An Illustrated History of the Knights Templar by James Wasserman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
History seems to never change. Turn on the TV and you are inundated with images of conflict between European Culture and the Middle East. The conflict appears to bee the same Christianity vs. Islam. Things are a bit more complicated than they appear. A glimpse below the surface and you will see many things.
At the tail end of the 5th century Europe was in the dark ages , totally steeped in superstition and ignorance.The Middle East was more advanced, they had lighting in the streets and plumbing while the European needed to learn about bathing. In 611 the religion of Islam was born. After the conquest of the Arabian peninsula the bedouin warriors shifted their focus onto Mesopotamia from their they would make forays into Europe. Alomst 100 years later Muslim Turks would take over Jerusalem and the rest of the Byzantine holdings. This enraged Christians because they felt this was the Holy City of the Bible.Jerusalem is Holy to Islam, Christianity and Islam . Around the 11th century the first crusade was established by the Catholic Church. THE armies of four nations would travel to the Middle East to liberate Jerusalem. Ultimately they would be successful and Christian kingdoms would be established in the heart of the Islamic world.
A short time after it became apparent that Christian pilgrims would require protection from Muslim marauder and wild animals. In response to this Knightly orders were established. Among them were the Templars and the Hospitallers. These two Knightly orders were spiritual based and focussed on both religion and combat. The Templars were functioning like the Popes private army. They had great autonomy within the church and enjoyed great privilege and as an organization became very wealthy. While not part of the first Crusade they would play a part in the other seven crusades that followed.
In the Middle East there was conflict between Christianity and Islam, so it would appear on the surface. Things are not always what they seem. The Christians were far from united. The four Christian Kingdoms were far from united . They often fought amongst each other. The different knighly order would also fight among each other and take various sides. In the Islamic world there were factions as well. THe assassins, Sunni and Shiite Muslims were equally divided. It was not unheard of for a Christian faction to get together with a Muslim faction to fight a common enemy.
The second crusade saw the Crusader along with the Templars and other decisively defeated Saladin. Jerusalem was lost to the Christians. The third crusade would find King Richard restoring some of the lost Christian lands. Future Crusades would also be fought against rival Christians. Among gthe Christians attacked by the Catholic crusades were the Byzantines who longs Constantinople to the Pope for a limited time. The Cathars were also victimized by the templars and crusaders. After the 8th crusade the European crusaders and the knightly orders were kicked ouit of the Middle East.
The finishing of the crusades would lead to the downfall of the Templars. People were jealous of their wealth and privilege. First there was talk of consolidating the orders. Later on France would require wealth and lead an inquisition against the Templars in order to steal their weealth. Under great torture they were disbanded. Accused of heresy they wre considered devil worshipper. After a brief two hundred years they were gone .
The book gives a great over all summary of the Knights Templar complete with names and dates. The author gives the reader a pciuture of the unique spirituality practiced by the Templars and some of the inspirations that led to this spirituality. On the surface things have not changed much but you got to look beneath the surface.
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