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Domingo Ramos-Lissón, School of Theology, University of Navarra, Spain.

A master of historical science: José Orlandis Rovira

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 15:06:00 +0000 Published in L'Osservatore Romano

Last December 24, the great historian José Orlandis Rovira died at his home in Palma de Mallorca at the age of 92. So read the information given by the press agencies the day after the death.

The news hit my memories of my dear Mallorcan colleague. I met Mr. José Orlandis in the summer of 1954, in Santiago de Compostela. I had just finished my programs of study of Law at the Central University of Madrid and I was starting my university teaching . I was, at that time in Santiago, participating in a course that had been organized by the high school Mayor La Estila University. One fine day the director of the Course asked me to make the presentation of Professor Orlandis on the occasion of a lecture that he was going to pronounce in this course. high school Mayor. I had the opportunity to greet the illustrious historian a few days before, and when I asked him if I could borrow his scientific curriculum to better prepare my speech, I received a kindly excuse as an answer. This slight inconvenience served as a stimulus for me to document my scientific production in the Library Services of the University of Compostela, especially in the department of Roman Law, which at that time was already one of the best in Spain thanks to the efforts of the distinguished romanist Alvaro D'Ors. There I came across the "yearbook de History of Law Español", where Dr. Orlandis had published important contributions on Spanish High Medieval Law. Thus, in direct, I could see the outstanding qualities that emerged from the work written by the person I was to present. From this first meeting with his person and his work, not only the high scientific quality of his works but also his exquisite modesty, which -as it is well known- accompanies in the attention those who are true cultivators of wisdom, remained very much engraved in my mind. 

From then on, my meetings with Professor Orlandis Rovira were rather sporadic, due to our diversity of activities and places of residency program, although I followed his scientific production through the periodicals in which he assiduously collaborated. In 1971 I had the happy opportunity to join the faculty of the School of Theology of the University of Navarra, as professor of "Patrology and History of the Church (Ancient Ages)", within the high school of History of the Church, which was directed, at that time, by Don José Orlandis. From that moment on, our partnership and friendship became more intense and appreciated.

Professor Orlandis Rovira was born in Palma de Mallorca on April 29, 1918, into a prominent family of the Balearic capital. He studied law at the University of Valencia ( programs of study ). He obtained his doctorate at the Central University of Madrid in 1941, with the thesis La prenda como procedure coactivo en el Derecho medieval. This scientific work was developed in Madrid under the direction of Professor López Ortiz, in contact with the so-called "Hinojosa School", named after Don Eduardo de Hinojosa, a distinguished historian of medieval institutions. In those years, Professors López Ortiz and Torres López took over the direction of the School. This explains, to a large extent, why Don José Orlandis specialized in the legal programs of study of the Middle Ages.

At the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), he met St. Josemaría Escrivá in Valencia. From that moment on, his attention with the founder of Opus Dei became more frequent and intense, and he came to profess a filial affection for him that translated, over the years, into a steadfast fidelity to his spirit. test An irrefutable proof of this is the testimony he gave about St. Josemaría in 1976: "I have never known anyone with a greater capacity to love, to love everyone, keeping his arms wide open for everyone. It seems impossible that the same man could be at the same time so Godly and so profoundly human" (S. Bernal, Monsignor Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. Apuntes sobre la vida del Fundador del Opus Dei, Madrid 1976, p. 156). He would later dedicate to the figure of St. Josemaría Escrivá a detailed study: The Historical Personality of the Founder of Opus Dei, published in the journal Scripta Theologica (1985).

In June 1942 he obtained the Chair of History of Law from the University of Murcia. In the same year he moved to Rome to extend programs of study, on a scholarship from the committee Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. During his stay in Rome he carried out important research on the History of the Criminal Law of the High Ages average. Also in those Roman years he obtained his doctorate at the Pontifical high school "Utriusque Iuris" of the Pontifical Lateran University, with a thesis with the title degree scroll: Traditio corporis et animae. The "familiaritas" in the monasteries of the High Ages average. In Rome he met Bishop Montini in 1943, when the future Pope Paul VI was working at administrative office of State. The young Spanish professor got on very well with Bishop Montini and became a good friend of his, nourished by the intellectual disposition of both of them and the cordial atmosphere that Montini created around him. On his return to Spain, he won the post of Chair of History of Law at the University of Saragossa.

On November 13, 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood as a priest of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei. This event was to mark a new dimension to his spiritual and academic life. His pastoral action, although centered preferably in university environments, also extended to other fields and to another subject of people. His eagerness to make the Christian message known led him to develop an intense preaching in conferences, talks and homilies; as well as the direction of the "Patmos" Collection of books on spirituality, where he would publish works such as La vocación cristiana del hombre de hoy (1959), where he made a presentation of the role A that the laity plays in the Church and in the world. And along the same lines we should note The Spirit of Truth (1961), dedicated to highlighting the permanent value of the truth that is Christ. Many other titles could be added, such as, for example, The Christian Life in the 21st Century (2001), to cite a more recent book.

In the fifties of the last century, his academic life will receive a more intense orientation towards Canon Law and Church History. In 1959 he was appointed praeses of the high school of Canon Law, recently founded at the University of Navarra. The following year, when the high school was erected in School of Canon Law , he was appointed Dean of that center. Later, in 1968, when the high school of Church History was created at the University of Navarra, he was promoted to the direction of this new academic center. He will also be appointed, later on, visiting professor of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
To this intense work professor must be added an extraordinary work of historical research carried out with great scientific seriousness and endorsed by accredited national and foreign institutions. Thus the National high school of programs of study Juridical of the committee Superior of Scientific Investigations of Spain soon counted him among its members and the same can be said of the prestigious publication of this high school, the "yearbook of History of Law Spanish". He has been president of the Academia Aragonesa de Ciencias Sociales de Zaragoza, as well as director of the "yearbook de Derecho Aragonés". He has also chaired the committee of essay of the journal "Ius Canonicum" in its beginnings. Likewise, since its foundation, he has been a member of the committee of essay of "Scripta Theologica" and of the "yearbook de Historia de la Iglesia". He was also president of the Spanish Society of Monastic programs of study . The Accademia Spoletina counts him among its members, as does the "Societas Internationalis Historiae Conciliorum Investigandae" and the "Real Academia Mallorquina d'Estudis Historics". In 1990 he received in Paris the medal of honor of the "Singer Polignac" Foundation, a prestigious cultural institution in France. In 2006 the Autonomous Community of the Balearic Islands awarded him the award "Ramón Llull", the highest distinction that honors the most illustrious sons of the Balearic Islands.

Don José Orlandis Rovira published about thirty monographs and about two hundred works of research . To select some of them is not an easy task, but it is obligatory to allude, even if only briefly, to what we would call the opera maiora of Professor Orlandis. Thus, for example, we can mention one of his first historical-legal monographs, Las consecuencias del delito en el Derecho de la Alta Edad average (Madrid 1947). It is also worth mentioning El poder real y la sucesión al trono en la monarquía visigótica (Rome, Madrid 1962), which was well received by scholars of the Middle Ages average. The same could be said of his study, El reino visigodo, siglos VI y VII, published in Historia Económica y Social de España (Madrid 1973). His research on the Visigothic people has opened new horizons for scholars of this historical field.
As a historian of the Church and canonical institutions, he oriented his first research towards medieval monasticism. test A good example of this is his programs of study on medieval monastic institutions (Pamplona 1971), full of novel and suggestive contributions. His monograph La Iglesia en la España visigótica y medieval (The Church in Visigothic and Medieval Spain) (Pamplona 1976) is also worthy of special mention ( accredited specialization ).

Personally, I have had the good fortune to collaborate with Professor Orlandis in the essay of a part of the volume, Die Synoden auf der Iberischen Halbinsel bis zum Einbruch des Islam (711) (Paderborn, München, Wien, Zürich 1981), belonging to the collection Konziliengeschichte, directed by Cardinal W. Brandmüller. This work has been for me an unforgettable experience and a continuous lesson on how to elaborate a scientific work . Without formally intending to do so, he was marking the way for me with the submission of the chapters of this work written by him, perfectly finished and on schedule.

Professor Orlandis Rovira was also an outstanding author of great works of historical synthesis, such as his Historia de la Iglesia, I, La Iglesia antigua y medieval (Madrid 1974), frequently reprinted, even in our days. Another work of maturity was volume III of Historia Universal, dedicated to the ancient and medieval world and published by Eunsa in 1981, where he offers us a magnificent vision of the medieval world. Ediciones Gredos brought out the book Época visigótica (Madrid 1987), which gives us sample a contextualized synthesis of the history of the Visigothic people in Hispania.
If we review a more staff sphere of his life, it is not difficult to detect another dimension of Professor Orlandis, which could be summarized in the Latin word humanitas, although I am aware of the conceptual limitations of this word, when it is applied to a personality as rich as that of the illustrious Mallorcan professor. His sense of humanitas was especially captured in the coexistence of university life. That is where we perceived his great sensitivity in the fulfillment of his academic duties. I remember one occasion when I asked him about a partnership of his in a work where he shared the authorship with other colleagues and which had not yet been published, after a year and a half of delay. He replied that he had already delivered his paper two years ago, and added that throughout his life, he had always punctually completed all the work he had committed himself to.

 It could be said of Professor Orlandis, as of Augustine of Hippo, that he was a very good friend of his friends. Suffice it to recall his correspondence with Don Claudio Sánchez Albornoz, patriarch of Spanish historians, when he lived his political exile in Argentina during the government of General Franco. Many other colleagues, who were gratified by his friendship, can also attest to this. His kindness in sharing his university work, his love for the truth, together with his affability without affectation, made his interventions and conversations unforgettable moments from which one was enriched in many aspects.

Finally, I would like to say to those who feel the pain of his departure, that they should take comfort in knowing that his passing in Patriam was surrounded by great peace and serenity, fulfilling in him what the liturgy reminds us in one of the prefaces of the Masses for the Deceased: vita mutatur, non tollitur.