Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | July 25, 2010

molly’s cafe: the templars and the last templar

molly’s cafe is rich in all sorts of books, and as usual i am reading my way through many of them.  i tend to read nonfiction at the cafe, and this is one that i finished recently.

the templars

the templars was written by piers paul read, published in 2009.  it is the story of the origin and brutal end of the templars, a religious organization of men who originally were to protect the pilgrims to the holy land from the raids by the arabs.  read gives a background about the religions of the area, starting off with the temple of solomon.  this temple was important, among other things because  it was said some kind of important treasure was buried under it.  his description of the various tug of wars over jerusalem among the christians and the muslims is exciting, and he takes pains to remind the reader over and over that religion at that time was much more based on faith and had very little reason or critical analysis amongst the people.  therefore many men of  standing especially left their lands and families to join this order. around 1119 two knights, hugh de payn and godfrey of saint-omer suggested that there be ” a community of knights that would follow the Rule of a religious order but devote themselves to the protection of pilgrims.”  At first they were called “the poor fellow-soldiers of jesus christ” but since they were headquartered at the temple of solomon, they came to be known as the templars.  they set up strict rules of behavious, since they were a religious order, but they were also organized to be soldiers.  as such, they wore a white tunic with a red cross on it so as to be easily recognizable.   since the crusades were very important at this time, the order was given many resources and over time they became adept at managing their resources.  not only were they the first uniformed military order, but they also became the first international bankers, as they were considered exceotionally trustworthy.  they had bases all over europe which included farms and castles.  as soldiers they were considered very courageous and honourable.  however, over time, there was a great deal of jealousy and in the end (the early 1300s) the order was accused of being devil worshippers and homosexuals.  the last grand masters were burned at the stake as many others had been burned after “confessing” under torture to the behaviours attributed to them.  according to read, the main reason for the inquisition against them was the fact that king philip IV (“the fair”) wanted the assets of the order and pope clement succumbed to him.  it was a dirty business with a grisly end.  read put it all together well and i found that it was fairly easy to follow the developments and was sorry to see such a sad end.

the last templar

at around the same time that the templars came into the cafe, a mystery book came in– the last templar by raymond khoury.  of course i had to read it!  it dealt with some papers that had been in the possession of the templars that indicated that christ had fathered children and that would therefore destroy christianity.  the papers were written in a code developed by the templars.  the story involved a theft of a code device and had the heroine and hero going to turkey.  it also involves shady characters from the vatican and a visit to a cardinal who knew about the papers.   it was a good read and although it was totally fiction, it fit with the history i had just read.  one comment that khoury made in the book early on is that historians avoid writing about the templars, as it makes their career tank.  i imagine it is because there is still controversy about the order and its underpinnings.

both of these books are good reads and are still in the cafe if you want to buy or trade for them.

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