Historical story

The castle of Peñiscola, the retreat of the old Templars.

When in late May 1291, the Mamluks Muslims take the fortress of Acre, it was not only the end of the Christian presence in the vicinity of Jerusalem. But for the Knights Templar, those whose main mission was the protection of pilgrims who came to the holy city, it was the beginning of the end of an era. Despite which, on the other shore of the Mediterranean, strangely three years later, construction began on what was to be the last refuge of the Knights Templar.

The Knights of the Temple and the Crown of Aragon.

Unquestionably, the Templars' choice of that rocky outcrop in the Mediterranean for the construction of their fortress was not only due to the excellent protection conditions it offered. Rather, it came from a long and fruitful relationship between the temple authorities and the Crown of Aragon.

To get a little closer to this relationship, we must go back two centuries. At the time of the 1st crusade, Alfonso I the Battler already had the friendship of many of the knights who attended it. For this reason, the young Kingdom of Aragon drew on them for its main task, the reconquest of the Hispanic territories occupied by the same infidel that occupied Jerusalem, Islam. Although it is also necessary to name the bishop of Huesca and Jaca, Esteban, who after his passage in 1105 through the recently conquered lands in the east, was the promoter of the arrival of crusader knights for the conquest of the city of Zaragoza.

Templar weapons from the Peñiscola Castle Museum

The relationship was such that after the death of Alfonso I the Battler, the Knights Templar of the Kingdom of Aragon, who emerged in the municipality of Monreal, became worthy of the inheritance of the royal territories. Indeed, it will not be carried out due to the refusal of the feudal lords and Alfonso's brother, Ramiro II, although this was not an obstacle to continuing the relationship. In short, they had a very important common purpose, the aforementioned reconquest.

It will take a few decades to find the period of greatest splendor of the Order of the Temple in Aragon. At the beginning of the 13th century, a 6-year-old boy arrived at the Templar castle of Monzón to receive protection and training for three years, after which he would become Jaime I of Aragón, the Templar king par excellence. During his reign and with the help of the Templars, the Crown of Aragon set out to conquer the Mediterranean, successively incorporating Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, which in the coming years would become the spearhead of maritime control, which the Aragonese crown carried out in the western Mediterranean. All this without forgetting the main purpose of the reconquest of the peninsula, in this context will come the conquest of the city of Peñiscola in the year 1243.

The arrival of the Templars in Peñiscola.

The history of the Templars in Peñiscola continues to be impregnated with certain questions, which can make us even more curious, if possible, the current visit to it. In the year 1294, as we have already said after the loss of the last Christian territories in the Middle East, a grandson of the greatest Templar king, in this case Jaime II, decides to exchange the land of Peñiscola with the Templars for those of the city of Tortosa . After which, a few years later, the latter bought the lordship of Culla for a large sum of money, the curious thing about the subject lies in the low value of these territories, but it seems that their purpose was to surround themselves with a safety belt.

Two are the key characters that appear in this context of exchanges between the king of Aragon and the Templars. On the one hand, the young Arnau de Banyuls who will become the commissioner of Peñiscola, along with him the penultimate Templar Master of the Order of Aragon, Berenguer de Cardona. Both will undertake the task of building the Castle of Peñiscola on the remains of an old Muslim citadel. .

Coats of arms, including those of Berenguer de Cardona and Arnau de Banyuls

In this way, that same year 1294, construction began on what should have been the starting point for the Knights of the Temple, to regain their position at the forefront of the fight against the unfaithful The construction following the canons of the old Templar constructions attest to this. In short, this aspect is a source of great questions, why do the builders of Peñiscola use the same techniques as in the castle of Miravet, a century and a half before? If not to re-green old laurels.

The end of the Templars of Peñiscola.

Although everything will be cut short in that fateful year of 1307, with a Castle of Peñiscola unfinished, the Knights Templar face their final end. Not without first learning of the death of Master Berenguer de Cardona, which occurred on one of his trips to the island of Cyprus, where a year earlier he had met with Jacques de Molay to try to relaunch the Templar Order.

It seems that it was late, in October 1307, Jacques de Molay, together with his companions, was imprisoned by the King of France Philip IV, accusing him of horrendous crimes. After the confession under torture of the last Master of the Temple, the French king sends a letter to his cousin, the king of Aragon Jaime II. In it and after recounting Jacques de Molay's confession, he asks him to do the same with the Templars of Aragon. At first, the Aragonese king does not seem to believe what he is reading. His most faithful servants and protectors of Christianity against Islam could not have committed those crimes.

A few days later Jaime II returns the letter to Felipe IV, in it he already seems to express his doubts, why the construction of new fortresses, if they did not have to fear the Christian kings? In addition, he assures her that if it is proven that the crimes of which they were accused, which ranged from corruption, to sodomy and through the denial of Christ, or the Pope demanded it, he would stop them immediately. Although the latter was not necessary, after the accusation of the inquisition that he was already exercising in the Kingdom of Aragon, Jaime II got down to work.

Entrance to the Templar Castle of Peñiscola

At this point the questions about the history of Peñiscola Castle reappear , which was handed over with practically no opposition, it is even said that the commander was seen on the boat on his way to exile. While their neighbors from Miravet and especially the Templars from Monzón fought for two long years to maintain their positions. Be that as it may, the end of the Knights Templar of the Kingdom of Aragon occurred in the year 1309 with the fall of the so-called Castillo de Monzón. Eight years later, in 1317, the new Order of Santa María de la Montesa, founded by Jaime II himself, will take over the reins of the Castillo de Peñiscola and of all the Templar assets of the kingdom of Valencia.

Peñiscola Castle today.

After being declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931, and with the various improvement actions undertaken in it, especially those that ended in 2014. The Castillo de Peñiscola In addition to being one of the best preserved, it shows us one of the best museum spaces to get closer to the past of the Order of the Temple. And therefore to know a little better what is explained here.

Stables converted into a museum

The entrance to the castle is through the old hallway, from that moment we will enter the Templar world, since the adjoining rooms, occupied by the old stables and guard corps today they are part of the commented museum.

To begin, one of the rooms clearly exposes the construction process of the castle, it will be very easy for us to understand how unfinished it is. Right next to it is the room that will delight both the youngest and the oldest, dedicated to Templar weapons and armour. To continue, the museum takes us through the history of the Order of the Temple, reveals its greatest heroes, or its internal structure. One of the most curious rooms is the one dedicated to the world of Templar symbolism, very important in the Middle Ages. Another of these rooms is dedicated to the relationship that existed throughout the Templar period with the Cistercian order.

Stairs of the Patio de Armas

Before moving to the upper floor of the castle, we will go down to the rooms of the so-called Conclave Hall. It receives this name for being the place where the successor of the other illustrious tenant of the castle, Pope Benedict XIII, better known as Papa Luna, was elected, we will leave the long history of him for another day. This room was the largest cellar in Templar times.

Church of Santa Maria

Gothic room

After going up to the first floor, which we will reach through a spectacular parade ground facing the Mediterranean, we will enter the main rooms of the Templar Castle. The first of these, the Gothic Hall, was the reception area for the illustrious visitors to the castle. We continue the visit through the Rebotica room, called Casa del Agua, where the Templars surely put alchemy into practice. We will leave the Cistercian-style church for last, dedicated to the cult of the Virgin Mary and the three wise men, in it you can still see the slab that covered the tomb of Pope Luna, before the transfer of his remains. By the way, the visit is completed through all the dependencies that Pope Benedict XIII occupied at the beginning of the 15th century.

To conclude, I leave you the website where you can check the prices and times of the visit. castleofpeniscola

To complete the information about the Templars and the Crown of Aragon, I invite you to read these other two articles:


More info:The Templars In The Crown Of Aragon