The Bus Book – w/c 7th April – The Templars, Piers Paul Reid

The things I knew about the Knights Templars – OK, the things that I’d picked up along the way and thought they were true to varying degrees – were as follows:

  1. They wore white smocks with a red cross on and were a martial order who were created to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages.
  2. They were violently supressed by the French King who wanted their land and money, and the story goes that one reason that Friday 13th is considered unlucky is that this purge took place on Friday 13th.
  3. Finally…they’re supposed to hold the secret of the Holy Grail and also are supposed to be related to the secretive ‘Priory of Sion’ who, according to various conspiracy theorists and Dan Brown, have protected the secret of the Merovingian Heresy.

Well, of these, this great little book gives me the facts on (1) – the knights did indeed wear white smocks with red crosses.  As for (2), well, the purge did happen on Friday 13th….as for (3) – nothing said.

This book is a good introduction to the historical facts behind an institution which has passed over from fact in to myth and legend.  I have to say that the main reason I bought it was that I’d always been interested in the myths and legends surrounding the Holy Grail, which led to an interest in the various Crusades.  It’s not a thick book but I would say that it sometimes gets a little heavy in terms of the relentless facts – who was who between what times, so to say.  In parts it reminded me a little of those books of the Old Testament of The Bible which detail who begat who – vitally important for those interested in Biblical bloodlines but something of a shock to the system for the rest of us. 

It is well researched and thorough – I would have liked a little more detail about the day to day running of the order, it’s military tactics, etc.  – but it was a little ‘dense’ in places, and I found a few sections hard to get through because of the occasional sections in the book where you’d follow one arc of the story for a few years, so to say, then suddenly find yousrelf back in time and starting another arc of the story that overlapped in time with the first.  I appreciate that this sort of thing is incredibly difficult to write (hey, I wouldn’t even try!!) but it might benefit from a few timeline diagrams showing who’s reign overlapped with who, etc.

Overall I enjoyed it – it taught me a lot, and I’d certainly recommend the book to anyone who wants to get the historical background to this group of men at this point in history.  I was actually surprised at how relatively small the Order was for the first decade of its life – something that the conspiracy theorists love to go on about – and how wealthy and influential they quickly became.  And it was the latter that eventually led to their downfall.

Not an easy read for the reasons I mention, but a satisfying one.

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