n all our roles, displays and activities we try to put a focus on authenticity. Our clothes, equipment and stories are made after known models from the epoch we display. We are also collecting a lot of background information about this era, the crusaders and their context. On this page, you will find some extracts.

The Royal Knights of Santiago
he Knights of Santiago (St. Iago, the national patron of Spain), or Order of Saint James de Compostela were an existing christian Knights' Order (In fact the order exists, today, in Spain). In addition it is refered to as SANTIAGO DE LA ESPADA (Saint James of the Sword). The order was founded in the 12th century in Northern Spain. Two cities compete for the, original, homes (Leon and Ucles). The order received its first rule in 1171 from Cardinal Jacinto (later Pope Celestine lll); and, was recognized as religious by Alexander III, whose Bull of 5 July 1175 was confirmed by more than 20 of his successors. Known as the Fratres de Caceres, the order was given, in 1170, the stronghold of Caceres by King Ferdinand ll (1157-1188). They were led by, Grand Master, Don Pedro Fernandez.
In fact, the protection of the pilgrims, coming from all the Christian world, to Santiago de Compostela, has always been one of the missions of the order. Another mission was the fight against Muslims in Spain, who were occupying the southern half of the peninsula and against whom the Christian kingdoms of Leon and Castile in Northern Spain were leading a long-lasting war called the 'reconquista'. The Order of Santiago was active in both these kingdoms, the headquarters being in Uclés.

Pope Celestin III.
hus, the order was present in both military campaigns and crusades, as well as, in hospitaller and caritative missions, like the protection of the pilgrims and the maintenance of hospitals along the Camino de Compostela. The rules, of the order, were less severe than those applied to other monastic orders. Their members were, for example, allowed to marry. This fact increased the popularity of the order, and their power was known all over Europe in 1200 AD.

he emblem of the order is a Saint James Cross("cross fleury"). The bottom is pointed like a sword, referring to the military aspect of the order. The cross is red and appears on a white background, or as an element in more complicated coat

Life of a 13th century knight

ou will find more about this topic here soon, like information about the members of aknight's camp, the eqipment and armour of a knight, how we would have lived, what he would have been eating...

The time of the crusades

esides their activities in their homeland in Spain and along the routes of pilgrimage, the Knights of Santiago also took part in the crusades and other missions against Muslims in the known world. It was, for example, required for every knight to serve half a year on the galleys transporting crusaders overseas. Thus, the sea shell symbol of St. James came into existance

Kingdom of Jerusalem
Coat of Arms
ne of the events often referred to as a cause for the crusades was the destruction of the pilgrimage sites in Jerusalem by the Arabs in 1009. In different parts of the Christian world, like in Spain and in the East of the Byzantine Empire, Christian leaders were confronted with Muslim neighbors and invaders.
Sultan Saladin
Their political and military campaigns against the Muslims were sanctioned by the pope and given a religious blessing. An uprise of Christian piety all over Europe favored the call for a Holy War against the Muslim world, and the first call to crusade under the aim to retake the Holy Land, spoken out by Pope Urban II in 1095, found a lot of followers. A large army of crusaders managed to capture Jerusalem in 1099. The entire population was massacred and several Christian kingdoms, among them the Kingdom of Jerusalem, were installed.

n 1147, a new crusade was launched, once again originally based on a local war against the turks. The kings of France and Germany marched with their armies but did not achieve anything, and after having risked the existance of the Christian strongholds by an unclever campaign, returned back to Europe. When Sultan Saladin of Egypt took back Jerusalem in 1187, this lead to the 3rd crusade under Philip II of France, Richard I, Lionheart, of England and Frederick I of Germany. Because the crusader armies were badly prepared for the foreign conditions in Palestine, and Richards kingdom was being threatened, by his brother, James, they returned home again after only achieving a treaty with Saladin in 1192. Jerusalem remained in the hands of the Muslims.

Frederick I. Barbarossa
of Germany
Philip II.
of France
Richard I Lionheart
of England

everal other crusades were undertaken in the following years, partially called out by the pope, partially under the influence of certain states like Venice using the religious campaigns for their own political aims, and partially, later, without the sanction of the pope by individual kings. Most of these military campaigns did not give any result because the European knights had great difficulties against the local armies familiar with their homelands, and because some unclever strategies were chosen by selfish leaders.

o understand better why so many people got engaged in these campaigns, where many lives were lost, it is important to consider the situation in Europe in that time . Europe was overpopulated in relation to the available resources. Not every local prince would inherit some land to live from. Many warriors and knights were present who were ready to fight for an aim. The Church provided an answer, giving a mission of importance to them by fighting against the Muslims in the name of God, a mission which also gave them the certainty to fight for a good cause and to be rewarded in the afterlife. Not unlike modern religious warriors, they were driven by a fervent conviction going as far as sacrificing their lives as martyrs in the Holy War. It is interesting to remark in this context that the Muslim empires of that epoch, while being expansionist, actually showed a relative tolerance towards their non-Muslim neighbors and subjects.

The Moorish empire of Andalusia

Tariq Ibn Ziyad
lready 711 AD, the first Moorish invaders came to Spain from North Africa, which was, at that time, the furthest western part of the Arabic empire reaching to the borders of India in the east, the capital being Damascus. The Arabs, under Tariq ibn Ziyad, landed in Gibraltar and quickly conquered the entire southern half of the Iberic peninsula, which had before been in the hands of a large number of local leaders. The territory became the Arabic province al-Andalus and was governed by the kaliph of Damascus through a local governor (emir). The local population adapted quickly to the new, arabic culture, especially as Christians and Jews were allowed to keep their religion and traditions under certain conditions.

Abd al-Rahman III
uring the following year, Andalusia developed a more independent culture which united the influence of Damascus, Baghdad and Persia with local Spanish, Christian and Jewish elements. Also, politically, Andalusia separated more and more from the empire, and in 929 AD, Abd al-Rahman III declared himself Kaliph.
The Mezquita of Córdoba
The independent Moorish Kaliphate of Córdoba was born, and it brought one of the most blooming epochs in the history of Spain. The Arab rulers built numerous cities, developed agriculture at a high level, and supported culture, philosophy and science at their court and at their court schools throughout the country. The tolerant atmosphere allowed a great progress of science, and indeed Moorish knowledge from medicine to trade was soon renowned all over Europe, where these fields were rather underdeveloped. Córdoba, with half a million inhabitants, became the cultural center of medieval Europe.

fter a stable epoch of 200 years, Moorish Andalusia broke into a number of local territories. These independent Taifa kingdoms were often in conflict with each other, and they lost quite many Muslims. In 1029, they felt the need to call for help from North Africa. The Moroccan Berber leader Yusuf bin Tashufin came with an army, and while he expelled the Taifa kings, he managed to drive back the Christians and reestablished a united Muslim state which left Spain under the control of the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties till 1249.
The Alhambra of Granada
Towards the end of that epoch, the Christian war against the Muslims, the "reconquista" became more and more successful, and in 1249, the only Moorish kingdom left in Spain was the Emirate of Granada. Here, Moorish and Andalusian culture survived for another 150 years. In 1492, after a crusade organized by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the famous couple who united Spain and sent Columbus on his expedition, the last Emir of Granada surrendered his palace, the Alhambra, to the Christians. Soon after, raids against Muslims began, and most of the Moorish escaped to Morocco. The Moorish epoch ended, not without leaving its traces all over Europe and especially in the Spanish culture till today.