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This is a list of some of the modern orders, decorations and medals of Spain.

The majority of the top civil and military decorations currently granted by the Government of Spain on a discretionary basis can be traced back to the 19th and 20th centuries. The military orders, a series of religious-military institutions created during the Middle Ages for military and borderland repopulation purposes in the Iberian Christian kingdoms, were brought under the control of the Crown from the late 15th to early 16th century. Since then, Spanish monarchs have been grand masters of the orders, which enables them to award individuals with the habits of the former as an honor.

Provincial and municipal corporations (diputaciones and ayuntamientos) have a tradition for granting medals, and "adoptive" and "predilect" son/daughter as honorific titles. After the creation of autonomous communities in the late 20th century, regional administrations have also created their own set of civil decorations.

Historical orders of chivalry

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Badges of the Order of Santiago (top), the Order of Calatrava (left), the Order of Montesa (bottom) and the Order of Alcántara (right)

The Spanish military orders or Spanish Medieval knights orders are a set of religious-military institutions that emerged during the Reconquista. The most important orders arose in the 12th century in the Crowns of León and Castile (Order of Santiago, Order of Alcántara, and Order of Calatrava) and in the 14th century in the Crown of Aragon (Order of Montesa). These orders were preceded by many others that did not survive, such as the Aragonese Militia Christi of Alfonso of Aragon and Navarre, the Confraternity of Belchite (founded in 1122), or the Military order of Monreal (founded in 1124), which were later refurbished by Alfonso VII of León and Castile. After the refurbishment, these orders took the name of Cesaraugustana and were integrated into the Knights Templar in 1149 with Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona. The Portuguese Order of Aviz responded to identical circumstances in the remaining peninsular Christian kingdom.

During the Middle Ages, native Military orders appeared in the Iberian Peninsula, sharing many similarities with other international Military orders but also possessing unique peculiarities due to the peninsular's historical circumstances marked by the confrontation between Muslim and Christian forces.

The birth and expansion of these native orders occurred mainly during the Reconquista's stages in which territories south of the Ebro and Tagus were occupied. As a result, their presence in areas such as La Mancha, Extremadura, and Sistema Ibérico (Campo de Calatrava, Maestrazgo, etc.) came to define the main feature of Repoblación, with each Order exercising a political and economic role similar to that of a feudal manor through their encomiendas. Simultaneously, the presence of foreign military orders such as the Templar or the Saint John was notable. However, the suppression of the Knights Templar in the 14th century benefited Spain significantly.

The military orders' social implementation among noble families was significant, extending even through related female orders such as Comendadoras de Santiago and others similar.

After the turbulent period of the late medieval crisis—in which the position of Grand Master of the orders was the subject of violent disputes between the aristocracy, the monarchy and the favourites (infantes of Aragon, Álvaro de Luna, etc.)—Ferdinand II of Aragon, in the late 15th century, managed to neutralize the orders politically to obtain the papal concession of the unification in the person of that position for all of them, and its joint inheritance for its heirs, the kings of the later Catholic Monarchy, that administered through the Royal Council of the Military Orders.

Gradually losing any military function along the Antiguo Régimen, the territorial wealth of the military orders was the subject of confiscation in the 19th century, which reduced the orders thereafter to the social function of representing, as honorary positions, an aspect of noble status.[1]

Birth and evolution

The Order of Calatrava (left), the Order of Santiago (centre) and the Order of Alcántara (right) in The book of orders of knighthood and decorations of honour of all nations, 1858

Although the appearance of the Hispanic military orders can be interpreted as pure imitation of the international arisen following the Crusades, both its birth and its subsequent evolution have distinctive features, as they played a leading role in the struggle of Christian kingdoms against the Muslims, in the repopulation of large territories, especially between the Tagus and the Guadalquivir and became a political and economic force of the first magnitude, besides having great role in the noble struggles held between the 13th and 15th centuries, when finally the Catholic Monarchs managed to gain its control.

For the Arabists, the birth of the Spanish military orders was inspired by the Muslims' ribat, but other authors believe that its appearance was the result of a merger of confraternities and council militias tinged with religiosity, by absorption and concentration gave rise to the large orders at a time when the struggle against Almohad power required every effort by the Christian side.[citation needed][neutrality is disputed]

Traditionally it is accepted that the first to appear was that of Order of Calatrava, born in that village of the Castilian kingdom in 1158, followed by that of Order of Santiago, founded in Cáceres, in the Leonese kingdom, in 1170. Six years later was created the Order of Alcántara, initially called ¨of San Julián del Pereiro¨. The last to appear was the Order of Montesa it did later on, during the 14th century, in the Crown of Aragon due to the dissolution of the Order of the Templar.

Hierarchical organization

Imitating the international orders, the Spanish adopted their organization. The master was the highest authority of the order, with almost absolute power, both militarily, and politically or religiously. It was chosen by the council, made up of thirteen friars, where it comes to its components the name of "Thirteens". The office of Master is life-time and in his death, the Thirteen, convened by the greater prior of the order, choose the new. It should be the removal of the master by incapacity or pernicious conduct for the order. To carry out it needed the agreement of its governing bodies: council of the thirteen, "greater prior" and "greater convent".

The General Chapter is a kind of representative assembly that controls the entire order. What are the thirteen, the priors of all the convents and all commanders. It should meet annually a certain day in the greater convent, although in the practice these meetings were held where and when the master wanted.

In each kingdom was a "greater commander", based in a town or fortress. The priors of each convent were elected by the canons, because it must bear in mind that within the orders were freyles milites (knights) and freyles clérigos, professed monks who taught and administering the sacraments.

Territorial organization

Territories of the military orders of the Iberian kingdoms towards
the end of 15th century:
  Order of Montesa
  Order of Santiago
  Order of Calatrava
  Order of Saint John (Castile)
  Order of Alcántara
  Order of Sant'Iago da Espada
  Order of Aviz
  Order of Saint John (Portugal)
Residence of the Grand Master

Due to their dual nature as both military and religious institutions, the orders developed separate double organizations for each of these areas, though they were not always completely detached.

In the political-military area, the orders were divided into "major encomiendas", with each peninsular kingdom having a greater encomienda in which the order was present. The main commander was in charge of them. Below the major encomiendas were the encomiendas, which were a collection of goods, not always territorial or grouped, but generally constituted territorial demarcations. The encomiendas were administered by a commander. The fortresses not under the command of the commander were headed by an alcaide appointed by him.

Religiously, the orders were organized by convents, with a main convent serving as the headquarters of the order. The Order of Santiago was based in Uclés, following the rifts of the order with the Leonese monarch Ferdinand II. The Order of Alcántara was based in the Extremaduran village that gave it its name.

The convents were not only places where the professed monks lived, but also constituted priories, religious territorial demarcations where the respective priors had the same powers as the bishoprics, resulting in the military orders being removed from the episcopal power in extensive territories.


The command of the army was exercised by the highest dignitaries of each order. At the apex was the master, followed by the main commanders. The figure of alférez was highlighted at the beginning, but in the Middle Ages it had disappeared. The command of the fortresses was in the hands of the commander or an alcaide appointed by him.

Recruitment was done through encomiendas, with each presumably contributing a number of lances or men related to the economic value of the demarcation.

Of note is the surprising bellicosity of the orders and their 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. This was due to signing truces or directing their military actions in other ways, as was the case when Ferdinand III of Castile, crowned king of León, abandoned the interests of this kingdom to pursue the conquest of Andalusia in favor of the Crown of Castile.

Repopulation and social policy

The military orders played an important role not only in military affairs, but also in repopulation, economic growth, and social development. Simply conquering territory was not enough; it was also necessary to attract settlers and develop the land for defense and economic purposes.

The orders received vast tracts of land, which they used to gain political and economic power through repopulation efforts. They employed various methods to attract people to the newly acquired lands, such as granting generous fueros (legal codes) to villages under their jurisdiction. They often modeled their fueros on more generous ones, like those of Cáceres and Sepúlveda. The tax exemptions by marriage from the Fuero of Usagre were also implemented.

In addition, the orders sought to develop unproductive lands. To this end, they provided incentives for new settlers, such as donations of public lands and the organization of fairs. They also undertook significant infrastructure projects to improve communication networks, such as building bridges and roads, which in turn facilitated trade. The tax-free nature of the fairs was particularly attractive to merchants and helped stimulate economic growth in the region.

Relations with other institutions

The Hispanic military orders had diverse relationships with other powers and institutions. They generally received support from the papacy, as they constituted a strong foundation for the reconquest and directly depended on its authority. The Popes granted episcopal authority to the priors of the orders in their conflict with the bishops, providing them greater independence.

Scene of the Reconquista by the military orders at Monasterio de Uclés in Cuenca, Spain

The relationship between the Hispanic military orders and other powers and institutions underwent several changes during different stages. Initially, monarchs recognized the potential of the orders in the reconquest and repopulation tasks and saw them as the "most precious jewel" of their crowns. Kings such as Alfonso of Aragon and Navarre and Alfonso VIII of Castile enticed the orders to their kingdoms by offering possessions and territories. Besides military or political donations, kings also granted tax privileges and favored the orders in numerous lawsuits with other powers. In return, the orders were loyal to the monarchs and carried out the missions entrusted to them. However, with the increasing power of the orders, monarchs such as Alfonso XI of Castile began a struggle to gain control through the designation of the master. This struggle continued until the Catholic Monarchs achieved absolute control over the orders' mastership, which became hereditary.

The relationship between the orders and the concejos of realengo, especially those endowed with extensive domains of difficult control and occupation, was problematic. The orders often preyed upon unpopulated areas until the kings put an end to their usurpations. However, from the 14th century, these councils suffered the same predation by lay lords. Disputes with neighbors also led to prolonged and even physical confrontations.

The relationship with the rest of the clergy was equally diverse. While some clergy supported the orders, there were also endless lawsuits and skirmishes, such as the attack on the bishops of Cuenca and Sigüenza by the Santiago's commander of Uclés. Tensions with the bishops were frequent in the struggle for ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which were subtracted from the priors, who finally received papal support.

The orders maintained brotherhood and coordination in their relations with each other. Calatrava and Alcántara were united by relations of affiliation without incurring a lack of autonomy of Alcántara. The orders had agreements for mutual aid and sharing of archives. For instance, the tripartite agreement of friendship, mutual defense, coordination, and centralization was signed in 1313 by Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcántara.


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The Military Orders were dissolved on April 29 of 1931 by the Republican government.

Portrait of Alfonso XIII in uniform of Grand Master of the four Spanish military orders, 1928

During the Spanish Civil War, many non-militant, non-criminal, civilian leading members of the Orders were killed, their knights in the crosshairs of ideological revolutionists, put to death for revolutionary agendas: minimally, at least nineteen of the Military Order of Santiago, fifteen of the Military Order of Calatrava, five of the Military Order of Alcántara and four of the Military Order of Montesa were executed. These numbers are conservative in fact and unconfirmed, but doubtless, ideologically-inspired killings of those with serious ties to these Orders, existed beyond official recorded numbers – regardless of class, any persons intimately associated with these pre-modern Orders were targets of revolutionary assassinations and the death-toll was likely higher.

The "officially" tabulated balance of Knights of 1931 to 1935 in the midst of the chaos was as follows:

In 1985 only 19 documentation-verified knights, who professed a dedication before approximately 1931, remained of what was once a grand edifice of social significance to Spanish and greater European society.


After the Spanish Civil War, negotiations began with Franco, the caudillo whose social policy aimed to synthesize modernity with traditional elements of redeeming value. He invited Bishop-Prior Emeterio Echeverría Barrena to an exchange, but it was unproductive, and the Order subsisted marginally or informally over the following years. It was not until April 2, 1980, when they were officially recorded as an association by the Civil Government of Madrid. On May 26 of the same year, they were registered as a federation. The Order of Santiago, along with Calatrava, Alcántara, and Montesa, were reinstated as civil associations during the reign of Juan Carlos I, as honorable and religious noble organizations, which they remain today.

On April 9, 1981, after fifty years, Juan Carlos I named his father, Infante Juan of Bourbon, President of the Royal Council of the Military Orders. Currently, As of April 28, 2014, the position of President of the Royal Council is held by Don Pedro of Bourbon, Duke of Noto.


Medieval knights orders founded in Spain (arranged in alphabetic order)[a]
Emblem[citation needed] Name Founded Founder Origin Recognition Protection/Collaboration
Order of Alcántara 1154 Suero Fernández Barrientos Alcántara, Extremadura (Kingdom of León) December 29, 1177 by Pope Alexander III, 1183 by Pope Lucius III Grand Master (1156– ), Kingdom of León (1177– ), Kingdom of Castile (1177– ), Kingdom of Spain (1980– )[2]
Order of the Band 1332 Alfonso XI of Castile Burgos, Castile and León (Kingdom of Castile and León) Kingdom of Castile and León (1332– )[3]
Confraternity of Belchite 1122 Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre Belchite, Aragon (Kingdom of Aragon) Kingdom of Aragon (1122– ), Kingdom of Castile (1136– )[4]
Order of Brothers Hospitallers of Burgos 1212 Alfonso VII of León and Castile Burgos, Castile and León (Kingdom of León, Castile and Galicia) and Corcubión, Galicia (Kingdom of León, Castile and Galicia) Kingdom of León, Castile and Galicia (1212– )[5]
Order of Calatrava 1158 Raimundo of Fitero Calatrava la Vieja, Castile-La Mancha (Kingdom of Castile) and Calzada de Calatrava, Castile-La Mancha (Kingdom of Castile) September 25, 1164 by Pope Alexander III, Pope Gregory VIII, Pope Innocent III Kingdom of Castile (1158– ), Kingdom of Aragon (1179– )[6]
Order of the Ermine 1436 Alfonso V of Aragon Crown of Aragon (1436– )[7]
Order of the Jar and the Griffin 1040 García Sánchez III of Navarre Nájera, La Rioja (Kingdom of Navarre) Kingdom of Navarre (1040– ) Crown of Aragon (14th c.– )[8]
Order of Monreal 1124 Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre Monreal del Campo, Aragon (Kingdom of Aragon) March 30, 1150 by Pope Eugene III Kingdom of Aragon (1124– ) Kingdom of León, Castile and Galicia (1136– )[9]
Order of Montesa 1317 James II of Aragon Montesa, Valencian Community (Crown of Aragon) 1317 by Pope John XXII, Antipope Clement VII Crown of Aragon (1317– ), Kingdom of Spain (1980– )[10]
Order of Mountjoy 1143–1163 Galician Count Rodrigo Álvarez de Sarria Alfambra, Aragon (Kingdom of Aragon) December 24, 1173 by Pope Alexander III, 1197 by Pope Celestine III Kingdom of Aragon (1174– ), Kingdom of Castile (1174– ), Orders of the Crusades (1174– ), Kingdom of Jerusalem (1176– )[11]
Order of the Dove 1379 John I of Castile Segovia, Castile and León (Crown of Castile) Crown of Castile (1379– )[12]
Order of the Reason 1385 John I of Castile Crown of Castile (1385–)[13]
Order of Saint George of Alfama 1201 Peter II of Aragon Former dessert of Alfama near Tortosa, Catalonia (Crown of Aragon) Crown of Aragon (1201– ), Kingdom of Castile (1212–)[14]
Order of Santiago 1151 Ferdinand II of León and Pedro Suárez de Deza Uclés, Castile-La Mancha (Kingdom of Castile) and León, Castile and León (Kingdom of León) July 5, 1175 by Pope Alexander III, Pope Urban III, Pope Innocent III Kingdom of León (1158– ), Kingdom of Castile (1158– )[12]
Order of the Scale 1318/ 1420 Alfonso XI of Castile Crown of Castile (1318–)[15]
Female orders

Most were honorific orders in payment of efforts by warrior girls attacking Muslims (and in some cases attacking English), and their high contribution to the reconquest of cities, some however came to become actually in female military orders.[16]

Emblem Name Founded Founder Origin Recognition Protection
Female order of the Band 1387 John I of Castile Palencia, Castile and León (Crown of Castile) Crown of Castile (1387– )[16]
Female order of the Hatchet 1149 Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona Tortosa, Catalonia (County of Barcelona) County of Barcelona (1149– )[17]
Order of Santiago 1151 Ferdinand II of León and Pedro Suárez de Deza Uclés, Castile-La Mancha (Kingdom of Castile) and León, Castile and León (Kingdom of León) July 5, 1175 by Pope Alexander III, Pope Urban III, Pope Innocent III Kingdom of León (1158– ), Kingdom of Castile (1158– )[12]
Both Medieval naval and knights orders, fulfilling dual function, but mainly naval
Emblem Name Founded Founder Origin Recognition Protection
Order of Saint Mary of Spain 1270 Alfonso X of Castile Cartagena, Region of Murcia (Crown of Castile) Crown of Castile (1177– )[18]

Current orders of chivalry

The Catholic Monarchs Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon introduced a military honours system which was approved by the Pope Adrian VI in 1523. They awarded titles and hereditary honours to nobles and soldiers. Of those titles the following exist today:

Dynastic order

Military honours

Other Military Awards

International Military Decorations


Obsolete International Military Decorations

Civil decorations


[clarification needed]

Politics and justice

Culture and society

Social affairs




Autonomous cities



See also


  1. ^ This list, at this moment, does not include the military orders of the rest of Europe that participated in the Reconquista, among which for example the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller would feature


  1. ^ Artola, Miguel. "Alianza Editorial". Enciclopedia de Historia de España (in Spanish). Vol. 5. p. 892.
  2. ^ "The military order of Alcántara". Archived from the original on 2020-07-11. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  3. ^ ""MÁS SOBRE LA ORDEN DE LA BANDA",". Archived from the original on 2016-03-22. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  4. ^ "The creation of the military confraternity of Belchite" (PDF). Basque digital memory. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 April 2016.
  5. ^ Templespaña (22 February 2012). Hispania incognita. Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial España. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  6. ^ "The military order of Calatrava". Archived from the original on 18 February 2012.
  7. ^ ""Orden del Armiño.", enciclonet 3.0". Archived from the original on 2020-07-08. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  8. ^ "La Orden de Caballería de la Jarra y el Grifo celebra su día grande en Medina" Archived 2018-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, El Norte de Castilla (newspaper)
  9. ^ Manuel Fuertes de Gilbert y Rojo (2007). Corporate peerage in Spain: Nine centuries of noble entities.. Ediciones Hidalguía, Madrid. pp. 60 and follows. ISBN 978-84-89851-57-3.
  10. ^ ""La orden militar de Montesa",". Archived from the original on 2020-06-05. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  11. ^ ""The Monastic Military Order of Jerusalem and St. Mary of Mountjoy.",". Archived from the original on 2016-10-08. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  12. ^ a b c "ORDEN DE LA PALOMA". España. Archived from the original on 2020-07-09. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  13. ^ "ORDEN DE LA RAZON". España. Archived from the original on 2020-07-08. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  14. ^ ""La Orden de San Jorge",". Archived from the original on 2020-07-10. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  15. ^ "LAS DIVISAS DEL REY: ESCAMAS Y RISTRES EN LA CORTE DE JUAN II DE CASTILLA", Álvaro Fernández de Córdova Miralles, (pdf file)
  16. ^ a b "THE WOMEN IN THE KNIGHT ORDERS" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2019-11-19.
  17. ^ ""Hacha"" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-07-10. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  18. ^ "La orden militar de Santa María de España". Archived from the original on 2020-07-08. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  19. ^ Real e Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro Archived 2006-05-27 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 12, 2009.
  20. ^ La insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro Archived 2010-01-27 at the Wayback Machine, historical summary of the history of Order of the Golden Fleece, accessed January 12, 2009.
  21. ^ Orden del Ministerio de Defensa /3594/2003, of December 10, by that approved rules for ordinary processing and concession of the Crosses of the Military, Naval and Aeronautical Merit, with white badge, and of the honorific mentions, the delegation of competitions in this matter, and use of representative decorations of rewards.. Archived 2020-06-15 at the Wayback Machine BOE (03/12/23). (in Spanish) Accessed December 25, 2012.
  22. ^ "Law 17/1989, of 19 July, Professional Military Personnel Regulation". BOE. 20 July 1989. Archived from the original on 2014-08-13. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  23. ^ Orden de la Cruz de San Raimundo de Peñafort Archived 2007-10-27 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 12, 2009.
  24. ^ Sede electrónica del Ministerio de Justicia Archived 2009-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, the Order of San Raimundo de Peñafort, accessed January 12, 2009.
  25. ^ Orden reguladora de dicha condecoración Archived 2010-01-14 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 12, 20099.
  26. ^ Heraldaria Archived 2013-03-06 at the Wayback Machine, Orders of Merit; decorations. accessed January 12, 2009.
  27. ^ Condecoraciones españolas Archived 2010-12-13 at the Wayback Machine, the Royal Order of Civil Recognition of Victims of Terrorism, accessed January 12, 2009.
  28. ^ Orden Civil de la Solidaridad Social[permanent dead link], accessed January 12, 2009.
  29. ^ Boletín Oficial del Estado Archived 2011-06-09 at the Wayback Machine, Royal Decree 1270/1983 regulating the said Order, accessed January 12, 2009.
  30. ^ Legislación española sobre Drogas Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 12, 2009.
  31. ^ Royal Decree 1036/2009, of 29th of june, Civil Order of Environmental Merit Archived 2014-01-24 at the Wayback Machine. BOE (09/07/23). (in Spanish) Accessed December 4, 2012.
  32. ^ Medallas Archived 2009-09-23 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 12, 2009.
  33. ^ (in Spanish) Order of the Merit of the Civil Guard Corps Statutes and Regulations Archived 2012-10-21 at the Wayback Machine. BOE (2012-10-25), accessed October 28, 2012.
  34. ^ (in Spanish) Order of Police Merit Statutes and Regulations, Archived 2010-01-22 at the Wayback Machine, accessed September 28, 2010.
  35. ^ (in Spanish) OrderINT/1409/2011, 10 may Service Police Decoration Regulations. Archived 2013-03-19 at the Wayback Machine, accessed November 13, 2012.
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  38. ^ "Cruz del Árbol de Gernika". (in Spanish). Basque Government. Archived from the original on 13 May 2022. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  39. ^ "The Civil Order of María Victoria (1871–1873)". Panorama numismático. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved January 12, 2009.