cover image The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors

The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors

Dan Jones. Viking, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-525-42830-5

Jones’s narrative history of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple (popularly known as the Templars) will have wide appeal among those who appreciate well-sourced history told in an easy, readable fashion. Jones (The Plantagenets), a journalist and historian of medieval and early modern Europe, draws on sources from across Europe and the Middle East to recount how a small group of crusaders formed what began as a charity-dependent protective detail for European pilgrims and Christian holy sites. Earning the patronage of powerful monastic Bernard of Clairvaux, the Templars rapidly became major players across two centuries of Christian Europe’s holy war against the Islamic world. In four thematic sections, the author tells a chronological tale of the Templars’ hardscrabble beginnings (ca. 1102–1144); their rise as military leaders (1144–1187); the consolidation of their economic, military, political, and social power (1189–1260); and finally their fall from grace (1260–1311) as their widespread influence threatened competing European and Christian political and religious authorities. A short epilogue touches on the lasting cultural influence of the Templars—an order, the author observes, that “always existed in two spheres, the real and the imaginary.” This is an engrossing examination of a period whose conflicts are still reverberating today. (Sept.)