Knight Templar 1120-1312, by Helen Nicholson, illustrated by Wayne Reynolds
This book is admittedly a very short book and by no means as long as it could have been. Yet although it is a short book and not long at all, there are certainly aspects of this book that hint at much larger realities of interest to many readers when it comes to the Templars. If this book does not provide the full story, it certainly gives enough information that a reader will be able to see what is provided here and read and research further aspects depending on their interests. We have chronologies, narratives, discussions of war and society in the Middle Ages, art history, and even matters of museums and re-enactments. As is often the case in history, the Templars are not dead because they are not entirely in the past, and what will lead a lot of readers into this particular book is a desire to know more about the Templars and to capture something of the mystique that the organization had. And this book is certainly good at what it does. If it is not as thorough a book as I would have preferred it certainly taught me some new things and that is always enough to make a book worth reading if you are into this sort of thing.
This book is a short one at just over 50 pages, but at least the pages are large enough to have a fair amount of information on them. The book begins with an introduction, and then contains a chronology of the history of the Templars. After this comes a look at the recruitment and admission of people into the Templars as well as matters of belief and belonging with the Templars as an organization, discussing matters of faith as well as discipline. Then comes the issue of training as well as appearance and equipment, at which point there is a great deal of art that shows the Templars in action in life and in death. There is a look at living conditions on campaign as well as the experience of battle for templars. After this the author talks about museums and contemporary re-enactment of the Templars, which appears to be somewhat common, and then the book ends with a glossary, bibliography, commentaries on various color plates, as well as an index.
When we look at the templars, it is an obvious thing to ponder why it is that they failed and what is it that they have to offer humanity at present. The author is at pains to comment on the lack of intellectualism in the Templars and their rituals, although she is also at pains to point out that the Templars clearly fit within the Orthodoxy of the times and that the lies spread about them and their practices are not really justified by what we know of their behavior. The author also points out that while the Templars had a high degree of ideals that there were people who came to the Templars under false pretenses, because they found serving as holy soldiers a better fate than being condemned as criminals–apparently, and it is easy to believe, the crusader states found a great deal of manpower from felonious knights who were too violent for home of whom it was thought that sending them to the outremer was the best way to channel such violence for the greater good. It is hard to disagree with that logic, even if it makes for less than ideal religious and moral fervor. This book is likely to be, for many readers, the beginning of longer and deeper searches into Templar history and lore.