The Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago
One evening in 1970, five men met at the “now non-existent” Las Novedades Restaurant in Ybor City. They had serious and urgent business to discuss. They had seen the need for an organization to preserve, enhance, and perpetuate Tampa’s proud Latin heritage.
Led by Dr. Henry. J. Fernandez, O.D., Cesar Gonzmart, Joseph R. Lopez, Daniel F. Martinez, and Joe C. Granda, they began a series of weekly meetings to determine if there was enough interest among community leaders to pursue the idea of forming such an organization. As they proceeded they added ten additional men and in 1972 officially became the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago. Those first fifteen men became our first board of directors. They sat down and wrote our by-laws and their first task was to recruit four new members each, bringing the membership to a total of seventy-five. Why did they pick the Knights of Sant’ Yago as our name? We’re about to tell you.
The original fraternal order of Sant’ Yago had its origins during the time of Christ when one of the twelve apostles, St. James the Greater, came to Spain to preach the gospel of Christianity. St. James (Sant’ Yago or Santiago in Spanish) is credited with converting much of Spain to Christianity. But with the persecution of Christians still in full swing, he was summoned to Jerusalem by King Herod Agrippa and beheaded. His body was smuggled back to Spain by his followers and buried, but the location was soon forgotten as the crusades waged on across Europe for the next 400 years.
Then a hermit monk found the site of Saint James’ tomb and the King of Spain ordered a cathedral built on that spot. The city of Santiago rose around it.
During this time the Christian armies were being soundly defeated and it seemed that Spain would be overrun by the Moors and Arabs. Just as all seemed lost, a vision of St. James appeared astride a white stallion, carrying a a flag emblazoned with the cross of Christianity. The tide soon turned and the armies of Islam were soundly defeated and never again would they return to Spain.
During this period, a group of Knights who had been part of the Christian forces got together to form a brotherhood dedicated to protecting pilgrims on their way to pray at the tomb of St. James. As word of their deeds began to spread, the people started referring to them as the Knights of Sant’ Yago. The King of Spain heard of them and summoned them to him. He then ordained them as “Cofradia de Caballeros de la Orden Real” and tasked them with protecting travelers on El Camino de Santiago.
With such a noble heritage, is it any wonder that our founders chose the Knights of Sant’ Yago as our name? Shortly after our founding in 1972, our founders went to Spain and got a charter from the King of Spain naming us Knights of Sant’ Yago in America.
In January of 1973 we held our very first coronation, during which our first King El Rey I, Phil LoCicero was crowned along with our first Queen, La Reina I, Mary Frances Mandese (Ledo).
Since then our Krewe has grown over the years to an average of 250 members. These are mainly professional men and pillars of the community who give back to our city in numerous ways.
We are proudly, “A Brotherhood of Men.”