After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, several of the lords who participated in the first crusade decided to remain in Jerusalem and thus founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem, choosing a king from amongst themselves.
The crusade's main objective was to obtain free access to Christ's tomb and the Kingdom of Jerusalem's mission was to maintain this for all Christians. The flow of pilgrims to Jerusalem thus increased during the XIIth and XIIIth centuries.
I t was thus that two new religious orders were created: one was the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem (1113), whose initial mission was to lodge and look after the pilgrims, and a little later, the Order of the Temple (1120), whose mission was to ensure the security of the pilgrims in the Holy Land.
These two religious and military orders benefited, in the West, from numerous donations and organised a veritable network of Commanderies: rural as here at Sainte-Eulalie and urban in the main towns. Revenues generated from these domains served to keep several hundred knights from the two Orders in the Holy Land and above all to run the large fortresses, capable of sheltering up to 2000 men, which served to maintain the Kingdom of Jerusalem for the Christian world.
Vessels belonging to the Orders of St. John of Jerusalem and the Temple ensured the delivery of money, arms, horses and men several times a year from ports including St.-Gilles and Aigues-Mortes, which are the nearest to here.
The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other states (Principality of Antioch, Counties of Tripoli and Edesse) were lost forever and the last Europeans left the town of Acre in 1291. After some time spent wandering in Paris, the Templars chose Cyprus as their permanent headquarters.
Although he showed apparent friendship towards the Order, the greed of the French King, Philippe le Bel, was the essential cause of all the French Templars being arrested in 1307. Accused of idolatry, secret rites and thus heresy, they were judged and the Order was abolished in 1312. It never saw the light of day again.
On leaving the Holy land, fate was kinder to the Hospitallers. After a short stay in the Kingdom of Cyprus, where the Lusignans, who were originally from Poitou, reigned, the Hospitallers conquered the Island of Rhodes off the Turkish coast between 1306 and 1309.
The Order became a sovereign power and was very insular, and its geographical position forced it to become a maritime power, fighting the Turks and the Barbary pirates (from north Africa) in the Mediterranean.
After 1312, it took over the Templars' property and re-organised itself to manage more than 600 commanderies stretching from Scotland to the borders of Poland and from Denmark to the tip of Sicily.
After several unsuccessful sieges, the Turks managed to take the Island in 1522.
In 1530, the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem or the Knights of Rhodes took the name of the Knights of Malta after settling on that Island, south-west of Sicily after it had been given to them by Charles V, King of Spain. Situated in a strait more or less in the middle of the Mediterranean, from 1530 to 1798 the Order became known for the quality of its splendid service at the Hospital in Valetta, one of the largest and most modern in Europe and for its incessant fight against the Turks and the Barbary pirates using only a small, efficient fleet of galleys.
General Bonaparte, the future Napoleon, who was on his way to Egypt with the Republican fleet, chased the Knights of Malta off the Island in 1798.
During the XIXth century, the old Order of Saint John of Jerusalem from Rhodes and Malta was reorganised and took up once again its original vocation of health care which it now pursues throughout the world. Its headquarters are in the Malta Palace in Rome.
The Commandery at Sainte-Eulalie, which was founded by the Templars in the XIIth century and built on a rectangular plan including the church, refectory, commander's or preceptor's lodgings with kitchens, should be distinguished from the outbuildings used for farming activities. The Commandery at Sainte-Eulalie was financed from farming and especially from its flocks of sheep which were to be found on the vast grasslands of the Larzac. Each Commandery had its annexes, or members, dependant upon it. For Ste Eulalie the main ones are Viala du Pas de Jaux, La Cavalerie and La Couvertoirade.
At Sainte-Eulalie, La Cavalerie and La Couvertoirade, insecurity in the 1440's led the populations, then grouped around the Hospitaller churches, granaries and buildings, to fortify their positions by raising walls, practically all identical and remarkably well-preserved.
Twelve explanatory information panels in several languages allow visitors to explore the architecture of the village and the Commandery at their own pace (the first panel is to be found on the outside of the village's main entrance)
The visit to the inside of the Commandery is guided.