Saturday, June 4, 2011
Piers Paul Read, St. Martin's Press
1099 the first crusade commences. saint Bernard clairvaux encourages people to take the cross and liberate Christian lands. Antioch a city near Antolia falls to muslim forces. The crusade reaches Jerusalem and in time Crusader Kingdoms are established. Political rule is hardly secure and pilgrims are not only harrassed but they are robbed, murdered and kidnapped. Hugh D'payens decides that a military order needs to be created in order to protect Christian pilgrims. Hugh convinces the pope and the Knights Templar is created. The order started with nine people originally but eventually through recruitment the number grew as did the organization.
The nine men were originally stationed in the stable of where Solomon's Temple used to be located. To join the the knights you had to have had combat training, your own horse and your own armor. These were not just ordinary knights they were warrior monks. They did not get married or have relation, they said mass and vespers at their proper times and had very meager diets.
The Order of the Knights Templar grew in both property and soldiery. People left massive donations of money and property to the Templars and many were eager to join. Many people joined as an expiation for previous sins. The order grew so large that most of the people who were part of the order were not knights but rather administrators in charge of managing the property. The Knights templar were answerable only to the Pope.
With their power also grew their supposed arrogance. Throughout the history the author covers all the crusades and all the political alliances that were formed while the Christian kingdoms were around. Things were not always clear cut as one would think. Often times Christian and Muslim kingdoms would form alliances against other Christians or Muslim. The line between Muslim and Christian easily blurred. Middle Christians such as the Syriacs often times preferred Muslim leadership over Roman Catholic leadership. The Crusaders also had very uneasy relationships with the Byzantine Greeks. The Byzantine Greeks were viewed as rather untrustworthy. Often times the crusaders killed as many Middle Eastern Christians as they did Muslims.
Inhabitants of the Crusader Kingdoms became acclimated to the ways of the Middle East. They dressed like Middle Eastern folks and began eating similar kinds of food and having the same sorts of parties. The Catholic church was concerned with moral laxity.
From the Crusader period arose 2 other orders of knights. The First was the hospiatallers who arose around the same time as the Templars. Their main task was to provide hostelry and medical care to pilgrims. Eventually they started taking up knightly responsibilities. The Teutonic Knights as their name suggests were Germanic Knights who emerged during the fourth crusade. While these orders often competed with each other they also cooperated on the battle field Knights were supposed to gather around their flag but when they could not find their flag they would gather around the flag of another order.
In the early 1300's the Holy Land fell. Their was call for another crusade. King Philip of France wanted to merge the Templar with the Hospiatallers. James of Molay was hesitant and eventually refused. The Pope at the time a rather weak man originally opposed King Philip's plans but this lead to an over all persecution of the Templars. They were tortured and the leaders confessed to a variety of abominations. The order disbanded with the Knights becoming Brigands, monk, knights for other orders of just collecting a pension. James of Molay would eventually be burned alive. Poetic Justice that the weak pope and King Phillip died within months after Jame's execution.
The book gives a great over all history of the formation of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It also documents the rise of the monastic movement. The book though seems to be more about the Crusades then it does the Templars. This is also the only major complaint I have about this book. It should have went more in depth about the Templars and what was going on inside their order then what was going on outside the order. I give this 3.5 stars out of 5.
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