Templars are the most studied religious and military order throughout history, and they charm both novelists and historians. To speak of the Order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly known as the Knights Templar, is to speak of one of the most powerful Christian military orders of the Middle Ages. However, not many people can actually name any member of the Spanish Templars.
The Order was founded in 1118 to protect the faithful and rescue Jerusalem from Turkish occupation. Although most of them met a tragic end, including a fire, the Spanish Templars were hardly punished because they had the protection of local monarchies. The refuge they had in the peninsula was the crown of Aragón, and also the north of Spain, where they were always in a privileged position.
Around these knights there is a great halo of esotericism, legends and enigmas. In Spain, the Knights Templar were of great importance. Their legacy is still alive in castles, churches, monuments and in numerous novels where their deeds are told thanks to the most popular Spanish Templars.
In 1127 the Templars arrived in Aragón, and since then they have maintained a close relationship with Count Ramón Bereguer III, who was married to one of the daughters of El Cid Campeador. The latter collaborated with numerous donations and privileges for the Order and acceded to it in 1130.
The Count of Barcelona, who was close to death, decided to join the Templars for two main reasons. Firstly, to cleanse his sins and be accepted by God. The second reason was so that the Templars could settle in the Peninsula and expel the Muslims. Thus he became the first Spanish Templar.
In his will, he gave the castle of Grañena de Cevera to the Templars. This action made him a figure of great historical importance for his help to the Order, thus collaborating in its settlement in Spain.
Guillem de Montredon was one of the most important Templars on the peninsula. He joined the Knights Templar in 1203. Years later, he was appointed commander of Gardeny, one of the Templar centres of the Crown of Aragón. He was then appointed commander of Masdeu in the court of King Peter II, accompanying him in his military campaigns.
When the king died, he was appointed Master of Aragón, Catalonia and Provence in 1213, thus taking on an essential role. The Infant James was held by Simon IV de Montfort, who secured his release after negotiations in Rome with Pope Innocent III, who released him and handed him over to the Order.
From then on, the Templar Guillem de Montredon was the protector and educator of James I and his first cousin Ramon Berenguer V in Monzón Castle. He always remained at the side of James, being his faithful advisor until his death in Barcelona.
Arnaldo de Torroja, known as Arnau de Torroja was a Catalan knight, from a noble family in Solsona. He joined the Order in 1180 and was the ninth Grand Master. He belonged to the court of Ramón Berenguer IV and took part in the conquest of Lleida and Tortosa by the Moors.
Because of this he joined the Knights Templar, chosen to succeed Eudes de Saint-Amand as Grand Master in the province of Aragón and Provence. He travelled to the Holy Land on three occasions for different military campaigns and negotiated a truce with Saladin, one of the great governors in the Islamic world.
In 1184, he was the Order’s highest authority and one of the most important Spanish Templars at the time. He then travelled to Verona to meet Pope Lucius to gain support in the Latin states due to Saladin’s growing military power. However, during the journey he fell ill and died, in Verona, in 1184.
The Templar Gilbert Hérail was born in Aragón, a descendant of a noble military family. He entered at a very young age and was appointed Grand Commander. Years later, in 1193, he was elected Grand Master of the Order, thus becoming the twelfth.
He was involved in a great dispute with Pope Innocent III. The Pope confirmed the privileges granted to the Temple, but Gilbert decided to maintain peace between Muslims and Christians. Because of this, tensions between the Templars and the Hospitallers increased; with the latter taking advantage of the situation to recover castles and some land.
Furthermore, during his mandate the Order participated in the Reconquest of the peninsula. As a result, King Alfonso II of Aragón, thanking the Templars for their services, donated the Alfambra fortress. In 1200 Gilberte died, just at the beginning of the Fourth Crusade.
Pedro de Montaigú was born in Aragón and joined the Order in 1218; when he arrived in Acre during the Third Crusade. He was the fifteenth Grand Master of the Templars. He also belonged to the Crusade of Navas de Tolosa and was Master of Provence, Catalonia and Aragón.
Together with King John of Brienne, regent of Jerusalem, he conquered Damiette, thus joining the Order. He was a Templar until his death in 1232, having great importance due to his ability to fight.
The Templar Berenguer de Cardona was the second to last Master of the Crown of Aragón. He managed all the Order’s possessions in this part of the peninsula until Pope Clement V abolished it due to pressure from the French King Philip IV. He was also one of the most outstanding Spanish Templars in the history of the Iberian Peninsula.
He took part in the conquests against the Muslims in Murcia and supervised the defence of the castles of Caravaca and Cehegín. In 1294, he was appointed warden of the Christians in Tunis, but he renounced all rights on behalf of the Templars. In exchange, he asked for the rights in Peñíscola, Ares and Caves of Vinromá. He travelled several times to Cyprus, as it was a strategic point for the Order to conquer Jerusalem. He died here in 1307.
That year, the King of France accused the Templars of heresy, taking them to the stake and killing them. In Spain, however, the end of the Order was very different. Although, despite not believing the accusations, they accepted the orders out of obedience to Rome. They confiscated Templar goods, but did not burn them at the stake. They continued to act with them to win the fight against the Muslims in the peninsula; but without using the name of the Knights Templar.