The Alarcos Battle in 1195

  • In the year 1147 the King of Castile and Leon Alfonso VII took the important Muslim Fortress of Calatrava, in Carrion de Calatrava about 8 km near from Ciudad Real, whom was the most important center of the area.  Defended since this year by the Templar Knights , and when after a short time they leave tha fortress that’s when the Military Order of Calatrava replaced them,
    After two raids by La Mancha and Andalusia by the Archbishop of Toledo Martin López de Pisuerga and how defense the Almohad Caliph Abu Yusuf Yacub Almansur (Yusuf II) Strikes and from Seville via Cordoba is heading to Toledo, meanwhile Toledo King of Castile Alfonso VIII, prepared an army to march south to meet them.In the halfway, the July 19th, 1195, there was a decisive battle between the  two contending forces.
  • Campo de Batalla Alarcos julio

The army of the Caliph Al-Mansur Yusuf was composed by Andalusian volunteers Almohad Benimerines and muslin nobility. Their number is estimated at 30,000

The army of King Alfonso VIII, was composed of  Toledo Knights of the Knights of the Military Orders of Calatrava and Santiago the Knights of the Military Order of Evora in Portugal with its Field Marshalls. Their number is estimated at 10,000 to which should be added as many laborers and servants (Sergeants, Squires, pages) and Impedimenta train with several hundred people, including children, cooks..

The remains of the Alarcos Castle in Ciudad Real, Castilla-La Mancha. Spain

La MurallaCastillo frontalTorre Templaria y Foso secoPanel Explicativo Batalla AlarcosThe Initial position of both armies before the began of the battle .

The core of the Muslim army was its light cavalry archers

The core of the Christian army was its heavy cavalry with armored Kights and horses.

The Almohads have incorporated two important tactical advances: The crossbow and the Militia formed by all able men, giving them numerical superiority over the Christian armies of the Iberian Peninsula, which were composed of mercenaries and military professionals such how the military orders and the Knights, but they were very few in number compared.

By the Almohad troops at the militia vanguard  there were the BenimerinesAlgazaces and volunteers,  Immediately behind them were Abu Yahya ibn Abi
Hafs (Abu Yahya) and Henteta, Almohad elite troop. In the flanks, there were their
light cavalry equipped with arc and in the rear the own Al-Mansur with
his bodyguard.
Ya’qub followed the advice of Andalusian qa’id Abū ‘abd
Allah ibn Sanadi and divided his large army, leaving the Andalusian Gund
(soldiers of militarized provinces) and the bodies of volunteers
gihad suffer the onslaught of the Christian army and later,
taking advantage of the overwhelming superiority of the Almohad army, exhaustion and
embarrassment of the Christian army, attack with fresh troops that
held in reserve, the black guard.

In the morning of 19th July and after have waited one day  reinforcements, the impatience and recklessness King Alfonso VIII, gave the order to attack without waiting for the kings of Aragon, Navarra and Leon, who had given his troops the numerical superiority and possibly win. So after a day waiting encamped on the hill under the scorching July sun, with their heavy armor and chain mail; Castellanos were thirsty, and food was scarce, given the risk of diseases and low heat and fearing that Muslims regroup, having been cheating by Al-Mansur and thought these were few and poorly armed, as was Almansur hidden in caves in the nearby hills the most of his troops. Before this, he ordered the attack.

At first the Castilian cavalry commanded by the Senescal of Castile Don Diego López de Haro, charged downhill against the Muslim infantry, whom was in the plain, destroying it and almost destroying them, causing great losses to the Muslims, but these, after a movement Ballesteros and their departure from their hideouts in caves in the hills around Alarcos, Muslim forces that had not had the Spaniards, began a violent counterattack.

After envolve the Muslim light cavalry  the Christian heavy cavalry , in a pincer maneuver, according to the chronicles, by complete surprise, the  Turkish horse archers, caused havoc in the Spanish cavalry, as these horses and their armed caught between the hill and the river, they could not literally move or maneuver and were hunted” and shot with arrows, until a few could go back and get to the castle too late to regroup and counterattack, because the Muslims had also surrounded the camp since the nearby hill to the right of Alarcos and threatened to surround them completely and not let escape into Toledo.

The fight lasted from noon until evening, when Muslims were able to penetrate the Castilian camp to shop Castilian king who was about to perish in the war.

King Alfonso VIII galloped toward the Malagon castle taking the path of Villadiego and the next day ran to Toledo, leaving the command to Senescal of Castile, Don Diego López de Haro, who fled with his troops in 5000 Alarcos Castle, to save, had to deliver 12 Knights hostage Almohades sign that pay the ransom set by Al-Mansur. Prisoners knights went to the dungeons of the castle of Calatrava, today Calatrava La Vieja, in the village of Carrión de Calatrava.

In the battle they were captured 3,000 prisoners who were released, after agreeing to a rescue, and allow the withdrawal of Spanish troops.

It was a major defeat for Christians, suffering many casualties by poor strategy and wise Alfonso VIII trap of Almohades.

For the Calatrava Knights his first battle was a great slaughter, perished in combat covering the retreat of their King several number of their knights, since this day and they changed their Black Cross by a Red Cross, for the bloodshed.
Among the Spaniards who died in battle Bishops of Avila, Segovia and Sigüenza, Ordoño García de Roda, Pedro Ruíz de Guzman and Rodrigo Sánchez; as well as both Marshalls of the Order of Santiago, Sancho Fernández de Lemus, an the Portuguese Order of Évora, Gonçalo Viegas. The Marshall of Calatrava Nuño Pérez de Quinones escaped.

The losses were also heavy for the Almohads. Not only the Vizir, but also the head of the Benimerín.

Some bodies of Christians and their horses were buried by the Almohad conquerors into a mass grave down the wall.

With this defeat the advance to Andalusia was delayed  and was avenged with the victory of the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212.
Curiously, the Giralda tower in Seville Cathedral, a mosque in the year 1195, was completed with the spoil  earned in the Alarcos battle by the Almohad Caliph Yusuf II.

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