Ars brevis praedicationis
During his stay in Majorca between April 1312 and May 1313, Llull wrote seven works on preaching, containing a total of one hundred and eighty-two sermons, which he compiled or instructed someone else to compile in a Summa or corpus sermonum, which was completed in February 1313. The focus or reference point for this collection of sermons was the voluminous Liber de virtutibus et peccatis, which Llull also called the Ars maior praedicationis. Immediately after this collection of sermons and in the same month of February, Llull wrote the Art abreujada de predicació.
As the beginning of this work indicates, Llull wrote it because he recognised that the larger Ars maior praedicationis, with its one hundred and thirty-six semons, was too long and obscure in certain places. Llull stated that both artes praedicandi were intimately linked, and further specified that the longer version was contained in the shorter one, and that the voluminous, and, apparently obscure, collection could be understood and clarified (or explained) by means of the shorter work, which he considered, therefore, to be easier to understand than the other. This last assertion may appear stranger to one of today’s readers, because although the Ars maior is not easy to understand, it seems, at first sight, to be easier to read and understand than the second Art, which was shorter (abreujada) and also more algebraic.
What does seem clear is that the Art abreujada de predicació sought to be a brief, concise and, to certain point, definitive statement of the theoretical foundations of his conception of preaching and can be considered as a compendium of Llull’s reflections upon the process of propagating his ideas by means of preaching, which was, as is well-known, the most effective means of communication in the medieval period.
Without a doubt, this work represents an effort at a synthesis and definitive clarification of Llull’s ideas regarding sermons, such as had been formulated in other works by Llull devoted to this theme, above all in the Liber praedicatione and the Ars maior praedicationis. The short prologue, which sets forth the intimate relation of both works from the outset, ends with a lapidary sentence of enormous importance for our understanding of this short but substantial work by Llull: “The subject of this science is the figure it contains”. This figure, the penultimate image that Llull would draw, or have drawn, in his life, is not simply a method of amplification or memorisation of the subject matter for preaching, but rather, in line with Llull’s reflections in the epilogue, it is applicable to all the sciences and can be used to seek out what is true and to distinguish it from what is false. Llull makes it clear that this Art and its figure are not useful only for preaching, but that the Art is an Art abreujada and that the figure is also a “very general” figure.