Alfonso de Castrillo, the monk who already made a “pact” for good government 500 years ago


On the 500th anniversary of the publication of this political treatise, Angel del Rivero presents the first legible edition of a book written in 1521 by the Trinitarian monk Alonso de Castrillo.

Rivero says that this book, which he has enjoyed since he was a student, “was not contextualized,” even though it talks about things that are important to us. This treatise on good government says that “disobedience is associated with the deceitfulness of rulers, just as pride is political vice that destroys societies or how permanent positions generate corruption. “

The monk, survivor of the “restorative revolution” communeros of Burgos, tries to explain “why this uprising took place, which he understands as a civil war in every city.” Constitutional crisis, class conflict, and fiscal protest marked by the king’s power vacuum Carlos I

The publisher says:

V Treaty of the Republic with Other Histories and Antiquities it is a work on good government that extols the value of politics as a tool for reconciling human life. The book was compiled in 1520 and published in 1521, that is, it was written in the midst of a conflict of communities, after the departure of Carlos to Germany; and it is published when Burgos has already returned to obedience to the king and only two days before the decisive battle of Villallar. Built on the Cicero and Aristotelian model, the work begins by defining the city and its components in order to better define its government, that is, what makes the city a republic. To do this, he resorts to the classical approach of weighing the natural character of the monarchy with reference to the bees, which are presented as a model of civic virtues. Chief among these virtues is their obedience to their king. After this classic beginning, which lasts from chapters 1 to 8, Castrillo follows the most pessimistic path of the Christian vision of the city of people.

In chapters 9 through 17, he explains that people created cities in offense to God and that, therefore, human nature is social, their political life on earth is inevitably doomed to conflict. However, Castrillo does not allow one to get carried away with pessimism and does not postpone a full life in the society of people upon arrival in the city of God. In chapters 18, 19, and 20, he begins comparative politics by explaining to us that there are well-governed political communities on earth, republics, as the examples of the Jews, Greeks, and Romans show.

In chapters 21-29, Castrillo takes a practical orientation and points out a number of specific issues, attention to which seems to him relevant for the achievement of good government: the luck or mistake of some monarchs; the need for political office is not for life; the superiority of political science as a prerequisite for human life; and an important question: who should be the ruling citizen in the republic. Here Castrillo shows his belonging to the noble party of which he is a representative, albeit with some nuances. It highlights what will emerge throughout the work, and this Castrillo’s contempt for the common people, that is, merchants and artisans.

The book ends with a meditation on justice, built in a tone that is no longer Cicero, but Senequist, where the emperor sees that his mercy is the best attribute to preserve his kingdom. This end no doubt signals the fate of the social movement in Burgos, where the rebellion ends with a request for forgiveness and reconciliation with the monarch.


Alonso de Castrillo He was a Trinitarian monk who participated in the conflict of the communities in Burgos. We know little about him, except that he published this work in 1521 and probably a year earlier, The Three Eclogs of the Passion and The Eclogue of the Resurrection. In the prologue to his work, Castrillo reveals his political views, defending the nobility and the original justice of the people’s demands. But above all for the fact that he dedicated the book to Gayangos, his chief in the Trinitarian work, who, with his eloquence, returned the common people of Burgos to obedience to the king. Gayangos will be rewarded for his political virtues by the bishopric of Jaén, which he could not occupy because he died earlier.


Angel Rivero He is Professor of Political Science and Management at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from the same university and a BA (Hons) in Social Sciences, Politics and Sociology from the Open University (United Kingdom). He was a Fulbright Visiting Fellow in the Department of Political and Social Sciences at New School University (New York). His interests, to which he devoted his work, are focused on political theory, the history of political ideas and nationalism. He was Director of the Department of Political Science and International Relations of the UAM (2000-2003); Co-Director of the UAM Master of Portuguese Studies; Academic Supervisor of the Universidade do Minho (Portugal). He is currently the FIFE Science Po Bordeaux-UAM Program Coordinator. His latest publication is the Benjamin Constant edition, Freedom of contemporaries, Madrid, Alliance, 2019.

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