The Military Orders and the Rábidas are confraternity of knights and warriors originally established as religious societies during the medieval age for protection of Christianity and Islam respectively. The main ones and with more permanent basis of recruitment, fortifications, training and battle experience are the ones in Al-Andalus and Spain. Both the military orders and rabidas have royal or caliphal patronage.

Military Orders

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Alcazar of the Order of Santiago

A military order[1] is a confraternity of knights, originally established as Catholic religious societies during the medieval Crusades for protection of Christians in response to the aggression and persecution of the Islamic conquests (623–1050) in the Holy Land and the Iberian Peninsula, as well as by Baltic paganism in Eastern Europe.

The birth and expansion of Military Orders in Spain came mostly at the stage of the Reconquista in which were occupied the territories between the Ebro and Tagus, so their presence in those areas of La Mancha, Extremadura and Sistema Ibérico came to mark the main feature of the Repoblación, in large areas in which each Order, through their encomiendas, exercised a political and economic role similar to that of manor feudal. The presence of other foreign military orders, such as the Templar or the Saint John was simultaneously, and in the case of the Knights Templar, their suppression in the 14th century benefited significantly to the Spanish.

Established as a militia, the Military Orders protected the frontier from Muslim raids and served as a discipline auxiliary force in the campaigns of the Reconquista. They assisted in the eviction of the Muslims and doing battle with them, sometimes separately, sometimes with the royal armies. They were given by kings possessions along the frontier however in bestowing them, the conditions was that the seat of the order should be in their respective states. Some of the military orders also provided the protection of pilgrims to the shrine of St. James and the hospices on the roads leading to Compostela. This explains the mixed character of their order—hospitaller and military.

The Maestre (Master) is the highest authority of the order, with an almost absolute power, both militarily, and politically or religiously. It is chosen by the council. The office of maestre is life-time and in his death the council, convened by the greater prior of the order, choose the new maestre. The General Chapter, a representative assembly, controls the entire order. It should meet annually a certain day in the greater convent, although in the practice these meetings were held where and when the maestre wanted.

The command of the army it exercised the highest dignities of each order. At the apex the maestre, followed by the main commanders.

Of note is the surprising bellicosity of the orders and its rigorous promise to fight the infidel, which often manifested itself in the continuation of authentic "private wars" against the Muslims when, for various reasons, the Christian kings gave up the struggle, because signing truces or to direct its military actions in other ways.

The Christian Kingdoms produced several famous orders:

EmblemNameFounded - extintionPapal recognitionProtection
Ordem Avis Order of Aviz 1146 (Aviz, Portugal)
Cross wing saint michael Order of Saint Michael of the Wing 1147 (Santarém, Portugal)
Cross Calatrava Order of Calatrava1158 (Calatrava la Vieja, Kingdom of Castile)1164Kingdom of Castile (1158- ), Kingdom of Aragon (1179- )
Cross Santiago Order of Santiago 1170 (León or Uclés in Castile) Kingdom of León (1158- ), Kingdom of Castile (1158- )
Badge of the Order of Alcantara Order of Alcántara 1177 177 and 1183 Grand Master (1156- ), Kingdom of León (1177- ), Kingdom of Castile (1177- )
Cross monreal Order of Monreal 1231 (Monreal del Campo, Aragon) 1143 and 115 Kingdom of Aragon (1124- ) Kingdoms of León, and Castile (1136- )
Emblema OrdendSantaMariadEspaña Order of Saint Mary of Spain 1270 Kingdom of Castile (1177- )
Cross montessaOrder of Montesa1317Crown of Aragon (1317- )
OrderOfCristCross Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ 1317 Kingdom of Portugal (1319-)



Alcazar of Rabida in Al-Andalus

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Alcazar of Rabida in Algeria

A rábida (from ribat[2]) is an Arabic term for a small fortification built along a frontier during the first years of the Muslim conquest of North Africa to house military volunteers, called the murabitun. These fortifications later served to protect commercial routes, and as centers for isolated Muslim communities. Ribats were first seen in the 8th century.

Rabida also refers to the voluntary defense of Islam which is why ribats were originally used to house those who fought to defend Islam in Jihad. The rabidas were first established near the borders of the Christian Kingdoms and served as auxiliary defense against raids and military campaigns in makeshift fortress.

However in time they become military fraternities under the leadership of a marabout. The marabout, at first the charismatic founder of the rabida, was later to be elected by its member murabitun. Its main difference with the Christian Military Orders is that all of its members are equal and membership is open to anyone. They significantly broke down posible clan affiliations as its members had to follow the orders of the murabitun and his deputies and adopt a new nisbah that marked their allegiance to the rabida.

The rabidas also started to build more complex and defensive alcazars (Castles) as frontier outposts near the Tangus river. At some point in the 14th century the emirs of the border provinces started to bestow resources and money. Also some rabidas gained from central authorities operational autonomy, giving n exchange an oath to defend the frontier and its inhabitants. The operational autonomy was at odds with the truce and peace agreements made by Christians and Muslim, so a low level warfare was kept and the target were usually the Military Orders who acted on their own will.

They are maintained by means of voluntary contributions, waqfs, bounty and part of the provincial taxes.

One of their main contributions to the Islamization of the frontier communities were the establishment of zaouia or zawiya (Islamic religious school or monastery) that besides being a pool of recruits for the rabida, was also key in the propagation and conversion of the local population to Islam. Also stimulated by the markets and lodges built around them.

A typical settlement near the border of the Christian Kingdoms would have an alcazar manned by the rabida, a mosque, zaouia, market, lodges surrounded by hamlets were the farmers, land laborers and workshops are established.

In the mid 13th century the rabidas regionally associated themselves, keeping their autonomy, but better coordinating raids and up keeping some common defensive structures. These associations or alliances (yuz, plural ayza) in al-Andalus were four and by custom called: al-Garb, al-Adna, al-Awsaṭ and al-Sharq. Similar alliances were established in Algeria, Ifriqiya and Morocco, the former two piracy brotherhoods.

EmblemAlliance or association (yuz) Main alzacar
of yuz
Founded - extinctionLimitsNotes
al-Garb Al Qaşr[3] mid 13th century
al-Adna Al Qantarat[4] mid 13th century
al-Awsat Hepes[5] mid 13th century
al-Sharq Albalat[6] early 14th century

  1. Latin: Militaris ordinis
  2. Arabic: رباط‎‎; ribāṭ, hospice, hostel, base or retreat
  3. OTL Alcácer do Sal (Portugal)
  4. OTL Alcántara (Spain)
  5. OTL Yepes (Spain)
  6. OTL Albalat de la Ribera (Spain)
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