A really readable book on the often confusing history of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Jerusalem, otherwise known to most of us as the Knights Templar.
My “knowledge” of the Knights Templar mainly comes from literature and films; some of it romanticised, sometimes they are cast as villains, often rescuers and most of it baring little resemblance to any known history. There is something compelling about an organisation that had such a huge impact on so many aspects of life and yet which disappeared almost completely in a short space of time.
This book sets out to give as full a history as possible and to try to avoid extremes of bias. I learned a lot from it.
The book mainly concentrates on the Middle East where the order was founded and where it was most relied upon.
The Templars were founded to guard vulnerable pilgrims as they landed in the Outremer ports and travelled to and between holy sites. At the beginning they were indeed a poor order – depending on charity for their subsistence and for the equipment needed to fulfil their appointed task. It is fascinating to learn more about how they grew from these humble beginnings into the mighty powerhouse of world bankers and standing army.
In the main the Templars seem to have been well trained and brave although badly led. I do not understand the mentality of soldiers who essentially commit suicide by following orders that are plainly stupid and likely to lead to their deaths!
It was interesting to learn about the Outremer states and their relationships with their neighbours, both Latin and Islamic. I guess from this distance it is easy to see that these states were always going to fail as there was just not enough common purpose between the European states that were propping them up nor enough of a common threat for them to consistently work together.
I would have liked to know more about the order in Europe and it’s relationships with its host nations. I think knowing more would give me a clearer understand of the suspicion and distrust that surrounded them and enabled King Philip IV of France to close the order down with little resistance from his subjects.
Overall though I have learned a lot from this book and enjoyed myself doing it.