His origins: From obscurity to controversy

Arnau de Vilanova was born in around 1240. His place of birth has been the subject of debate since the Middle Ages: for centuries Valencia, Catalonia, Languedoc and Provence have all claimed him as a native. Currently there is no doubt that he was a native of one of the kingdoms within the Crown of Aragon, given that the testimonies from his day call him “Catalan”. The documentation still conserved shows Arnau’s close ties with the city of Valencia, and therefore this is most likely where he was born, although a later source claims that he was born in Villanueva de Jiloca in the Kingdom of Aragon.

We do not know much about the early years of his life. Based on what he himself recounted, he seemed to have gotten his earliest education in a Dominican monastery. He was also in the clerical estate (minor orders) in the diocese of Valencia, as proven by the fact that Pope Clement V called him a “clergyman of the diocese of Valencia”. He probably learned Arabic from the Arabs who still remained in the kingdom. After 1260, he studied medicine in Montpellier until he earned the title of magister. He took advantage of his stay in Montpellier to study theology for a semester in the Dominican monastery in that city. He met his wife, Agnès Blasi, in Montpellier and they would go on to have one daughter, Maria.

València

Illustration: Entry of Jaume I in Valencia after the conquest, a mural painting from Alcañiz castle. Arnau probably grew up in the Valencia that had recently been reconquered from the Arabs. Source: Harca.org.

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