The First Crusade (1095–1099) was the first of a number of crusades that attempted to capture the Holy Land, called by Pope Urban II in 1095.
In 1118, the French knight named Hugues de Payens who participated in the war and flamenco knight Godfrey of Saint-Adhemar, decided to promote the foundation of a monastic order, whose purpose was the custody of the Pilgrims and the safeguard of dangerous roads in the direction of places of pilgrimage. They called it the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.
The humility and poverty of the Templars are evident in the Seal and Symbol used by the Templars: two Knights Templar riding on a single horse. The stamp expresses the collection and transfer of the pilgrims who went to Jerusalem.
The Knights Templar were to renounce all personal property so the Order was the owner of all goods and posesions.
The Templars were forbidden to share the horse and the code of behaviour for the Order (Latin Rule) stipulated that each Knight Templar should have three horses and one squire.
Some of the most important templar chapels and castles on the Camino de Santiago that pilgrims can visit during their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela include (among others):
Santa María de Eunate is probably the most disconcerting Templar hermitage, since its origin generates many controversies.
This is the place where the Roads meet from Somport pass and the Camino de Santiago from Roncesvalles. The architectural ensemble is octagonal and is surrounded by a porticoed gallery of 33 arches, with decorated capitals. The harmony of the octagonal plant is broken by a pentagonal apse and a square-shaped turret attached to the side of the Epistle.
Torres del Río
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the culmination of the perfect octagon.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher of Torres del Río or Sansol, also called by the nearby hill of that name, follows in its plant the rare octagonal pattern already seen in that of Eunate. It served as a guiding light to guide pilgrims in transit to Santiago de Compostela as well as that of Eunate.
Puente La Reina
Church of the Crucifix: Late Romanesque style, it was built by the Templars in the middle of the 12th century, which houses the Virgin with Child of the 12th century and a Y-shaped Crucified Christ.
Church of San Juan is located in the middle of the Camino de Santiago, rebuilt on a Romanesque base, it belonged to the Templars, who later ceded to the Hospitallers, to carry out their task of helping the Pilgrims.
Rabanal del Camino
Parish Church. Small Church, with Romanesque remains that belonged to the Templar Order of Ponferrada.
This is one of the most important Templar preceptories of Spain. It was a fundamental enclave in the Kingdom of Leon. They developed works of protection of the Way of Santiago, yielding later these functions to the Order of Santiago and Hospitallers.
The preceptory had the Castles of: Cornatel, Corullón, Sarracín (Vega de Valcarce) and perhaps also the Castle of Balboa. The disappearance of the Order meant the change of ownership, passing through the hands of the Osorio family and the Count of Lemos. As a result of the Irmandiño Revolts and the struggles between the Count of Lemos and his son, was claimed by the Catholic Monarchs.
The jurisdiction of the preceptory of the Knights Templars of Ponferrada covered almost all the region of El Bierzo, extending from Rabanal de Camino to O Cebreiro. The monasteries of the Bierzo belonged to the Cistercian order and the monasteries of O Cebreiro belonged to the order of Cluny.
The Sarracín Castle was a Templar enclave made for the defense of the pilgrims that went to Santiago. In Vega de Valcarce, the Portazgo was charged, which was a toll for a right of way. The pilgrims were exempt, but often the errand-pilgrims (people who walked the Camino de Santiago on behalf of other christians, normally wealthy) could be considered rich merchants and were forced to pay the Portazgo. This originated a historical road that runs alongside Sarracín by Monte de la Vilela (Villaus del Codex Calixtinus), obtaining thus the protection against the Portazgueros (people in charge of collecting tolls) of the Castle of Autarry. There was another alternative road, to elude the Portazgo, that was diverted by the valley of San Fiz, and continued towards Villasinde (Hospital of Villasinde) and linked Monte de la Vilela with the historical road. Also, it was continued towards Barjas (see Game of the Goose), acceding to O Cebreiro.
Once the town of O Cebreiro was crossed, the protection of the pilgrims passed to the Order of Santiago, which deserves special mention in another article.