St. Raymond of Fitero
Roman Martyrology: At Castel-Florentino, in Tuscany, the blessed virgin Verdiana, a recluse of the Order of Vallumbrosa.
Canonization date: 1719.
Saint Raymond of Fitero (also known as Ramon Sierra] was a monk, abbot, and founder of the Order of Calatrava. His birthplace is unknown; Saint-Gaudens (France), Tarazona (Aragon), and Barcelona (Catalonia) have all been proposed as the place of his birth.
As a young man, he felt a religious vocation, and became a canon of the cathedral at Tarazona, which had been reconquered from the Moors in 1120.
He later became a monk of the Cistercian Order at Escaladieu Abbey in Gascony, and when this order wished to extend itself into Spain, he was elected as prior of the new monastery at Nienzabas (Niencebas), on land granted by Alfonso VII of Castile. At the death of the abbot Durando (Durandus, Durand), Raymond succeeded him to this post. The monastery then moved to Castejón, and was finally established at a spot named Fitero (Castellón de Fitero), situated on the frontier between La Rioja and Navarre. There the Monasterio de St. María la Real de Fitero was built.
At the death of Alfonso VII, in 1158, Raymond went to Toledo so that the new king, Sancho III of Castile, could confirm the privileges that Alfonso had granted to the monastery. In Toledo Raymond learned from his companion, Father Diego Velásquez, that a major offensive against the Moors was being planned, and that Sancho would grant the town of Calatrava (Calatrava la Vieja) to anyone who promised to defend it from the Moors.
Encouraged by Father Diego, who had been a knight prior to becoming a monk, Raymond took up the challenge. Sancho granted them the privilege of defending Calatrava, and Raymond organized an army, with the support of Juan II of Toledo, the Archbishop of Toledo, that successfully prevented the Moors from attacking this place in 1158
As a result of this success, Raymond decided to found the Order of Calatrava, organized along Cistercian lines. Raymond had his monks move from Fitero to the new one he established at Calatrava.
At the end of his life, he retired to Ciruelos, near Ocaña, where he died.