THE ORDER OF SAINT JOHN OF JERUSALEM / ORDER OF MALTA

 

Once the Roman Empire started to fall, we were “visited” for almost 800 years, by another undeniable culture, the Arabs or, coming from North Africa, the Maghreb, the colloquially known “Moors” or Maghrebí people, who invaded almost all of the Iberian Peninsula, and in our case, they built the Castle of Peñarroya. It was in year 1198 when the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem arrived in the region , also known later as the Order of the Knights of Malta , and together with the Order of Santiago, like any military and European religious Order of the time, they arrived with a fundamental target consisting of expelling the Muslim invader or “infidel” as they were cathegorized at that time. They reconquered the fortress in 1215. The legend says that after reconquering the fortress, the sculpture of Our Lady of Peñarroya was found in it, and thus it has been venerated ever since by the residents of Argamasilla de Alba and La Solana, who share the Patron.

Actually, given the fact that the Church was the most important power group in Medieval Europe, the efforts to expel the Muslims consisted much more in military and political parades and in an attempt to preserve their power, than a mere religious conflict. And thus, Argamasilla de Alba, with the Castle of Peñarroya and the monumental Church of San Juan Evangelista, became the most important center of power of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. In the fourteenth century Peñarroya was still, without a doubt, the most important centre of the Order of Saint John from an economic point of view. The purpose of the fortress was to guarantee the economical control of the territory, the leasing of the pastures, the collection of taxes and the protection of peaceful neighbours, as well as a storage facility of goods or a “safe” for the Order.

Strategically located over a tall cliff, where the Peñarroya dam was later built, the castle preserves :

  • In the outside : medieval access road, chapel and moat. Recently, a necropolis of Islamic rite and a silos field of unclear time have been found just outside the walls.
  • In the Inside: Pre-wall, main medieval wall, homage tower, 17th century church (obvious decadent baroque style inside. Paintings are found on both sides of the main altar, also highlighting the Churri-Gueresque altarpiece, the Virgin’s dressing room, the choir and an extraordinary 17th century carving that was originally located in the Mercedarios convent of Argamasilla de Alba), parade ground, 12th century hermitage and medieval cistern.

This is how things were until around the end of the 14th century, it is not known if real estate speculation trends started there😊, but the Order decided to transfer its centre of power to the nearby town of Consuegra, where it established its headquarters in the wonderful castle that dominates the Villa and that it was its property since it was donated to it in 1183, and the immediate consequence of this displacement, among other things, was that the construction of the aforementioned monumental church of San Juan Bautista was left without financing and consequently unfinished to this day.

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