By Paul H. Freedman
Acta historica et archaeologica mediaevalia, No.3 (1982)
Introduction: It is difficult to determine precisely when the military orders of crusading knights first became active in Catalonia. Unlike Castile, León or Portugal, where national orders became extremely powerful, Catalonia was dominated by the European orders of tbe Temple and the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem. These international orders, unlike the later knights of Santiago or Calatrava, did not owe their existence to the Reconquest. Their beginnings in Catalonia antedate the dramatic expansion that began in the mid-twelfth century. The Templars and Hospitallers were formed by French knights in the third decade of the twelfth century for the purpose of defending the Holy Land. Their efforts in Europe were supposed to be devoted to raising money and men for the crusades across the sea. As their purpose was to protect the endangered Christian presence in the Near East, the orders naturally showed some initial reluctance to commit themselves to another major front against Islam, that of the Ibenan peninsula. Even when tbey received land or fortresses in Catalonia and Aragon, the Ternplars and Hospitallers did not at first expend great energy on the expansion or protection of these possessions. They viewed territory donated in Catalonia and elsewhere on the peninsula as a source of revenue for eastern campaigns, not as the foundation for another sphere of warfare. Dangerous frontier castles donated to the Templars, for example, were regarded as a drain on the resources of the knights and so were often not occupied.