some preaching on his own in Cyprus, proceeded to the papal court, where yet another Pope refused his petitions. Lull traveled to Paris and Majorca, then in 1307, at age 75, Llull sailed to Bougie-his second North African missionary trip. Upon arrival, Llull went to the city square and proclaimed his willingness to prove the truth of Christianity and the falsehood of Islam, a move which Hillgarth says "appear[s] to have been intended to earn him immediate martyrdom." The populace in Bougie was about to stone him when the mufti had Llull brought before him for questioning. According to the Life, Llull silenced the mufti with his argument concerning the Trinity (see above), and the mufti, "astounded by this reasoning," sent him immediately to jail. En route, the crowd beat Llull with sticks and fists and even dragged him by his very long beard. During the next six months, which Llull spent in jail, he often discussed Christianity with clergymen and emissaries who sought to convert him, offering such incentives as wives, honors, sums of money, and a house. Llull was suddenly expelled by the king of Bougie, and on his return voyage, he was shipwrecked ten miles off Pisa, and his books on board were lost, though he made it ashore in a rowboat. Hillgarth states that "In view of his earlier missionary doctrine it seems difficult to accept these dramatic scenes [of his second missionary journey] as entirely authentic" However, Hillgarth does not make his objections clear, or specify what missionary doctrines he finds at odds with the events described in the Life.

In 1308, Llull completed his books on the Art with Ars generalis ultima and Ars brevis, his most successful work. With these works, at age 75, as Bonner observes, Llull was "numerically only halfway through the totality of his productions," which totaled 291 in the Platzeck catalogue. At this time, Llullís fortunes finally seem to have taken a turn for the better. Llullís campaign in Genoa and Pisa for an order of Christian knights who would fight the Saracens for the Holy Land was well-received, as were his lectures on the Art in Paris in 1309. From 1309-1311, Llull lived in Paris, writing rigorously, particularly against Averroism, which was popular among the Paris faculty of theology at the time. The Averroists alleged that "the Christian faith was impossible with respect to the intellect, although true with respect to belief," which Llull regarded as impious obfuscation. In 1311-12, Llull attended the Council of Vienne, calling for a) language schools for training missionaries, b) a military order to regain the Holy Land, and c) a papal initiative against the influence of Averroes. The third suggestion was dismissed, the second partially granted, and the first wholly granted: missionary schools of Hebrew, Arabic, and Chaldee were to be established at Paris, Oxford, Bologne, Salamanca, and the Papal court. Llullís concern with heresy within Christendom was not a late development in his life, but rather a long-term concern seen, for example, in this passage on Greek Christians:

The Greeks are Christians but they sin against the Trinity in saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father. But their customs are very noble and they are so close to the Catholic Faith that it would be easy to draw them to the Roman Church, if someone would learn their language and their script and had enough devotion not to shrink from dying to honour God but went among them preaching the great virtue that the Son has in participating in the procession of the Holy Spirit.


In addition to testifing to Llullís concern with heresy within Christendom (though his own mission was not to them), this passage gives further evidence of Llullís persuasion method of missions, his respect for other cultures, and his optimism for the religious unity of the world under the Roman Church. This part of Llullís life, i.e. his Anti-Averroist campaign and his prominent participation in the Council of Vienne, show that Llullís self-understanding as a missionary was always held together with duty to Christendom as well.

In the final years of his life, Llull wrote numerous books, traveled to Montpellier and Sicily, spent a year disputing with Jews and Muslims in Majorca, and ended his life with a year in Tunis, probably disputing and preaching in comparative peace due to the political situation at that time. At age 85 or 86, Llull died (in 1315 or 1316) in Tunis, or Majorca, or on a ship in between. The mistaken legend that Llull was martyred by stoning in Tunis is based on a source which clearly confused Llullís trip to Bougie in which he was nearly stoned, at age 74, which Llullís final trip to Tunis at age 84. The head-wounds indicated by his skull were identified in 1915 as post-mortem, perhaps done by fanatical devotees. Llullís canonization was prevented on the grounds that his rationalist emphasis made him unorthodox by undermining faith, a claim which was based on a misunderstanding.

Llullís life is difficult to summarize because of the diversity of his travels, goals, writings, and influences. Llull himself provides the following reflection late in his life:

I have been married and had children. I have been well-to-do, lascivious, and worldly. Everything that I had in the world I have left that I might honour God, procure the good of others, and exalt the Faith. I have learned Arabic and laboured to convert Moslems. I have been flogged and imprisoned. For forty-five years I have laboured to move the Church and Christian princes, that they may promote the common weal of the Church. Now I am old and poor, yet still I have the same purpose and I trust that, with the grace of God, I may persevere therein even unto death. Does such a life seem to you fantastic? Let your conscience judge . . .


Here we see again all the facets of Llullís life brought together around his central, overarching identity as a missionary to Saracens, motivated by the desire to honor the God who redeemed him out of a lost and depraved life, and to lead others by rational argument into the Christian Faith , where alone he believed their well-being could be secured. Like others of his time, he advocated the founding of language schools for missionaries and the use of apologetics to convert by persuasion rather than by force. Llull went further than his contemporaries in trying to give unbelievers positive reasons to believe the Christian mysteries of the Incarnation and Trinity, which were so difficult for Jews and Muslims. He was also unique in his distinctive approach through the Lullian Art. He endured extraordinary disappointment and persecution, but persevered in his determination and single-minded purpose, even at what he believed to be the cost of his own eternal salvation, which shows his great sincerity and selflessness. His approach to Islam and Muslims was respectful and positive, rare in his age. Llullís life stands as a challenge to everyone to follow his example of perseverance, sacrifice, love, respect, selflessness, single-mindedness, and intellectual integrity. Just as Llull left the Gentileís judgment open for the reader to think about and conclude for himself, perhaps Llullís open-ended words, "Let your conscience judge . . .," may be the best appraisal of his life.


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