The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors
By Dan Jones
Published in September 2017
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
One topic that comes up repeatedly when studying the crusades is that of the knightly orders. This book is a concise history of the Knights Templar and, to a lesser extent, the other knightly orders that came to dominate the holy land.
The Knights Templar were founded by Hugues de Payens in the years following the first crusade. Originally the knights consisted of a band of 9 men who pledged to protect pilgrims and travellers visiting the holy land. After roughly a decade of existence, the templars receive an official endorsement from the Vatican, solidifying their institution.
Over time, the templars become an increasingly important part of the defense of the holy land from the Muslim forces. They establish a solid reputation as honest and trustworthy brokers and fearsome holy warriors.
Most interestingly, they also slowly evolve into investment bankers. Their reputation for trustworthiness leads to their accumulation of wealth as various lords and merchants begin using their temples to store wealth.
Slowly, they accumulate vast sums of wealth and come to own banks and castles across Europe. This wealth attracts the ire of political enemies and also leads to decadence within their own ranks. Eventually, political disputes with the king of France and popes lead to their persecution. The templars are hunted down across Europe, and their order comes to an end in the early 1300s.
The incredible amounts of power and influence of the templars will lead to centuries of speculation about their continued survival and role as a behind the scenes power in Europe. Many movies and books speculating about them have been written with plots ranging from their evolution into freemasons or their contact with aliens.
Dan Jones attempts to refute these conspiracy theories in his book, although after reading it, I am even more convinced that there might be a kernel of truth to these allegations. Many knights templar in places like Spain never disappeared - they simply rebranded their orders adopting new names of uniforms. Furthermore, there are rumors that they were able to hide their incredible wealth prior to their persecution.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in crusades history. I would classify the difficulty of this book as intermediate - as long as the reader has a basic understanding of the chronology and major events of the crusades, this book will be easy to understand.
It is an enjoyable read for both amateur crusades historians like myself as well as novices. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning about Europe’s first investment bankers as well as those who want to learn the truth about the Templars.
Most of my articles are book reviews, but I also write about many other topics.