from Chapter 3
Like an Oil Stain
The Establishment of the Templar Order in Aragón and Navarre
Since shortly before the moment of their official knighting in Troyes, Europe was aware of and awaiting the Templars, for they were seen as representatives of a new ideology capable of pulling Christendom triumphantly from a crisis that the Crusades had not been able to overcome and that the Cluniac pontificate had not even foreseen. Alfonso I, the Battler (1073–1134), king of Aragón and Navarre and later of León and Castile, was even more attentive to the messianic principles on which the Temple of Solomon was established. Here was a monarch who knew how to structure his politics according to imperialist perspectives that were very close to the idea of a world government that would strive for a goal of universal unity, religious as well as political--a goal that was a heartbeat in the very origin of the Order. He not only established Templar-style fellowships to comfortably roam his lands, but when the time came to think of the future of his kingdom without him--he ruled over Aragón and Navarre after renouncing his plan for a Spain unified through his marriage to Urraca de Castilla--he conceived the absurd idea of turning his territory over to those military orders from the Holy Land that promoted the great synarchic project that he himself, surely, had already constructed.
Given what we historians know about the character of Alfonso I, historians cannot accept his testament without trying to understand the motives that would bring him to write a document that was so absurd in the political context of his time. After listing the donations that would be made to different monasteries in his kingdom, this testament, first published by Moret in his Anales de Navarra (Annals of Navarre) says:
Therefore, after my death I leave as heir and successor to me the Sepulchre of the Lord which is Jerusalem and those who observe and guard and serve God there, and to the Hospital of the poor which is of Jerusalem, and to the Temple of Solomon with the knights who keep vigil there to defend the name of Christendom. To these three I concede my whole kingdom . . .
This testament, dictated in front of the walls of Bayonne in 1131, was ratified shortly before the Battle of Fraga, in 1134, which would be the only defeat in the long years of the peninsular crusade of Alfonso I as well as the immediate cause of his death due, it seems, to the wounds he received in combat. In addition to being a kind of premonition, the ratification of the will became a type of public confirmation of intentions, barring the possibility that the nobles of his kingdom, as the tacit executors of the royal will, might choose to ignore his actual intentions.
Upon his death, however, something happened that exceeded traditional medieval custom: The obsequies due a man of his rank were not rendered to the deceased king. His body was physically spirited away from any possible homage of his subjects and was taken for burial, in quasi-secrecy, to the monastery of the regular canons of Montearagón. His will was ignored. The populace did not hear of his death until his brother, Ramiro, a Cluny monk who was bishop of Roda and Barbastro, was made sovereign. Everything surrounding this transfer of power was rushed: the papal dispensation that freed Ramiro--from that moment on, Ramiro II--from his vows and his immediate wedding to Inés de Poitiers. A daughter, Petronilla, was born the following year and was offered in matrimony in 1137, when she was not yet two years old, to the count of Barcelona, Ramón Berenger IV, who immediately became Prince of Aragón and virtual regent of the kingdom. The secularized monk Ramiro returned to monastic obedience without hesitation, after officially reestablishing the dynastic continuity of Aragón and the definitive union of his kingdom and the county of Barcelona. The Catalan- Aragonese crown had been crafted thus and the two realms would remain as one throughout the Middle Ages. The Catalan prince, to whom contemporary chroniclers gave the title Saint, was charged with dealing with the military orders, presumably the legacy of Alfonso the Battler, which he officially installed throughout the kingdom, giving to them numerous fortified plazas in exchange for their renunciation of the rights that the controversial will and testament had given them barely three years earlier.
We might wonder what brought about the union of Aragón and Catalonia, even at the cost of Navarre seceding, under the short reign of Ramiro the Monk. We shall see that this alliance, propitiated beyond potential and immediate conveniences, occurred for some internal, hidden reason about which no official parchment offers testimony.
In principle, Alfonso the Battler’s will and testament had to be disobeyed by the living forces of Aragón. The state would not allow itself to be ruled by a group of military orders from Palestine under the direct domination of the recently acknowledged Templars. It is clear, however, that the Templar Order, despite its newness as an institution, arrived full of a messianism that had already inspired two rulers, Alfonso of Aragón and Count Ramón de Berenguer III of Barcelona, to perform, upon their deaths, the symbolic act of turning over to the Order their horses and armor--both essentially emblematic of their power, social rank, and position as heads of their respective territories.