Military Order of Calatrava

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Military Orders

The Order of Calatrava is a military and religious order founded in the Kingdom of Castile in 1158 (12th century). Abbot Raimundo de Fitero founded it to protect Calatrava, a village located near what is now known as Ciudad Real.

Founding of the Order and History

The origin of this military order dates back to 1158.

In 1147, Alfonso VII took the city of Calatrava from the Arabs. To ensure its defence, due to the strategic importance of the city, he handed it over to the Order of the Temple in 1150, as there were no regular armies at that time.

However, a few years later, the Order of the Temple returned the city to Alfonso VII"s successor, King Sancho III, due to Arab pressure.

Faced with this situation, King Sancho III offered Calatrava to whoever would take charge of its defence. The abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Fiero (Navarre), Raimundo, accepted the challenge. There being no alternative, the king handed over Calatrava to the monks of Fiero on 1 January 1158, thus beginning the Order of Calatrava. In record time, they built up an army of over 20,000 soldiers and monks.

Within the order itself, once it was founded, disputes began: the knights refused to live under the orders of an abbot and among monks. As a result, the order split into monks, who withdrew to Ciruelos, and knights, who went to Ocaña, where they became a Military Order.

The first Master of the Order was Don García. He imposed on the knights, in addition to the obligations of the religious vows (obedience, chastity and poverty), those of keeping silence in the dormitory, dining room and oratory, fasting four days a week, sleeping in their armour and wearing, as their only clothing, the white Cistercian habit with a simple black cross; which, later on, would be red and as we know it today.

The Order of Calatrava suffered many ups and downs since its foundation, and even almost disintegrated with the defeat of the Christians at the Battle of Alarcos in 1195. It was at this time that it changed its name to the Order of Salvatierra, due to the fact that several knights of the order took the castle of Salvatierra, in Ciudad Real, by surprise, moving their convent and headquarters there.

However, it was at the Battle of Navas de Tolosa that the Order achieved its definitive consolidation, when the Christians won the battle against the Arabs and the Christian Reconquest began. In a short time, they obtained great human and economic resources, giving them great political and military power, which lasted until the end of the Reconquest.

Ferdinand the Catholic was elected Master of the Order in 1487 and, from then on, all the Kings of Spain revalidated the title. However, under the rule of successive monarchs, the military and religious spirit was gradually lost, until the only reason for its existence was the generation of income and the preservation of its relics.

Castles of the Order of Calatrava in Jaén

  • Church of Nuestra Señora de la Natividad, Jamilena. It was originally a convent of Calatravan nuns from Burgos.
  • Castle of La Peña, Martos. Thanks to its strategic location, this castle was the main defensive bastion of the Order of Calatrava against the Nasrid kingdom.
  • Castle of La Villa, Martos. Together with the castle of La Peña, this was the most important fortification against the Nasrid kingdom, as it protected the city with walls.
  • Castle of Alcaudete. King Ferdinand III ceded this castle to the Order of Calatrava to form its own soldier-monks. This castle was located on the border between the Christian kingdom of Castile and the Nasrid kingdom of Granada.
  • New Tower and Castle of Porcuna. This was an important fortress on the border with the Nasrids, and was the permanent residence of several Calatravan commanders. In fact, the last king of Granada, Boabdil "el Chico", was imprisoned in this fortress.
  • Church of San Benito, Porcuna. All the Knights of Calatrava gathered here on more than one occasion.
  • Higuera de Calatrava.
  • Castle of Begíjar. This was one of the first concessions granted by King Ferdinand III to the Order of Calatrava after its conquest in 1226.

The Order of Calatrava today

Today, it is a religious order that forms part of the group of Hispanic orders together with the Orders of Santiago, Alcántara and Montesa. These orders are currently a Catholic institution that defends faith and tradition. They are deeply rooted in the Spanish crown. Their knights lead a life in accordance with marital chastity, personal sanctification and the defence of the Catholic faith.

The four aforementioned orders carry out their activities jointly and in a coordinated manner under the guidelines of the Royal Council. However, each one has its own identity and manifests itself as independent, even though they work together.

The spiritual direction of the Order is the responsibility of the chaplain, Fray José María Berlanga López, and the bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad Real.

At present, the Order of Calatrava"s legal status is that of an association under common law, a distinction granted by King Felipe VI. Today, it retains its three confessional aims of Praise of God, Defence of the Faith and personal sanctification.

Project coordinated by:

Association for Rural Development for the District of El Condado de Jaén Association for Rural Development of Sierra Sur de Jaén Group for Rural Development of Sierra de Segura Association for Rural Development of Sierra Mágina Association for Socioeconomic Development of La Loma y Las Villas Association for Rural Development of Campiña Norte de Jaén Association for Rural Development of Sierra de Cazorla
Castillos y Fortalezas de la Provincia de Jaén