The Military Order of Santiago
© Guy Stair Sainty
The Order of Santiago (Sant'Iago), more properly the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword, was originally a small military brotherhood based near Caceres in Estramadura.  Their initial purpose was to provide protection for the pilgrims traveling to and from the tomb of Saint James at Compostella, the most important pilgrimage center in Western Europe, who were frequently harassed by Moorish bandits. Between 1164 and 1170 the thirteen founder knights  had attached themselves to the order of regular canons of the monastery of Sant'Eloi at Lugo, on the Mino in Galicia, promising to give them military protection and adopting their rule of Saint Augustine. The knights brought a considerable endowment to the new combined Order,  and the monks soon assented to sharing their common revenues and agreed to provide hospital services to the knights, their serving brothers and sick pilgrims. The 1173 concordat between the Master of the knights, D. Pedro-Fernándo de Fuentes Encalada and the Prior of the canons, Dom Fernándo, which regulated the terms of this agreement, was approved by the Papal legate, Hiacinto Cardinal Bubo (later Pope Celestinus III), in early 1175 and later that year Fuentes traveled to Rome, where he was received in audience by Pope Alexander II, who approved the new Order in the Bull Benedictus Deus of 3 July 1175.
The knights made similar vows as the members of the Hospitaller and Templar Orders, although only taKing the lesser vow of "marital chastity". They were not only required to provide hospital services, however, but like the Teutonic knights in Prussia also undertake the evangelisation of the citizens of their new territories. The head of the Order, accorded the title of "Master", ruled with a Council of Thirteen (the Trecenezago), while the religious members (the Canons and Canonesses) were headed by their own Prior. The Master's deputy (a member of the Trecenezago), was accorded the title of Grand Commander (Commendador Mayor) and subsequently the responsibilities of this office were divided between five Grand Commanders, of Castille, León, and Montalbán (or Aragón) - which still exist - and two others, Portugal and Gascony, which have been dissolved.  The council of thirteen was replicated in the Order's principal fortress communities (or encomienda), each containing thirteen knight brothers.
The Order had immediately obtained the support of King Ferdinand of Aragón who, in 1171, had granted it title to the original headquarters, the town of Caceres and, over the next two years, they captured Badajoz, Mora (near Toledo), and Fuentiduena (near Aranjuez). In 1174 they were granted the castle of Uclés (between Toledo and Cuenca) by King Alfonso IX of Castille, where they established their principal seat following the loss of Caceres and Badajoz. Within ten years they had founded hospitals at Toledo, Avíla and Talavera and, in 1188, at Cuenca. In 1186 they inaugurated the convent of Santa Eufemia of Cozolos for the Canonesses attached to their Order and soon afterward opened a leper hospital at Villa San Martín, near Carion. They were granted extensive properties in Portugal, including the town of Palmella, and later acquired properties in France, Italy, Palestine, Carinthia, Hungary and England (given them by grateful pilgrims). 
Unfortunately, the Christian Kingdoms of Spain were frequently at odds with each other. The loyalty of the military Orders to one or other of the protagonists further weakened the Christian cause, delaying the ultimate victory over the Moors. In 1176 the knights had joined the King of Castille against Sancho VI, King of Navarre, giving the Moors an opportunity to attack Uclés, seriously damaging its defenses. Master Fuentes died in 1184 leading to a schism in the Order - the knights in León electing (at the instigation of King Ferdinand), D. Sancho Fernández while those in Castille (encouraged by King Alfonso), elected D. Fernándo Díaz. The latter is generally regarded as the legitimate Grand Master but Díaz, anxious not to perpetuate the schism, resigned in 1186 and his knights accepted the authority of Fernández.
Like the Templars and Hospitallers, the four Orders rapidly assumed extensive feudal powers and this was never more evident than in the widespread territories of the knights of Santiago. When acquiring new estates, whether by gift or conquest, the Order would typically establish some kind of defensible buildings and, in larger towns, build substantial fortresses. The area around would necessarily be dedicated to the production of food for the garrison and networks of villages and peasant communities would be joined by primitive roads radiating from the center. Each of the principal castles would necessarily have their own administrative systems, subordinate to the local Commander, with groups of knights, sergeants and foot soldiers. Gifts to the Orders from each of Spain's several Monarchies and from individuals meant that their territories were widely scattered and this was particularly true of the heavily endowed Order of Santiago. Unfortunately, the distance from the central leadership contributed to divisions within the Order as poor communications and divergent interests made consensual decision making extremely difficult. The various Crown grants to the Orders tended to be on frontier areas bordering the Moorish settlements and these were sometimes made in exchange for towns or castles now situated well behind the lines. Typical of such grants were the gifts by Sancho IV of Castril in exchange for Libriella in 1282 and Orcera for Amusco (near Monzón) in 1285; both these bordered the Kingdom of Granada.  To help support the Order, royal grants were sometimes made of monopolies or other forms of income; in 1246 Santiago's monastery at Segura was given an annual rent of 2,000 maravedís from the salt mines at Belinchón by Ferdinand III.  A further aspect of the Order's responsibilities - and one which was likewise consigned to Calatrava and Alcántara - was assisting in resettling land captured from the Moors with Christian populations from the north.
In 1195 the knights, joined with those of Calatrava and Alcántara, suffered a bitter defeat at Alarcos; their Grand Master was fatally wounded and many of their number killed. War broke out soon after between Castille and León and the knights, who owned territories in both Kingdoms, were forced to elect two Masters once again - this second schism ended with the submission of all the knights to Gonzálo Ordóñez in 1203. Over the course of the next century the knights were engaged in war with both Moors and fellow Christians, generally supporting the Kings of Castille and Aragón against Navarre. As the Moors were steadily driven southwards, so the knights of Santiago acquired more extensive territories and increased their numbers - despite a further schism in the Magistery during the 1220's and quarrels between the knights and the religious brothers and sisters headed by the Prior.
In 1312 the knights established a seat at Salamanca and soon after built a convent in Seville. They had signed a formal alliance with the King of Castille in 1226 but the Crown was anxious to further strengthen its control over this powerful, and potentially disloyal, military power. To ensure the loyalty of the Order King Alfonso XI of Castille persuaded the knights to elect one of his natural sons, the ten year old D. Fernándo, as Grand Master, requiring a Papal dispensation. However, on the death of the King and the succession of the Grand Master's half-brother Pedro the Cruel, relations between the knights and Crown deteriorated when the new King, as one of his first acts, ordered the execution of his father's mistress, the mother of the Grand Master. Pedro, faced with revolt by his grandees and the knights of Santiago, commanded the deposition of the Grand Master, which the knights refused and, with the assistance of a small group of knights, obtained the schismatic and illegal election of his own mistress's brother as Master. In 1357, having persuaded the Master that he was prepared to recognize his sole authority over the Order, Pedro summoned him to Seville where he promptly had him murdered, leading to a further schism, only ended by the election of the Infant Henry of Aragón at the end of the century.
In 1445 the Order elected Alvaro de Luna, Constable of Castille, but he too was faced with a rival in the person of Rodrigo Manríquez, the candidate of the King of Aragón, leading to a bloody war between the knights and, in 1453, to the eventual arrest of Luna, who had entered into a secret agreement with the Moors. After a brief period of royal administration and a further disputed succession, the King permitted the knights to elect D. Juan Pacheco  in 1467. Pacheco attempted to restore discipline but his death in 1474 led to a further schism, this time with three Masters. With the conquest of Grenada the importance of the knights declined and, within a year of the death of the schismatic Master Alfonso de Cardenas in 1493, Ferdinand V of Aragón obtained the "Administration" of the Order of Santiago in the Kingdoms of Spain by a Bull of the Spanish Pope Alexander VI (Borgia). The knights in Portugal, with their seat first at Alcazar d'Ozal and later at Palmela, had had their own Grand Master since the early fourteenth century, while the administration was annexed to the Portuguese Crown by Pope Julius II. In 1515 Ferdinand's grand-son and eventual successor, Charles I (the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V), the first Habsburg King of Spain, obtained confirmation of the royal administration of the Order, which was permanently conceded to the Crown in 1523 (see above).
To qualify for membership candidates had to prove four noble quarterings, but until 1653 it was only required that the nobility of the paternal line should be of any antiquity.  An obligation was imposed on the novices to serve in the galleys for six months and live in the Convent of the Order to study its rule for one month, but these relatively modest duties could be dispensed with by payment of a sum of money and by the eighteenth century was purely nominal. Permitted to marry by the terms of Pope Alexander III's 1175 Bull, although obligated to "marital chastity",  they could only do so with royal permission, which had to be transmitted in writing. Without this dispensation they were obliged to a year of penance, or a financial penalty - if members of the Trecenezago they were deprived of their office. The wives of knights were obliged to make the same noble proofs as their husbands - thus the son of a knight need only proof his legitimate birth to qualify.  When making profession the knights were required to take the vows of poverty, obedience and marital chastity, and by a decision of the Chapter-General in 1652 (also in Calatrava and Alcántara), they added, with royal approval, a fourth vow to defend and sustain the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
The knights of Santiago have left an architectural legacy of some considerable importance, indeed in building churches and fortresses and enlarging the towns and cities in their control each of the Orders have left a permanent remembrance of their power. Not suprisingly, some of the greatest such structures were either not begun or were substantially remodeled after the Reconquista was completed, particularly as the defeat of the Moors rendered the defensive character less significant. A recent study of three of Santiago's principal buildings in Uclés, San Marcos and Calera de León illustrates the history of different aspects of the architectural heritage of the Order.  Each of the buildings examined by these scholars retained the existing system of cloister and communal buildings attached to a splendid church. They already anticipate the baroque style but combine elements from the gothic and renaissance - each of which post date comparable periods in Italian architectural development. The historic buildings associated with the four Orders mostly now belong to the Spanish state, but several are used today in ceremonies honoring their patrons or commemorating the great events of their history.
By the fall of the Monarchy in 1931 the Order was much reduced in size, with less than thirty professed and thirty-five novice knights. The President of the Trecenezago was the Infant D. Ferdinand of Bavaria, Grand Commander of León and there were several other royal princes among the novice knights - including Prince Adalbert of Bavaria and the Duke of Parma, while in 1941 the Infants Luis-Alfonso and José-Eugenio, sons of the Infant D. Ferdinand, were admitted.
Today the Commendador-Mayor of Castille is the Prince of the Asturias, heir to the Spanish Throne (who entered as a novice knight in 1986, making profession immediately, and was appointed to this post the following year), the Commendador-Mayor of León is a Grandee, the Count of Bornos, and the Commendador-Mayor of Montalbán is now D. Alfonson de Zuleta y Sanchiz, (Secretary of the Order and successor to the late Duke of Alburquerque). There are thirty-five other professed knights and thirty novices.  The Cross of the Order is a red latin cross with flory ends to the three upper arms (a cross flory fitchy), and the lower arm being shaped like a sword; the knights wear white robes resembling a monks habit with the cross sewn on the left side; the gold red enameled badge may be suspended from a red ribbon and worn around the neck, or it may be sewn onto the left breast. The historic name of this badge, the Espada (Sword) was nicknamed the Largetto, or Lizard.  Novice knights are required to prove the nobility of each of their four grandparents, that they and their parents and grandparents are legitimate and not descended from non-Christians (or heretics, although a protestant ancestor has not been considered an obstacle to membership for many years), and that they are practicing Catholics in good standing. Petition for admission is made to President and Dean of the Council of the four Orders and proofs are examined by the fiscal. Generally only one ceremony admitting new knights is held each year and subsequently novices may make profession, in accordance with the ancient statutes.
Romanticised histories of the Order claim that it was founded by Ramiro, 1st King of Galicia, in the year 846, but there is no documentary evidence to support this theory.
The number thirteen was intended to commemorate the twelve Apostles with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
According to Helyot, op.cit., Volume II, p.257, some twenty castles.
By 1553 the province of Castille had forty-three commanderies, that of León had thirty-five while that of Montalbán had seven - excluding the convents and hospitals. A survey of the Order in 1772 disclosed that the Order had declined in size, having a total of sixty-seven commanderies with annual revenues of 250,000 ecus per annum.
See Seward, op.cit., p.142.
 See José Vicente Matellanes Merchán, Organization of Land in the Peninsular South-East: the Commandery of Segura de la Sierra of the Order of Santiago, 1246-1350, in The Military Orders, edited by Malcolm Barber, 1994, p. 300.
 See J. González, Reinado y diplomas de Ferando III, I (Cordoba 1980), pp. 310-311. Noted in Matellanes, Op. cit. supra, p. 299, note 21.
 1st Marquess of Villena and, as Grand Master, given the title of Duke of Escalona in 1472
It was also required that candidates prove that each of their four grandparents were neither Jews, Moors or heretics, that they had not suffered indictment or punishment by the inquisition, and that they were of legitimate birth. The present-day requirement that the baptismal certificate of each candidate be presented for the candidate, his parents and grandparents ensure both that candidates are legitimate and of Christian (if, not necessarily, Catholic) ancestry.
As part of their vow of marital chastity the knights were required to abstain from carnal relations on the feast of the Virgin, of Saint John the Baptist, the feasts of the Apostles, and on every fast day required by the rule of Saint Augustine, namely every Friday from the first of September through Pentecost and for the entire period from the 8th November until Christmas. Pope Innocent IV dispensed them from the full rigours of the latter rule by lifting the fasting requirement from the 8th November to the first Sunday of Advent if they were at war, and Pope Martin V made voluntary the requirement that they spend those days when they were required to abstain from carnal relations in the convent of the Order. Pope Innocent VIII in 1486 relieved them of all fasting obligations at time of war and also declared that other breaches of the rule would not be considered mortal sin.
Since the early nineteenth century, knights of Santiago have not been obliged to seek permission to marry and there is no longer an obligation for their wives to prove nobility - thus it is no longer sufficient to be the son of a knight of Santiago to be exempted from noble proofs on applying for membership.
 See Aurora Ruiz Mateaos, Jesús Espino Nuño and Olga Pérez Monzón, Architecture and Power: the Seats of the Priories of the Order of Santiago, in The Military Orders, edited by Malcolm Barber, 1994, pp. 302-309.
 Including the Dukes of Ahumada, San Carlos, and Luna, the Marquesses of La Guardia, and Bendaña, and the Counts of the Cañada, Murillo, España, and Real, and the Señor de la Casa de Rubianes, all Grandees of Spain.
See Seward, op.cit.. p.144.