Álvaro de Luna y Jarana (between 1388 and 1390; June 2, 1453), Constable of Castile, Grand Master of the military order of Santiago, and favorite of King John II of Castile.
The Order of Santiago (St. James) was the most powerful of the Iberian military religious orders, originating as a confraternity of knights founded by King Ferdinand II of León in Cáceres in August 1170 in order to protect the southern part of his kingdom against the Muslim Almohads.
Despite later medieval legends that dated the order as far back as the mythical battle of Clavijo won by King Ramiro I of Asturias (d. 850) against the Moors, the birth of this institution occurred within the context of the reconquest of Iberia from the Muslims in the second half of the twelfth century. The appearance of a confraternity under the leadership of its master Pedro Fernández followed the pattern of other militias such as the hermandad (confraternity) of Belchite, founded by King Alfonso I half a century before in Aragon, or the more recent hermandad of Ávila in Castile, which eventually merged with the Order of Santiago.
The members of the new confraternity were known as the Brethren of Cáceres until January 1171. In that year they came to an agreement with Pedro Gudesteiz, archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, who became a member of the community as an honorary brother and in return received the master and his knights into his cathedral chapter. Although this pact did not last long, the brethren chose St. James (Sp. Santiago) as their patron and protector, whose fame helped them obtain donations. In 1173 Master Pedro Fernández obtained a bull of protection from the papacy for the community. He probably presented Pope Alexander III with the first version of the rule of Santiago, which received papal approval two years later in July 1175.
According to this rule, the membership of the order consisted of knight brethren, who were dedicated to fighting against the Muslims, and clerics, who followed the Rule of St. Augustine and most probably came from the Galician monastery of Loyo. Both clerics and knights bore the insignia of a red cross in the shape of a sword. These two parallel communities were under the authority of a master, who was elected from among the knights and governed the whole order with the assent of the general chapter. This institutional structure was inspired by the orders of the Temple and the Hospital, but also by the Order of Calatrava, founded in Castile in 1158.
The founder of the order, Ferdinand II of León, wanted to use the new militia to protect the southern border of his realm, which was threatened by Almohad incursions. Master Pedro Fernández, by contrast, had quite different aims: with the encouragement of the papacy, he tried to give his order a dimension that would not be restricted to León. In 1171 King Alfonso VIII of Castile granted it the castles of Mora and Oreja, whose location to the south and east of Toledo gave them a key role in the defense of that city. From Afonso I Henriques, king of Portugal, the order received the castles of Monsanto (1171) and Abrantes (1173) and was thus brought into the defense of the line of the river Tagus (Sp. Tajo). The expansion of the order beyond León can be seen from a confirmation by Pope Lucius III (1184), which mentions possessions in León, Portugal, and Castile, as well as Aragon, France, and Italy. The order thus turned into an international organization, which, even though most of its activity was focused on the Iberian Peninsula, still extended as far as the Holy Land, where the brethren were repeatedly asked to settle.
The Iberian Peninsula, however, remained the main theater of operations for the Order of Santiago, whose brethren, during the first fifty years of its existence, were busy fighting the Almohads under the direction of the various Hispanic kings. Against these powerful enemies, they first had to defend the line of the Tagus from Palmela and Alcácer do Sal, in the west, to Uclés, where the order officially settled after being granted the city by Alfonso VIII of Castile in 1174. The task was far from easy, and, in such a difficult context of division between the Christian realms, the order had to give up certain places: Cáceres (1174), Alcácer (1191), and even Montánchez, Trujillo, and Santa Cruz (1196), during the great Almohad offensive that occurred after the Castilian defeat at Alarcos. Despite their difficult situation, the brethren succeeded in preserving most of their estates in La Mancha by resisting the Muslim attacks of 1197 against Alarcón and Uclés. From such bases, it was possible for them to continue fighting and progressively resume offensive action until the great victory of Las Navas de Tolosa (16 July 1212), which opened the south of the peninsula to the Christian kingdoms.
The determination of the brethren of Santiago was instrumental in enabling Iberian Christendom to take advantage of the Almohad collapse. The order fought on every front. In Portugal its members decisively contributed in 1217 to the seizure of Alcácer, where they established their provincial seat, before participating in the integration of the Campo de Montiel and the towns of the Guadiana Valley into the kingdoms of Castile and León. They assisted in the conquest of the Taifa kingdom of Valencia, where King James I of Aragon was supported by Rodrigo Bueso, the commander of Montalbán. During the submission of the southern part of al-Andalus that took place during the reigns of Ferdinand III of Castile and Afonso III of Portugal, the Santiaguists relentlessly supported the monarchies until the mid-thirteenth century, as shown by the involvement of the master Pelayo Pérez Correa, who actively participated in the capture of Seville in 1248 and in the submission of the Algarve the next year.
Thanks to such military activity, the Order of Santiago underwent a great expansion from the second quarter of the thirteenth century. Numerous donations built up a near continguous bloc of estates extending from the estuary of the river Tagus, south of Lisbon, to that of the Segura, in the region of Murcia. Within these possessions, the order organized a system of commanderies and, in some places, established male and female convents as well as charitable foundations intended to welcome pilgrims, take care of lepers, and even to ransom captives. These elements all contributed to the prestige as well as the wealth of the order, whose influence reached a peak under the long mastership of Pelayo Pérez Correa (1242–1275), who acquired a level of power unprecedented among of his predecessors.
The wealth of the order came to be coveted, at a time when it was also tending to interfere in the domestic policies of the Christian kingdoms. At the instigation of Pelayo Pérez Correa, in 1272 it secretly supported the rebellion of those members of the Castilian nobility who were reluctant to accept the plans of monarchical centralization contemplated by King Alfonso X. Ten years later, the brethren openly rose up in arms against the king, who, at the end of his reign, was at war against his son, the future Sancho IV. As a leading but sometimes unruly element in politics, from the late thirteenth century Santiago in turn became the object of growing interference on the part of the Castilian monarchy, which more than ever needed to be certain of its cooperation. King Alfonso XI was able to manipulate the order to a greater degree than any of his predecessors: he succeeded in having important trials concerning the military orders brought under the jurisdiction of the royal courts, and he forced the Santiaguists to accept his mistress’s brother, Alonso Méndez de Guzmán, as master of the order in 1338, even granting the office to the young Fadrique, his own natural son, four years later.
Until the mid-fourteenth century, the brethren regularly joined the campaigns fought by Castile for control of the strait of Gibraltar in an attempt to wrest from the Naşrids of Granada and the Marïnids of Morocco the domination of maritime traffic between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean: they not only took part in the fighting but also contributed to the costly maintenance of several strongholds on the border. Yet the order also played an increasingly important part in internal conflicts within Iberian Christendom, particularly in the civil war that rent Castile between 1366 and 1369, during which brethren of Santiago were found in both opposing factions.
By the fifteenth century, there was a constant competition between the Crown and the local aristocracy for control of the Order of Santiago’s most important offices. On several occasions in Castile, during the reigns of John II and Henry IV, such competition within the order degenerated into armed confrontation. Yet while most kings had been content with installing men they trusted as heads of the institution, a far more radical solution was implemented in the time of the “Catholic Monarchs,” Isabella I of Castile (d. 1504) and Ferdinand II of Aragon (d. 1516). On the death of Master Alonso de Cárdenas (1493), they obtained from Pope Alexander VI the right to rule the order until their deaths. This measure was renewed under their successors, and it paved the way for the subsequent integration of Santiago’s estates into the patrimony of the Spanish monarchy. In Portugal, where a branch of the order had become independent from the Castilian center in the early fourteenth century, a similar privilege was granted by the papacy to King John III in 1551. At this time in both kingdoms, Santiago entered a new period of its history, and first became a purely honorary noble corporation largely distant from any form of military action, before it was dissolved in the modern period, initially in 1874 by the first Spanish Republic, and definitively in 1931 after the abolition of the monarchy.
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