Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Miravet and the Templar Knights
It was on my first visit to Miravet, a tiny village on the banks of the Ebro River, that I discovered the Knights Templar – my first encounter with warrior knights. Of course the Templars no longer survive, at least not as an order of the Catholic Church. My encounter with them was in the physical ruins of what once was their glory.
Formed in the 12th century to protect the Jerusalem pilgrimage, the Templar Knights were the most skilled of the different orders of fighting monks. Little did I know, in the 1970s when I was watching The Saint on T.V. and admiring his Volvo P1800, what inspired Simon Templar’s name.
As their fame grew, the Templars instituted a system whereby travelers, rather than carry it with them on the journey, could put their wealth in the possession of Templars who would give the traveler a letter of credit which he could then redeem from other Templars when he reached the Holy Land. This and other financial arrangements eventually made them the most powerful and rich of all the monastic orders – so rich, in fact, that the King of France was so heavily indebted to them that he jumped at the chance to participate in their undoing and escape his debt.
The monasteries of the Templars were often fortresses, and the castle of Miravet is one such example. Castles, I’ve learned, were always defensive structures, usually incorporating a large yard where those who lived outside its walls but within its jurisdiction could come for protection in case of attack, whereas the dwellings where lords and kings could enjoy their wealth without resorting to defense were palaces.
Miravet website (in Catalan): http://www.miravet.altanet.org/