Who was Arnau de Torroja

Arnau, his origins, his life and his election as Master of the Order of the Temple

 

Arnau de Torroja, born in Solsona between 1118 and 1120, in the north east of Spain, in the region now known as Catalonia, comes from one of the most important noble families of the then Kingdom of Aragon, the Torroja. The history of this family as lords of Solsona begins with Arnau’s great-grandfather, Mirò, a knight probably of French origin, whose family is thought to have originated in the region south of Toulouse, who placed himself in the service of the Count of Urgell , thus gaining control of the city of Solsona.

His son, Ecard Mirò, was the first to use the name Torroja (Red Tower, Turris Rubea in the original manuscripts), a name that derives from a castle, today with the toponym Tarroja de Segarra, located south of Solsona. This noble could not take the name of Solsona, as a part of the command of the city had been donated by the Count of Urgell to the canons of the cathedral, so the Miro were not the only lords of Solsona. On the contrary, the castle of Torroja was completely controlled by the Miro family, hence their name.

The name Torroja appears for the first time in a document of the Count of Urgell where his knights appear as witnesses of the act. Arnau’s father increased the control of the family over Solsona and its influence on the politics of the Kingdom: we can in fact see the importance of this family from the positions that Arnau’s brothers came to fill, such as Pierre, who was Bishop of Zaragoza , capital of the Kingdom, and Guillem, archbishop of Tarragona, in direct contact with Rome and with the Spanish and French nobility.

According to a study by N. JASPERT (2009) on Arnau and his election as Master of the Temple, Arnau entered the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ, known as Templars, relatively late, in 1162. His career was very rapid, so much so that in 1166 we already met him with the post of Master of Provence and some parts of Spain (Magister in partibus Hispaniae et Provinciae) to get to be appointed Master General in 1180.

Scholars have questioned a lot about this election, as Arnau was not French, even though he belonged to a very important family. Moreover, even though he was an experienced warrior, since he was a fighter since the age of 16, he was already of advanced age, and also had not yet fought in the Holy Land (he was there only for a pilgrimage in 1175, and at the time of his was still in Europe): in a nutshell, Arnau did not seem the most suitable candidate to fill this role, but we must take into account the condition in which the Crusader states were in 1180, and understand what were the characteristics that a Master General of the Order of the Temple at that particular historical moment.

The situation in the Holy Land at the time of Arnau’s election

After the great victory of the battle of Montsigard, in which Saladin himself was almost killed, the Christian forces were in difficulty. The Kingdom of Jerusalem suffered from a chronic shortage of soldiers, and the reign of the famous leper king, Baudouin IV, was becoming more and more difficult; Saladin increased his strength, while Baudouin’s illness clearly indicated that his life would not last long and ultimately the lack of an heir endangered the kingdom. Furthermore, the weakness of Baudouin corresponded with the strength of the noble families present at the court of Jerusalem, each of which aspired to the throne, and the power games are certainly not of help to a kingdom at war. In 1179 the forces of the Kingdom of Jerusalem lost several important battles, such as that of Marj ʿUyūn, in which Saladin took prisoner the eighth Master General of the Temple, Oddon de Saint Amand, who died the following year in the enemy’s prisons. A few months after this defeat, the Christian armies lost the battle of Jacob’s Ford, in which Saladin conquered and destroyed the castle of Chastellet, a point of maximum strategic importance for Christians, located just one day’s march from the capital of his kingdom, Damascus. , and defended by the Templars and by the men of Baldwin. 1180 was a difficult year, not only because of the death of the Master General of the Temple, but also because the Order, which needed new knights, was bankrupt, and the fact that the Kingdom of Jerusalem suffered a year of drought. and poor harvests, so much so that Baldwin was forced to ask for a truce.

The situation of the Order and that of the Kingdom were critical, so much so that at that moment as a Master General of the Temple a skilled diplomat would have been more useful than a great leader.

The reasons for Arnau’s election as Master of the Temple

With this historical context, the reasons that led to the election of Arnau as Master of Provence and parts of Spain as Master General of the Order become clearer. From his appointment as Master of Provence and Spain in 1166, Arnau fought and worked as a skilled administrator of the Order’s assets, so much so that the most important documents for the sale and rental of the Order’s land in Aragon and Provence bore his signature. Under his management, nine commanderies were founded and under his supervision the important Gardeny Cartolario (an important Templar castle on the outskirts of the city of Lerida, which can still be visited today) began to be compiled. His skills in the borderlands of the Iberian peninsula and this ability to manage the administrative part of the Order in Spain and France were undoubtedly some of the reasons that led following the election of Arnau as Master General of an Order that in Holy Land was bankrupt. Another reason that justified his election was certainly Arnau’s fame as a diplomat: on more than one occasion we find him a protagonist of political life between the Order and his country, as in 1150, where he signed a treaty between the Templars and the viscount of Berziers, or in 1174 invited to the wedding of Alfonso II, king of Aragon. In 1179 he was one of the dignitaries present at the signing of the treaty of Cazola, and was also one of the candidates to participate in a diplomatic trip to England in 1176. During his mandate there was a period of relative peace with respect to the Muslim troops, largely due to his diplomatic skills especially addressed directly to the figure of Saladin.

The Master General Arnau in Verona with the Pope

An important diplomatic trip was the reason that brought Arnau to Verona in 1184, where he died on September 30th. Baldwin sent him, accompanied by the Master of the Hospitaller Order of St. John and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, on a trip to Verona to meet Pope Lucius III and Emperor Barbarossa and ask them for military and economic aid for the kingdom of Jerusalem. In June the three left Jerusalem and arrived in Brindisi by ship, as evidenced by a letter written to the three by Baldovino, who welcomed their arrival in Italy.

It will then be the dean of the Cathedral of Saint Paul in London, Rudolph of Nicetus, and the obituary of Reims, or the chroniclers of the time, to inform us of Arnau’s death in Verona on 30 September 1184, probably due to a wound caused in battle before embarking. His death most likely occurred after he was able to meet the Pope, but not the emperor. Up to now the exact place of the Master’s burial was not known, however, in the cloister of the church of San Fermo Maggiore, also in Verona, located near the place where the ancient Commandery of the Order, now disappeared, once stood A sarcophagus was found which appears to be the Master’s tomb.

The sarcophagus of Verona

The tomb, a sarcophagus built in local limestone, is located in the ancient cloister of the church and was located by Dr. Mauro Giorgio Ferretti, president of the Catholic Templars of Italy and expert in Templar symbology. After an initial analysis of the position of the tomb and the symbols represented in it, it was thought that this could belong to a figure who held a high position within the Templar Order, or even to the ninth Master General Arnau de Torroja.

The universities of Bologna and Nottingham Trent were contacted to carry out anthropological studies on the tomb and its contents. Archival and genetic studies were also carried out and finally, on April 21, 2018, a congress was organized in the same city of Verona to present the results of the research.

Bibliography

AA.VV. (2018), Atti del Simposio internazionale “Il sarcofago ritrovato a Verona e i Templari”, Verona, in pubblicazione

J.BLANCH (1951), Arxiepiscopologi de la Santa Esglesia Metropolitana i Primada de Tarragona (1665), Tarragona, pp.106-110

M.L. BULST-THIELE (1974), “Sacrae domus militiae templi hierosolimitani magistri”, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte des Templeordens 1118/19-1314, Gottingen, 3, f.86

L.DARNA GALOBART (2018),«La famiglia Torroja in Catalogna: importanza e genealogia», Atti del Simposio internazionale “Il sarcofago ritrovato a Verona e i Templari”, Verona, in pubblicazione

B.HAMILTON (2005), The Leper King and his Heirs: Baldwin IV and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, New York, Cambridge University Press, p.  201

N. JASPERT (2009), “The election of Arnau de Torroja as ninth Master of the Knights Templar (1180): An enigmatic decision reconsidered” As ordens militares eas ordens de cavalaria entre o Occidente e o Oriente. Actas do V Encontro sobre Ordens Militares, ed. Fernandes, Palmela, pp. 371-397

A. LLORENS I SOLE (1986), Solsona i el Solsones en la historia de Catalunya, Lleida

R. SAROBE I HUESCA (1998), Col-leccio diplomatica de la Casa del Temple de Gardeny (1070-1200), 2 vols., ed. Diplomataris / Fundacio Noguera 16-17, Lleida, vol. 1, pp. 170-171

Notes

  1. JASPERT (2009), “The election of Arnau de Torroja as ninth Master of the Knights Templar (1180): An enigmatic decision reconsidered” As ordens militares eas ordens de cavalaria entre o Occidente e o Oriente. Actas do V Encontro sobre Ordens Militares, ed. Fernandes, Palmela, pp. 371-397
  2. LLORENS I SOLE (1986), Solsona i el Solsones en la historia de Catalunya, Lleida 
  3. SAROBE I HUESCA (1998), Col-leccio diplomatica de la Casa del Temple de Gardeny (1070-1200), 2 vols., ed. Diplomataris / Fundacio Noguera 16-17, Lleida, vol. 1, pp. 170-171
  4. N. JASPERT, “The election of Arnau de Torroja as ninth Master of the Knights Templar (1180): An enigmatic decision reconsidered” As ordens militares eas ordens de cavalaria entre o Occidente e o Oriente. Actas do V Encontro sobre Ordens Militares, ed. Fernandes, Palmela, 2009, pp. 371-397
  5. R. SAROBE I HUESCA, Col-leccio diplomatica de la Casa del Temple de Gardeny (1070-1200), 2 vols., ed. Diplomataris / Fundacio Noguera 16-17, Lleida, 1998, vol. 1, pp. 170-171
  6. N. JASPERT, op. cit., p. 383
  7. N. JASPERT, op. cit., p. 385
  8. B. HAMILTON, The Leper King and his Heirs: Baldwin IV and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 201
  9. M.L. BULST-THIELE, “Sacrae domus militiae templi hierosolimitani magistri”, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte des Templeordens 1118/19-1314, Gottingen, 1974, 3, f.86
  10. AA.VV. Atti del Simposio internazionale “Il sarcofago ritrovato a Verona e i Templari”, Verona, 2018, in pubblicazione

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