Cover image for The Templars
The Templars
Read, Piers Paul, 1941-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Physical Description:
xiii, 350 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999.
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CR4743 .R4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
CR4743 .R4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
CR4743 .R4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In 1099, the city of Jerusalem, a possession of the Islamic Caliphate for over four-hundred years, fell to an army of European knights intent on restoring the Cross to the Holy Lands. From the ranks of these holy warriors emerged an order of monks trained in both scripture and the military arts, an order that would protect and administer Christendom's prized conquest for almost a century: the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, or the Templars.

In this articulate and engaging history, Piers Paul Read explores the rise, the catastrophic fall, and the far-reaching legacy of these knights who took, and briefly held, the most bitterly contested citadel in the monotheistic West. Drawing on the most recent scholarship, and writing with authority and candor, Read chronicles the history of the blood-splattered monks who still infiltrate modernity in literature, as the inspiration for secret societies, and in the backyard fantasies of any child with access to a stick and a garbage can lid.

More than armed holy men, the Templars also represented the first uniformed standing army in the Western world. Sustaining their military order required vast sums of money, and, to that end, a powerful multinational corporation formed. The prosperity that European financiers enjoyed, from the efficient management of Levantine possessions and from pioneering developments in the field of international banking, would help jump-start Europe's long-slumbering Dark Age economy.

In 1307, the French king, Philip IV, expropriated Templar lands, unleashing a wave of repression that would crest five years later. After Templar leaders broke down and confessed, under torture, to blasphemy, heresy, and sodomy, Pope Clement V suppressed the Order in 1312. Was it guilty as charged? And what relevance has the story to our own times? In this remarkable history, Piers Paul Read explores the Crusades and the individual biographies of the many colorful characters that fought them.

Author Notes

Piers Paul Read studied history at Cambridge University and has authored twelve acclaimed novels and three works of non-fiction, including the international bestseller Alive . His novels have won the Hawthornden Prize and the Geoffrey Faber, Somerset Maugham, and James Tait Black Awards. He is married with four children and lives in London.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The Knights Templars was the most successful, the most prosperous, and the most widely feared of the fighting religious orders that grew out of the First Crusade in the late eleventh century. Read, best known for his stirring account of the Andes survivors in Alive (1974), again displays his gift for recounting historical events in a lucid, often exciting, and easily comprehended style without sacrificing accuracy or objectivity. He provides an outstanding chapter on the historical context that nurtured the growth of the order. He proceeds to describe, with chilling effect, the violence and thirst for power that led to the demise of the order in the fourteenth century. This is an engrossing and beautifully written work of popular history that unfolds like a well-structured crime novel. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Knights Templar are not very well known today; but many of those who know them consider them as a corrupt order of monks who administered a citadel in Jerusalem during the Crusades. Arguing that the Templars deserve a better reputation than this, Read's balanced study judiciously synthesizes the history of this important religious movement. Formed in the aftermath of the First Crusade, the Templars were members of a monastic order who helped protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. Although similar to military orders like the Teutonic Knights and the Hospitalers, the Templars weren't, for the most part, warriors. When Christian forces held the Holy Land, most Templars aided them by managing the European estates that supported the military activities of the order. After the fall of the Crusader states, the Templars lost their military importanceÄbut because their economic importance continued to grow, the pope and the king of France engineered their downfall through what Read considers to have been a miscarriage of justice. Templar leaders confessed, under torture, to all manner of sinful behavior and the order was destroyed. Best known for Alive (his best-selling account of cannibalistic survivors of a plane crash in the Andes), Read uses his keen eye for detail and facility with language to good effect here. Though he draws mostly from secondary sources, he enlivens his account with visual details; as he considers the larger political and religious significance of the Templars, he also describes the conditions of the monks' lives what they ate, where they lived, how they resisted sexual temptation, etc. But more compellingly, as he considers the rise and fall of this order Read tries to make their stories resonate in our own age (for instance, he notes that "the attitudes of many Muslims in the Middle East to the modern state of Israel is very like that of their ancestors to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem)Äand he occasionally succeeds. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

The title of this work is misleading. A good portion of the content consists of an overview of events in Palestine from Moses to Pope Urban II, an outline of the expansion of Islam, a sketch of papal politics and rivalries, and a somewhat detailed account of the Crusades to the 14th century. Since this book is an old-fashioned "events" history that proceeds chronologically from one battle to another, and from the policies of one monarch or pope to the ambitions and tribulations of successors, a reader may legitimately ask: where are the Templars, and what point is the author trying to make? The Templars are present primarily in the last chapter when the order is disbanded and their leaders imprisoned, but by that time one is almost too weary to care. The point behind the narrative seems to be that the Templars were ordinary people, but since ordinary people are hard to describe or they make for dull reading (unless an author is gifted), a writer is advised to stick to elites and to making colorful observations such as that Richard the Lionheart had an "insatiable appetite for women." General collections and undergraduates. J. W. Nesbitt Dumbarton Oaks