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The Knights Templar

knights templar, mallorca(majorca)The Knights Templar was a military style religious order which had been created in the Temple of Jerusalem in 1118 to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. Over the next century they became bankers for the Pope and several Kings across Europe, making as many allies as enemies.

The Templars were an integral part of society in 12th and 13th Century Spain and they carried out many important roles in medieval society. While the barons could change allegiance, they were always loyal to their King and in return they were bestowed with great privileges and responsibilities. They were given the best locations for their castles, often building them on top of ancient Moorish structures, an in return were on call to support the King during times of uprisings and civil strife. The Templars were also given properties at river crossings where they could levy taxes on goods passing through the Kingdom as well as stop enemies in their tracks.

knights templar, mallorca(majorca)King Jaime I was orphaned in 1213 when his father Peter the Catholic was killed in battle at Muret, near Toulouse. Jaime was only six years old and with the barons as loggerheads, he was taken to the headquarters Templars at Monzón. There he stayed for three years, learning how to be King until it was time for him to travel around his Kingdom and meet his subjects.

The Knights Templars were close companions to King Jaime I and when the time to invade Mallorca came in September 1229 over hundred knights and their followers joined the expedition. Their commander, Bernat de Santa Eugenia, was one of the first to step ashore on Santa Ponça beach; (the account of the landing is on the Santa Ponça webpage). When the Catalan army faced Emir Abu Yahya's troops near Na Burgesa, west of Palma, the Knights Templar led the right wing (the account of the landing is on the Na Burgesa webpage). They went onto patrol the castle walls during the siege of Palma (the account of the landing is on the Puigpunyent webpage).

knights templar, mallorca(majorca)Once Palma had been taken, the Knights Templar were given an important role in the clear up operation. King Jaime gave the Order Gomara fort on the east side of Palma and they renamed it the Castle of the Temple. All the treasures collected across the city were taken to the Castle and kept under lock and key until it was time to divide them up. With all the barons clamouring to get back to their estates on the mainland and the peasants to their families, it illustrates the level of respect the King had for his monastic knights.

Around one quarter of Mallorca was given to the King during the carve up of lands and properties. He in donated them to various barons and organisations in return for a percentage of their earnings. The Knights Templar was the largest beneficiary and they received 525 caballerías , the medieval measurement of land which took account of both area and fertility. They were granted half of the land in the district of Pollença (including what is now Alcúdia), half of the land in the district of Montaña (the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains), a quarter the district of Montuiri, including Randa Hill , and a twelfth of the Albufera district; the wetlands south of Alcudia. They were also granted a large number of properties in Palma itself. Bernat de Santa Eugenia was personally given estates east of Palma and while the village which was established there still bears his surname, the plaza is named after him (check out the Santa Eugenia webpage).

knights templar, mallorca(majorca)By 1231 the last Moor strongholds on Mallorca refused to surrender unless it was to King Jaime in person and so he returned to the island. Once negotiations were complete, Jaime wanted to conquer Menorca but knew that that he did not have enough support to raise another army or fleet. Ramon de Serra, head of the Mallorcan Knights Templar, suggested sending three galleys across to Ciutadella with a delegation. They would announce that Mallorca was under his control and Jaime was planning to invade Menorca; they would would also suggest that their King would accept the island's surrender.

knights templar, mallorca(majorca)When the ships anchored in Ciutadella the whole town came out to meet Brothers Serra and Santa Eugenia and after hearing the King's message, the Emir and his sheikhs retired for discussions. While they were meeting, lookouts alerted the Emir to dozens of fires on Mallorca's coast. It looked as if a strong army was camped ready to attack. In fact, Jaime and his bodyguard had ridden to Capdepera and ordered them to start lighting fires when the sun went down. Although the Jaime did not have an army, he wanted the Emir of Menorca to think he did.

Negotiations continued in Ciutadella for three days and Jaime's men lit fires every night. The Emir eventually submitted to Jaimes' offers, surrendering all the fortresses on the island in return for the King's protection. He also crossed to Mallorca and with King Jaime signed what is believed to be the world's first peace treaty on Capdepera hill. While the Emir and his sheikhs would continue to rule Menorca, they had to pay hefty taxes. Jaime had extended his kingdom without shedding blood or relying on his barons for help; he returned to the mainland a happy man.

The Knights Templar strengthened their hold on Pollença, buying up many estates until they owned most of the area, turning it into an important and prosperous town. Legend has it that the Templars were far stricter than the King and the townspeople rebelled against them from time to time. The Templars responded by erecting a gallows on Temple Mount so everyone could see.

knights templar, mallorca(majorca)Although the Knights Templar were loyal servants of Jaime I and his successor, Jaime II, the Order's financial dealings came under scrutiny at the beginning of the 14th Century. King Philip l of France was in so much debt to the Templars that he wanted to shut down the order. With Pope Clement V's blessing he arrested the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and all the knights of France in 1312. They were accused of injustice, corruption and witchcraft and many were punished with the death penalty, including de Molay being burnt at the stake in Paris in 1314.

While Jaime did not persecute the Mallorcan Templars, their properties were passed to the Knights of Saint John and their money went into the royal coffers. At the same time Jaime ordered work to start on the Royal Palace and the Cathedral in the centre of Palma. He also gave instructions for work to start on Bellver Castle, just outside Palma, and Alcúdia in the northeast part of the island; improvement works on Alaró Castle and Santueri Castle were also commissioned; check out their respective web pages for more information.

While the Templars had played an important role in the life of Jaime the Conqueror and the conquest of Mallorca, they disappeared from the island almost overnight, passing into legend

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