MEDIEVAL SPANISH HISTORY
The Knights Templar
In the eleventh century the first crusade was launched under the pretext of protecting the holy lands and pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. The Pope declared that anyone who fought in the holy war would be pardoned of his sins and within three years the first crusade had gained control of Jerusalem from the Muslims.
Shortly after the crusade had ended two knights formed a monastic order dedicated to the protection of pilgrims ,based in Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Initially there were only nine monk / knights who took strict vows of poverty and were called "The Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon" which became shortened to The Knights Templar. In 1129 the order was recognised by the church and began to receive both funding and new members from rich families across Europe. As well as being soldiers the Knights Templar also set up a bank for pilgrims and crusaders travelling to the holy land and the order's wealth and influence quickly grew. In 1139 the Pope granted them immunity from local laws and allowing the Knights to travel freely across Europe and the holy lands, accountable only to the church.
The Knights Templar were sworn never to surrender , death on the battlefield ensured a place in heaven. They were also well trained , highly organised and well equipped and played a key role in the subsequent crusades. In Spain they also fought alongside the Christian armies in the Reconquista and played a crucial role in many important battles including the Battle of Navas and Tolosa and the reconquest of both Valencia and Majorca. It was because of this that King Alfonso I of Aragon ( Alfonso the Battler )left large areas of land and castles to the Knights Templar. They also built their own castles and established a strong trading infrastructure across the Iberian Peninsula.
Two centuries later when the Christian armies were driven from the holy lands their fortunes changed. They were accused of heresy and idol worship and an Inquisition was started , largely instigated by King Philip V of France who was heavily in debt to the Knights. Many of the order's members were tortured and finally burned at the steak. Across Europe their lands and properties were confiscated and given to their rivals the Knights Hospitaller.
In Spain the Knights Templar held out against the king's troops in their castles. In the end they were found not guilty of heresy and under the protection of King James II they became part of the Order of Montessa which was affiliated to the Calatrava. Over the centuries many myths and legends have grown up surrounding the Knights Templar, their heroic acts, supposed treasures and alleged mysterious rituals.