The Military Order of Calatrava
© Guy Stair Sainty
The slightly earlier Order of Calatrava (the town was originally called Oreto but renamed Calatrava by the Moors in the early seventh century), was the inspiration of Don Diego Velázquez, a Cistercian monk based at the Monastery of Fitero in Navarre. Velázquez persuaded his Abbot, Ramón Sierra, to permit a group of monks to form themselves into a military confraternity to defend this strategically crucial town. After it had been abandoned by the Templars, to whom it had been granted in 1147, King Sancho III of Castille had first offered the city as an hereditary fief to any knight who would be prepared to provide for its defense but none proved willing to take up this challenge. Velázquez had seen that it would provide the perfect site for this new confraternity and the monks of Fitero were granted the town by the King in 1158. 
The members of the new garrison were first of all religious brothers but, like all early mediaeval Spanish communities whether lay or religious, had had some military training and soon re-established its fortifications. With the establishment of the new fraternity at Calatrava the brothers immediately obtained the approval of the Archbishop of Toledo, who granted them a substantial sum to assist them in preparing its fortifications. The Moors had not settled extensively in the area, which was sparsely populated, so several hundred peasants were encouraged to move from Navarre to the area surrounding the city, providing a much needed ancillary services.  In 1163 Abbot Ramón died and the priests of the new foundation, under their Abbot Rodolfo, now left Calatrava to return to the monastic life at Cirvelos. The knight brothers now adopted a more distinct exclusively military character, paralleling the members of the Templar and Hospitaller Orders but still subscribing to the Cistercian rule.
Ramón's successor as Master, García, obtained a Bull confirming the Order of Calatrava as a Militia from Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164. This placed the knights under the Cistercian rule but autonomous from the Cistercian Order itself. The teachings of the Cistercian Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, had provided them with an ideal of religious-military life, giving the Order unity and a strong sense of discipline and purpose. Each encomienda of the Order was organized around twelve knight-brothers with a chaplain who owed obedience to the Master at Calatrava.
The new Order was given half of the castles of Almadén and Chillon to garrison but was not yet strong enough to maintain them, also losing their seat at Calatrava in 1193. Like Santiago, as the Order acquired greater possessions in Castille, disputes emerged between different groups of knights. Meanwhile the Cistercians themselves tried to reassert their authority over the Order, demanding successfully in 1187 that the Master of the knights only be elected with the approval of the Cistercian Abbot of Morimond, in Burgundy. The early years saw rapid growth, with estates being acquired in Navarra in 1163, Portugal in 1175, Aragón in 1179 and the acquisition of several estates in León between 1170 and 1218 (when it abandoned any military presence there), including the castle and villa of Alcántara in 1217.  The progressive expansion of Calatrava may have been perceived by the Leónese as part of the continuing attempt of the Kingdom of Castille to achieve supremacy and build an Iberian Empire. In 1218 a settlement was reached with the Order of Alcántara and half Calatrava's Leónese estates were acquired by the former, while Calatrava established itself as Alcántara's superior in disciplinary and ecclesiastical matters. At the same time the agreement between the Castillian and Leónese Crowns resulted in an effective union of the two states after 1230.
In the twenty years when the Order was without its formal seat at Calatrava, the Aragónese knights established themselves as an autonomous group under a Grand Commander based at Alcañices, who took the title of Master of Alcañíz of the Order of Calatrava. The Castillian knights had meanwhile captured the castle of Salvatierra, to which they transferred their headquarters, moving in 1210 to Zurita before recovering Calatrava itself in 1212.
Even while the Order was engaged in continual struggles with the Crown, with the other Military Orders, and among its own members, it was still able to build up its economic base. This was founded on the raising of livestock and the production of cereals or grapes for wine. An important recent study has examined these aspects of the Order's history in more detail than is appropriate here,  but a brief survey demonstrates the importance of good management of the four Orders agricultural resources. The predominant cereals were wheat and barley with some rye production, while later fifteenth century records document the production of oats and vegetables. Within the patrimony of the Order the production of such crops was concentrated in the Castilian holdings while elsewhere livestock farming predominated. The cereals were used for bread manufacture and for animal food, necessary for the extensive range of livestock, mainly cattle for dairy and beef, oxen and mules as worKing animals for use in farming, particularly pulling the plow, sheep for wool and meat, pigs and horses. There are some references to the production of olives but this was far less importance than their Order's vineyards. Wine production was concentrated along the Tagus river and its tributaries but was also found in the province of Guadalajara, in Fuentelaencina, Zorita, Cogolludo, Cuenca, Canete, Moya and Plasencia.  Vegetable and flower farming was an important source of income as well as providing food for local consumption; this was naturally dependent on good water sources and so was concentrated along river plains. Emulating the Moslems, whose skills in devising sophisticated hydraulic and irrigation systems had been perfected in the dry Arab lands from which they originated, the knights almost certainly utilized similar irrigation systems, particularly in more barren Andalusia. It seems that irrigation was subordinated to the use of water power for milling and that surplus water would then be directed to crop production. 
The feudal system of ownership and management insured that the very best farming land remained in the hands of the knights. In times of severe drought this land could generally be relied upon to continue to be productive and therefore provide food for the garrisons given the duty of protecting the civilian populations. The peasants were given an area of land equivalent to that which could be worked by one pair of oxen for which both a percentage tribute and manual service would in return be provided to the knights. The Order oversaw the management of their own lands and constructed roads linKing villages and more distant areas of agricultural production. Typically, the land nearest a village would be used for orchards, vegetable production or grasses for animal food - the animals were stabled near the villages both for convenience and safety. Adjacent to these areas were divisions between pastures for grazing and plots available for grazing separated by fencing. 
In 1212 the new Master, Don Rodrigo García, obtained the temporary submission of the Portuguese Order of Saint Benedict of Avíz, granting the latter two of the palaces of the knights of Calatrava, on the condition that they reformed their statutes in imitation of Calatrava. In 1219 the Order established an associated order of Nuns at the Convent of Saint Felix, near Amaya, where they remained until the reign of King Philip II. Now firmly entrenched at their new convent at Calatrava, the knights continued to enlarge their territories, until 1296 when there was a four year schism, with two rival Masters. The division was eventually resolved by the Chapter-General of the Cistercian Order but the two rival factions continued to quarrel through the first half of the fourteenth century and intermittently over the succeeding century. The knights were involved on both sides of the ensuing civil wars, which delayed considerably the eventual expulsion of the Moors. Despite these internecine struggles, the Order continued to enlarge its wealth and power prving an increasing threat to royal authority. In 1443 the King John of Castille persuaded some of the knights to depose their Master, Ferdinand de Padilla, and elect Alfonso of Aragón, natural son of the King of Navarre. Although Padilla resisted he was killed in an accident and Alfonso was elected unopposed.
Unfortunately, war broke out once again between Castille and Navarre, and the Master of Calatrava decided to support his father rather than his patron - Navarre was defeated and in 1445 King John assembled a Chapter of the Order which declared the Master deposed. There was now a new schism, some of the knights continuing to support Alfonso of Aragón while others attached themselves to his two rivals, with the Order's castles and towns divided between them. An agreement was eventually reached by which Pedro Girón became sole Master and, in 1446, took the part of the Infant Henry in his rebellion against his father, King John. The latter died in 1454 and Henry was now unopposed, embarKing on a new war against the Moors in which Calatrava and the other Orders all came to his assistance. The grandees rebelled, however, electing the King's brother Alfonso (who died unmarried in 1468) in his place, and the Master of Calatrava joined the rebellion, with some of his knights.
Needing the support of the Order King Henry bought off Master Pedro Girón by promising him the hand of his sister Isabel;  in 1464 the Master obtained a dispensation from his vows to marry , hoping one day to place a crown upon his head. After resigning the title of Master, he obtained the election of his bastard son, the eight year old Rodrigo Téllez-Girón and the appointment of the latter's uncle, Don Juan Pacheco, Marquis of Villena, 1st Duke of Escalona (and later Grand Master of Santiago from 1467-1474) as coadjutor. On his way to the marriage in Madrid Pedro Girón was taken ill and died, possibly poisoned. In 1469 the Infanta Isabel married Ferdinand, King of Aragón and Sicily. The death of King Henry of Castille in 1474 caused a further schism, as the Master, who had now attained his majority, and some of the knights gave their support to the claims of the King of Portugal (married to the Infanta Juana, see note above). The Clavero, leading another group, supported Isabel, who was able to secure her succession as Queen of Castille with the help of her husband after the defeat of the Portuguese at the battle of Toro in 1479. The Master now submitted to the now undisputed Monarchs and distinguished himself in the war against the Moors, being killed in 1482 when he was succeeded by the former Clavero, Don García López de Padilla, the twenty-ninth and last Master of the Order.
With the death of Master López de Padilla in 1486, King Ferdinand applied to the Pope for permission to assume the administration of the Order, to which the latter acceded, while reserving to himself the right to nominate a Master in the future. Ferdinand died in 1516 and was succeeded as King of Aragón by his grandson the Archduke Charles; the knights now applied to elect a new Master of their Order but were opposed by the Cardinal Regent (future Pope Adrian VI), who was himself appointed administrator by Pope Leo X on 15 March 1521. With his election to the Holy See he transferred the perpetual administration to King Charles, now also Emperor as Charles V, by the Bull Dum intra of 4 May 1523. The government was now consigned to the Council of the three (later four) Orders with which it has remained. The Order had some sixteen priories and fifty-six commanderies and from 1540 their vows were modified to parallel those of the other Orders, permitting them to marry, while in 1652 a fourth vow was added to defend and sustain the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (as in Santiago).
The second largest of the two Orders, Calatrava was still smaller than Santiago, in the late 18th century having revenues of 180,000 scudi per annum. Like the other Orders its benefices were confiscated in the nineteenth century and by the time of the reign of Alfonso XIII the duties of the knights were primarily honorific. The Order's head was the Grand Commander, his deputy the Grand Commander of Alcañices (or of Aragón), along with the Clavero, or keeper of the keys, the Obrero, Alférez (Standard-Bearer) and Commander of Almodovar.
With the downfall of the Monarchy in 1931, the titular Grand Commander was the Infant Don Jaime, Duke of Segovia (who died in 1975), the Grand Commander of Aragón was the Count of Almodovar and the Clavero was the Duke of Hijar. There were less than eighty knights, of whom four made profession between 1931 and 1941, and five of the pre-1931 novices were still living and able to make profession with the recent revival of the four Orders. Today the Grand Commander of Calatrava is the Duke of Granada de Ega (whose father, the late Grand Commander of Aragón had joined as a novice in 1930, made profession in 1983 and was appointed to this office in the same year). The Grand Commander of Aragón is D. Juan Ignacio Mac-Crohon y Jarava, the Clavero is D. Ramón Diez de Rivera y de Hoces (former Secretary of the Council and Tribunal), and the Obrero is D. Salvador Rivero y Sánchez-Romate. As of 1998 there were forty-nine professed knights and twenty-four novices, including five Grandees of Spain, and two royal princes, the Duke of Braganza, head of the Royal House of Portugal, and Archduke Andres Salvador. The badge of the Order is a red Greek cross with the letter M (for Mary) in ornate script as fleurs de lys, making the four arms; it is either worn sewn on the left breast or is represented as a gold red enameled cross hung from a red ribbon around the neck. The rules for admission to Calatrava are now identical to those of the Order of Santiago.
 The act of 1158 is recited in another decree of 1196, "Qua propter ego Rex Sanctius Dei gratia Domini Alphonsi bonae memoriae illustris Hispaniarum Imperatoris filius, divino amore inspirante, facio chartam donationis & textum scriptura in perpetuum valiturum, Deo & B.M. & sanctae Congregationi Cisterciensi, & vobis Domino Raimondo Abbati S.M. de Fitero, & omnibus fratribus vestris tam praesentibus quam futuris de villa quae vocatur Calatrava: ut habeatis & possideatis eam mancipatam, liberam, ac quietam jure hereditario deinceps in perpetuum, & defendatis eam a Paganis inimicis crucis Christi, suo ac nostro adjutorio. Ita inquam do vobis & concedo eam cum terminis & montibus, terris, aquis, pratis, &c". See Helyot, op.cit., Volume VI, p.35.
 As many as twenty thousand, according to Helyot, op.cit., Volume VI, p.36.
 See Carlos de Ayala Martínez, Possessions and Incomes of the Order of Calatrava, pp.283-287 in The Military Orders, edited by Malcolm Barber, Aldershot, 1994.
 See Enrique Rodríguez-Picavea Matilla, Agrarian Structure in the Calatrava Lordships of the Southern Meseta of Castile in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, in The Military Orders, by Malcolm Barber, 1994, pp. 284-295.
 See Rodríguez-Picavea, Op. cit. supra., p. 290.
 See Rodríguez-Picavea, Op. cit. supra., pp. 291-292.
 See Rodríguez-Picavea, Op. cit. supra. pp. 294-295.
 The confusion in the succession to the thrones of Castille, Aragón and Navarre resulting from the frequent intermarriage between members of their royal families, combined with uncertainty over the law of primogeniture and rights of females cannot be explained here. Henry was the only surviving child of King John by his first wife, Isabel was the eldest child of his second wife and the only one still living at the death of her brother Henry in 1474. Henry had had an only daughter by his second wife, Juana, who married her uncle the King of Portugal as his second wife but eventually died childless. See Jiri Louda and Michael Maclagan, Lines of Succession, London, 1981.
 The knights of Calatrava were not dispensed of the vow of celibacy until 1540, when a Bull of Paul III permitted them to marry while binding them to the same vow of marital chastity as the knights of Santiago. See Helyot, op.cit., Volume VI, p.51.
 The posts of Alférez and Commander of Almodóvar are vacant.