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The Legacy of the Knights Templar

Spain: "Viva la Muerte"

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Spain: "Viva la Muerte"

In the Iberian Peninsula,
where the military religious orders' vocation of defending Christian frontiers against
Muslim attack was still very much alive, and with increasing Muslim piracy along
the coasts, new military religious orders were set up using the property of the former
Order of the Temple. -- From Osprey Warrior #081 – Knights Templar 1120 - 1312

Robert de Craon Seneschal of the Order travelled to the west, 1132-4, where he received important donations including the castle of Barbera in Spain.


1319 The Order of Montesa is established in the kingdom of Valencia. The new Order receives the property of the former Order of the Temple and of the Order of the Hospital in Valencia.

Almost since their inception The Order of the Temple was involved in the ‘Reconquista’ of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.
In 1131, twelve years after their foundation, King Alfonso I of Aragon granted certain privileges to the Templars. Countess Theresa gave the Order the castle of Soure in Portugal. In 1134 Count Raymond Berenger IV of Barcelona promised to bring a party of vassals into Templar service for a year.
When King Alfonso I of Aragon died childless in 1134, he left one third of his kingdpm to the Templars. It took ten years for Alfonso’s will to be settled. In 1144 the Order of the Temple received the lordship of six castles, one tenth of all royal revenues, one fifth of all lands reconquered from the Moors and various substantial tax exemptions.

In 1147 Alfonso VII had
entrusted the defense of the recently conquered position of
Kalaat-Rawa (Calatrava), a fortress on the Guadiana River,
to the Templars, but they soon abandoned the task.

The value of the support given by the Templars to the various Christian monarchies in the Iberian peninsula was recognised and repaid when the papacy suppressed the Order.


"In Spain the brethren of Calatrava, Alcantara and Santiago were the spearhead of the Reconquista, consolidating the Christian advance, destroying the exotic Moslem civilization of Cordoba and Granada. On the vast and lonely meseta where no peasant dared settle for fear of Moorish raiders, the monkish frontiersmen ranched hears of cattle and sheep, a practice which reached North America by way; of the Mexican haciendas. In the later Middle Ages politicians used them to capture the whole machinery of Castilian government." "They were the perfected instrument of five centuries of warfare with Islam, given their final shape by the Templars' example."

"Much of Spanish history cannot be understood without some knowledge of the brethren [which became the Order of Knight's of Christ and The Aragonese Order of Montesa after the dissolution]. They had become the Reconquista itself and helped form their country's military tradition, that compound of unspeakable ferocity and incredible gallantry, expressed in the modern Tercio Extrajero's motto - 'Viva la Muerte'. It was this spirit and the techniques of the Reconquista which overcame Aztecs and Incas, creating the Spanish Empire, while Portuguese brethren transformed the crusading idea into a movement of colonization which ended with Europe dominating the world." - Desmond Seward, The Monks of War

"Not long after the Templar dispersal, very accurate and inexplicable sea-charts began to appear all over Europe. These maps, called portolans (thought to be derived from 'port' to 'land'), were far superior to the Ptolemaic maps studied by academic ecclesiastics in the monasteries and fledgling universities. Most of the portolans covered the area of the Mediterranean and the European Atlantic coast. They covered the areas crucial to European sea-commerce. "The earliest dated portolan chart is the Opicinis de Canestris map of the Mediterranean of 1335 A.D. It demonstrates that maps of inexplicable accuracy began to appear in Europe less than 25 years after King Philippe's surprise raids against the Templars and the papal elimination of the Order under Clement V."

"...Is it mere coincidence that his flagship, the famous Santa Maria, bore Templar crosses on her sails when Columbus set sail from Palos? Is it mere coincidence that his voyage was financed, not by the sale of Isabella's jewellery as so commonly thought, but by a mysterious consortium of wealthy men which included Jews and other heretics? And is it only coincidence that Columbus weighed anchor on August 3, 1492 just a few hours before the deadline for all Jews to be out of Spain?" - Michael Bradley, Holy Grail Across the Atlantic


Montesa, Order of

A military religious order established in 1317 in the kingdom
of Valencia by agreement of the pope and the Aragonese
The Order of Montesa was founded as a consequence of
the dissolution of the Order of the Temple in 1312. It did not
prove possible to transfer the Templars’ domains in the
Crown of Aragon to the Order of the Hospital of St. John, as
had been desired by Pope Clement V: King James II of
Aragon was opposed to the strengthening of the already considerable
power of the Hospitallers in his realms. After
lengthy negotiations, Pope John XXII largely complied with
the king’s wishes in 1317.
- The Crusades; An Encyclopaedia


The Knights of San Julián de Pereiro (the Sanjulianistas), as they began, established a
base on the León border by 1170. They were granted lands and recognised as an order in
1176. They were connected to the Order of Calatrava. They wore a white habit. Like all
the other Iberian orders, they gained through the Reconquista, taking over half of
Extremadura. At the completion of the conquest the order was subjected to royal control,
its property seized in 1523.
. - The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare

Calatrava or Qalat Rawaah (the castle of war) was on the banks of the River Guadiana,
captured by Alfonso VII in 1147. It was handed to the Templars. When they planned to
abandon it, a group of Cistercian monks took over, intent on defending it. They were
recognised as an order in 1164. They wore a hooded white or grey tunic. The order
expanded with the Reconquista. The order was reformed in the 14th century.
. - The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare

The order of Santiago, or St James of the Sword, emulated in Spain the activities of the
Templars in the Holy Land. They began by protecting pilgrims going to St James of
Compostela (Santiago de Compostela). St James was said to have miraculously returned
to lead Christians against the Muslims. They received a rule in 1171 from the papal
legate, recognised by Pope Alexander III in 1175. It was based on the Augustinian rule. It
allowed the acceptance of married knights. They wore a white habit with a red cross.
They became defenders of the Christian frontier in the Reconquista. They gained land in
Portugal, Spain and elsewhere in Europe including Hungary. Alfonso IX el Baboso (the
slobberer) granted them a tenth of the value of all money coined in León. After the
completion of the conquest they declined. Their property was taken over by Charles V in
1523, though this was not the end of the order.
- The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare





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