I-Monks and Warriors
Spanish Military Orders were founded in the Twelfth Century following the religious and chivalrous drive of the Crusades.
When the conquest of Jerusalem was finally completed at the end of the first crusade, the problem of defense became the foremost concern. With that in mind, in 1120 Hugo de Payns founded the order of Knights Templar (or of the temple of Jerusalem). This was the first of all military orders and the mirror on which others saw themselves. In 1226 the Monks of the order of Saint Benedict founded the Order of the Knights Hospitallier of Saint John of Jerusalem, both Orders became protectors of the Sacred Places with the support of all the European kings.
On the other extreme of the Mediterranean Sea and since the Muslim invasion in 711 AD Spain was trying to achieve a restoration of the unity it had formerly achieved in both the cultural and administrative spheres in Roman Spain and politically, with the Visigoth Recaredo.
Spanish aspirations combined with the Crusader spirit to bring about the foundation of local orders by Papal Bulls issued by Alexander III: Santiago in 1175; Calatrava in 1164; Alcántara in 1177 and Montesa by bull issued by John XXII. In 1317. Very much aware of fact that the struggle being waged in the western Mediterranean was the same as that being fought in the East, Pontiffs granted the same indulgences as those formerly granted in Jerusalem.
Their purpose was to defend Christian faith with the ultimate aim of liberating territories occupied by Islam, thus liberating those Christians living there who suffered under the Muslim yoke, by a violent armed struggle, entrusted to the knights, who in those days constituted a combat unit made of the mounted knight, the horse and his weapons.
Members lived in community, they were bound by the three vows of consecrated life, prayed canonic hours; and depended of the Pope, enjoying exempt jurisdiction and self- government.
Contrary to the armed retinues of lords and kings which were temporarily summoned to a campaign, the knights of the orders were the protagonists of the Re-Conquest of Cuenca (1177). The Alarcos disaster which set peninsular kingdoms at peril and also in the great victory of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) which brought Christianity to Andalucía; in the re-conquests of Valencia and Alcántara (1221), Caceres (1227) and Badajoz (1229), and in the campaigns which ended with the liberation of Córdoba (1226) and Seville (1248). Lastly, with the victory of Rio Salado (1340) which ended the danger represented by the Benimerines.
As the re-conquest ended, the knights were charged with the defense of the frontier with the vassal kingdom of Granada, were the last of the Muslim population lived. When the Catholic Kings decided to put an end to the last Muslim stronghold in Spain, responsibility for the last war fell upon the four orders, and on the thirtieth of December 1492, the Master of Santiago certified his victory by attending Mass in the Palace of the Alhambra.