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Templars, The

Product no.: 0-306-81071-9
The Knights of the Temple of Solomon were a military and religious order founded in Jerusalem by two French Knights after the First Crusade.

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Its original purpose was to protect pilgrims from infidel attack as they journeyed to the Holy Land. St. Bernard of Clairvaux drew up the order's rules, which included fighting the enemies of God under vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The Templars had no difficulty in finding recruits. The promise of salvation through a life of action and adventure attracted men who had no aptitude for the monastic life. Wearing their distinctive white tunics with a red cross over their chain mail, the Templars soon became an expert military force and a powerful, wealthy order. Their wealth would be their downfall.

When the crusading forces were driven from Palestine, the Templars' main activity became banking, and their enormous landholdings and financial strength aroused hostility and envy. In 1307 Philip IV of France, in dire need of funds, charged the Templars with heresy and immorality. They were arrested, put on trial and confessions were extracted by torture. When the Templars' Grand Master and other leaders of the order retracted their forced confessions and declared their innocence and that of the order, Philip had them burned at the stake.

Piers Paul Read tells their story in the context of the Middle Ages, a period of history in which high idealism and religious fervour were mixed with unusual cruelty, greed and ambition. The story of the Templars is exemplary of the extraordinary age through which they lived.


"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."      ~Washington Post

"In telling the remarkable story of the Templars, Read gives depth to a subject astonishing enough without fantasies."      ~Sunday Telegraph

"In view of the catastrophe that was to overwhelm them, it seems astonishing that the Jews imagined that they could defy the power of Rome. Certainly there were some 'who saw only too clearly the approaching calamity and openly lamented'; but the great majority were wholly convinced that their moment of destiny had come. They were, after all, God's chosen people, and from the earliest times their prophets had promised not just deliverance but a deliverer referred to as 'the anointed' or, in Hebrew, Messiah. God's promises to Abraham and Isaac had been that salvation of an unspecified kind should come through their seed, but subsequently this concept of salvation had been combined with the idea of a king descended from David whose reign would be eternal. He was to be a specifically Jewish hero ('See, the days are coming ... when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practicing honesty and integrity in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel dwell in confidence') but his sovereignty would be universal ('his empire shall stretch from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth ... all kings will do him homage, all nations become his servants'). It was the powerful sense of Messianic expectation among the Jews in first-century Palestine that emboldened them to defy the power of Rome.

The main division among the Jews was between the Sadducees and the Pharisees: the Sadducees were the establishment party which controlled the Temple and were easier-going in their interpretation of the Law; the Pharisees were stricter, more radical and more austere, using the oral tradition to impose legalistic minutiae upon every aspect of Jewish life. A major difference in the beliefs of the two factions concerned the afterlife — the Sadducees agnostic, the Pharisees insisting upon the immortality of the soul, a personal resurrection and divine rewards for virtue and punishment for sin in the world to come.

It was the Pharisees who were most vociferous in their opposition to Roman rule; and among the Pharisees there were austere and fanatic sects such as the Essenes who lived in quasi-monastic communities, and the Zealots, a terrorist faction who despised not just the Romans but any collaborating Jews. They sent out assassins known as Sicarii (from the Greek word sikarioi meaning 'dagger men') to mingle in a crowd and assassinate their enemies. A contingent of Galilean Zealots that took refuge in Jerusalem waged class war on their hosts."

Author Paul Read, Piers
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 350 pp.
Publisher Da Capo Press 2001
Browse these categories as well: The Early Church and Gnosticism, The Church: Doctors, Saints and Mystics, Western Mystery Schools, Noteworthy Releases 2001

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