Its strategic importance became evident in 1157, when Raymond Berenguer IV ceded it to Guillem Ramon de Montcada when it was still a Muslim territory. In 1225, James besieged it unsuccessfully, due to the great difficulty of the maritime-rocky enclave, and did not take possession of it until 1234 by capitulation. In 1294, after James II exchanged it with the city of Tortosa, it was owned by the Templars and became the headquarters of the commandery, until that time held by Xivert.
In 1303, they acquired their most important estate in the Crown of Aragon: the domain of Culla -promised to the Knights Templars by Peter the Catholic but not given by James I after its conquest-. This hard operation leads to think that the Order was interested in organizing a vast strategic dominion, by the sea, presided over by a fortress that recalls the precious Pilgrims Castle, which they had to abandon in the Holy Land.
The Residential Templar Castle of Peñíscola
It is situated on a small and rocky peninsula surrounded by the Mediterranean waters and equipped with a natural fresh water spring. It was built by the Knights Templars between 1294 and 1307, following the Miravet model and keeping, after 140 years, an effective and well-preserved Romanesque-Cistercian transition style. At present, it is the most well-preserved Templar castle.
The monumental set has a main body surrounded by four towers and has about 15 outbuildings (porters lodge, cistern, stables, cellar, dwellings, stores, dungeon, arms room, refectory, kitchen and temple) distributed in two levels, around an elevated courtyard.
Furthermore, it is known because Pope Benedict XIII chose it as the papal see during the Western Schism.