Founded thanks to royal and seigneurial donations, the commanderies were the basic unit of the network of the Order of the Temple in the medieval West. It is a group of buildings but also the capital of a vast rural exploitation, in the heart of an agricultural, pastoral, wine-growing, forestry and mining estate, sometimes according to local specificities, and composed of houses, ancillary equipment (mills, ovens, presses, etc.) and villages over which the Knights Templar acted as lords. As the rear bases of the fighting troops in the East, the commanderies exploited these vast domains, a large part of whose annual profits were centralized at the headquarters of the province of France, the Enclos du Temple de Paris, in order to finance the war (responsions). This pattern does not apply in the Iberian Peninsula, the land of the Crusades, where the Temple had fortresses on the border of the Reconquista.
The commanderies were organized between the living buildings (commander’s residence, chapel, chapter house, refectory, brothers’ dormitory) and the agricultural buildings. They were inhabited mainly by black brothers (or brother sergeants), mostly from peasant backgrounds, and led by a few white brothers, including the commander, who came from aristocratic backgrounds.
The commanderies, which can be estimated to number about a thousand, constituted between the middle of the 12th and the beginning of the 14th centuries a considerable economic and seigniorial network which, along with the convents of other monastic orders, shaped the landscapes of Europe. In France, the commanderies of Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon in Larzac, Avalleur in Champagne, Coulommiers in Brie and Arville in the county of Blois remain concrete examples of prosperous establishments.