In 1099, the city of Jerusalem, a possession of the Islamic caliphate for over four hundred years, fell to an army of Christian knights intent on liberating the city from Islamic rule. From the ranks of these holy warriors emerged an order of monks trained in both scripture and the military arts: the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, called the Templars.
In this engrossing chronicle, spanning three centuries, Piers Paul Read tells the bloody story of the Templars’ rise to political and financial power throughout Europe and the Holy Land, their catastrophic fall, and their far-reaching legacy. Drawing on the most recent scholarship, Read blends historical authority with novelistic excitement to create a comprehensive history of the vaunted and feared warriors whose remarkable order still captures our imaginations today.
This approach takes Read back into the Dark Ages and the context for the first Christian Crusade, which culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in 1099. In an attempt to hold on to Jerusalem and one of the holiest sites in Christendom, the Temple of Solomon, the Templars were formed as a strict religious-military order, committed to poverty, chastity, and the protection of pilgrims en route to the Holy Land. Read charts their rise to political and financial power and influence throughout Europe and the Holy Land, and their bloody (and ultimately unsuccessful) conflict with the forces of Islam over the subsequent two centuries. Read's account is painstakingly recounted, but often lacks the verve and pace demanded by the colorful cast of characters, including Saladin and Richard the Lionheart. The best sections of the book deal with the shockingly cynical destruction of the Order by Pope Clement V and King Philip the Fair in 1312, preceded by the torture and death of hundreds of Templars who had already fought bravely for the cross in the Holy Land. The Templars are fascinating, but in his attempt to avoid the more colorful and conspiratorial stories associated with the Order, Read's book may strike some as a little turgid, despite its admirable historical detail. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk