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The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades [Paperback]

Piers Paul Read
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Nov 2003

Sifting myth from history, Piers Paul Read reveals the Templars ¿ the multinational force of warrior monks, in their white tunics with red crosses over chainmail. They were not only unique among Christian institutions but constituted the first uniformed standing army in the western world and became pioneers of international banking. Expropriated by Philip IV of France in 1307, and confessing under torture to blasphemy, heresy and sodomy, the Order was finally suppressed by Pope Clement V in 1312. In a narrative that incorporates the story of the crusades and the many colourful characters who had links with the Templars, Piers Paul Read examines the question of their guilt and identifies their relevance to our own times.

'A highly readable and nicely paced book that draws on the lessons of modern historical scholarship while also communicating a sense of narrative excitement and drive'

'Evocative, measured and engaging' Evening Standard

'Magnificent in every way' Mail on Sunday

Frequently Bought Together

The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades + Templars: History and Myth: From Solomon's Temple to the Freemasons + Secrets of the Knights Templar: The Hidden History of the World's Most Powerful Order
Price For All Three: 28.77

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (6 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753810875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753810873
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The Knights Templar remain the most glamorous, but also the most mysterious of all religious organisations. Romanticised by Walter Scott in his novel Ivanhoe and by Wagner in his opera Parsifal, the Templars have been both celebrated as ascetic martyrs, dying for the greater good of Christianity, and condemned as deviant heretics, thieves and sodomites who sold the Holy Land out to the Muslim Infidels. In his carefully researched study The Templars, the acclaimed novelist Piers Paul Read investigates the truth behind the myth. Placing his account of the rise of the Templars within a wider historical and political context, Read argues that "The Templars were a multinational force engaged in the defence of the Christian concept of a world order: and their demise marks the point when the pursuit of the common good within Christendom became subordinate to the interests of the nation state."

This approach takes Read back into the Dark Ages and the context for the first Christian Crusade that 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 colourful 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 colourful and conspiratorial stories associated with the Order, Read's book may strike some as a little turgid, despite its admirable historical detail. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"An engrossing and beautifully written work of popular history that unfolds like a well-structured crime novel." --"Booklist""In his preface Read credits the influence of a new generation of Crusade historians . . . With The Templars he can now take an honored place among them." --"The Washington Post""An unblinking account." --"Financial Times"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who were the Templars? 8 April 2001
"Who were the Templars?" is the opening sentence of Piers Paul Read's Preface to his book, "The Templars. The answer is one of the most powerful and significant groups of knights who combine two of the most important themes of the Middle Ages: the themes of monasticism and chivalry.
The Templars were fighting monks who were prepared, and often did , die for the beliefs. Read traces the Templars from the origins of Solomon's Temple to their extermination by Philip IV, King of France in 1312.
Read's book is one of scholarship and has little connection with such works as "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. It reduces to half a page connections with Freemasonary. It is, however, a detailed account of the early Crusades when the Templars seemed to be connected to the greatest soldiers, statesmen and kings of the age, Saladin, Richard the Lion Heart and the Kings of Jerusalem march through the pages of this book. The Knights of St John feature heavily as fighting alongside the Templars in the defence of Jeruslam but unlike the Templars were able to develop a further interest in Mediterranean shipping as can be seen in an equally interesting book about the period "The Great Siege of Malta" by Ernle Bradford
The Templars' legacy includes major examples of mediaeval architecure and such was their standing that they were the first to introduce a form of cheque to the world of banking.
Read's book will appeal to the scholar the amateur historian and the casual reader. Yet, in spite of its scholarship, there is a feeling that there is still a element of mystery about the warrior knights.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History as it Should be Written 25 Jun 2006
By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER
Ask any schoolboy to give you his version of what a knight looks like and the chances are he will say that a knight wears chainmail, a helmet and a white surcoat with a red cross emblazoned on it. A pretty good description of what a Templar Knight would have looked like to us, had we been there at the time they were joining the crusades to protect pilgrims and save the Holy Land from attacks by the infidels.

Their Order rose to be one of the most powerful in the Western World, until their wealth and power began to frighten people in high places, no less in fact than the French King, who accused the Order of heresy and even immorality. He extracted confessions from the senior members of the order, through torture and even burning at the stake.

Most of the senior members of the Order were murdered and the few who escaped scattered across Europe.

This is an excellent book, descriptive and well written. Nothing like the dusty, dry volumes that I read in large numbers in sixth form college, more years ago than I would care to remember. This book is exciting and has the pace to grip the reader like a novel would, rather than a book with factual content. The truth well told will always beat fiction, at least in my book it will.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 17 Feb 2006
The book gives an overview of the history up to the crusades and then goes on into the crusades. As the title implies, the Templars are major players in the history described. As the record of the Templars order was largely destroyed, the author is unable to bring out a lot of detail. While the book is a good read about the crusades, the Templars get lost among all the events taking place.
In his preface, the author compares past and present. Reading this book with that comparison in mind is, as the author suggested, thought-provoking.
Also in the preface, the author mentions that he wanted to tell about the Templars within the context of the crusades. The history of the crusades was interesting and the general history is necessary; it’s just that most books about a multi-national organization have more pages devoted to some type of description about the organization. Perhaps the title is wrong; perhaps its original title was different. The book seems to have been issued at different times by five different publishers. A regional thing? Or are publishers merging that fast these days?
So, if you’d like a good history of the crusades and a lot about the history leading up to the crusades then this book will be a good read. This book can be useful when thinking about the conflicts in the region today. It may be that understanding the past can help in understanding the present.
If you want lots and lots about the Templars, there may not be enough here to satisfy. For that reason I had to go with 4 instead of 5 on the star rating scale.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A cast of thousands 18 Sep 2004
The author certainly knows his stuff, but if you have little to no knowledge of the subject before you start reading, you may find yourself a little lost.
The first few chapters give a rapid historical overview of the geographical area, and a potted history of the development of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. This can be a little confusing as facts are often written along side 'religious events'. Personally, I found these chapters a little hard going, and not entirely interesting, but they do give you some background to the events that follow.
The rest of the book charts the history of the Templars. There are many characters that played a part in their history, and the shear number of these people can be daunting. If you know nothing about the period or people, then there is a lot to take in. There are bits of Latin with no translation, which although irritating at times, does not really affect your understanding.
Spanning a period of about 200 years, it would be impossible for the book to cover every event that occurred. A lot of the book focuses on who did what to whom, and when they did it. Power play between Grand Masters, Popes, Caliphs, etc forms a large part of the book. There are mentions of where and when battles took place and why they happened, but not much of the gory details, which is no bad thing.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is where it begins to tell of the fall of the Templars. There is still speculation to this day about the nature of accusations that were made, and the motivation of those that made them.
All in all this is not a book for those who want a basic outline of the Templars. However, if you already have some knowledge of the subject, this book is sure to enrich and add to it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best History of The Templars.
Having read several books concerning the historical facts concerning The Templars, I've found this edition to be the most comprehensive.
Published 1 month ago by Derek A. Buxey
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction to the Crusades.
First things first - as many other reviewers have stated this is not 100% what it says on the tin. Yes it does cover the Templars but does stray off topic into a wider view of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ian
5.0 out of 5 stars History Comes Alive
Delivery excellent and well within suggested time scale. This was a gift to a student of history who could not put the book down once opened and started to read it.
Published 7 months ago by Dee Hill
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably too long unless you're a scholar
In the closing section of this book, Piers Paul Read briefly considers the view of one scholar that the Templars were actually quite dull, and although he doesn't wholeheartedly... Read more
Published 15 months ago by J. J. Ward
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Worth It
In spite of a very interesting subject and a prodigious amount of research this book is a complete waste of time - unfocused, disorganized, unstructured, badly written (with lots... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Larry Hampton
4.0 out of 5 stars A Political and Religious History of Europe
Anyone who buys Piers Paul Read's `The Templars' looking to learn more about what religious secrets they may have uncovered, a definitive answer on their supposed links with... Read more
Published on 29 Feb 2012 by John Murray
3.0 out of 5 stars A good intro for the non-specialist
Judging by the reviews here, this is a book to split opinion if ever there was one.

For my money, this is a solid, easy reading history of the Knights. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2012 by Cardew Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars great buy
I bought this book for my mum as a present and she has found it very enjoyable and informative.
Published on 11 Mar 2011 by saski
3.0 out of 5 stars not overwhelming
in every book i have read about the knight templars including this one , threre are always two different sides of the same coin : the overall extrenal circumstances or events that... Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2010 by Omar Farid
1.0 out of 5 stars A very poor and falsified account.
I have to say, this book actually deserved 0 stars, because it was that bad and offensive. The author (a freemason himself), used his own racist predilictions to dictate his... Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2009 by Canopus72
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