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Knights Templar books

Legends of the Knights Templar. Review by Michael Haag.


Legends of the Knights Templar.

Amazon-US: http://amzn.to/Z0uMfe
Amazon-UK: http://amzn.to/1rUGGmG

Michael Haag is the author of the bestselling book “The Templars: The History and the Myth: From Solomon’s Temple to the Freemasons” published in Britain by Profile Books and in America by Harper Collins. Michael recently returned to the inexhaustible topic of the Crusades with “The Tragedy of the Templars: The Rise and Fall of the Crusader States.” 

“Legends of the Knights Templar” by A. A. Grishin is a remarkable collection of history, folklore and literary works drawn from often obscure sources in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Czech and Latin, many of them never before published in English. Not that Grishin has overlooked more familiar tales about such things as the burning and revenge of Jacques de Molay, the mystery of the Templar fleet, Rennes-le-Château, the battle of Bannockburn and the Templars in America and Ethiopia, but he takes us into new and weird territory.

There is the headless Templar who haunts the streets of Prague and can be seen at night if you know where to look. Nobody knows why he lost his head, but we do discover that Templars not infrequently lost their heads over women, giving rise to a number of stories devoted to good old fashioned bodice-ripping and romance. But there are also tales of the macabre, for example Hugo de Marignac who sets aside his vow of chastity and pursues the woman of his desire by giving her a statue which is actually the embalmed body of his rival. Even more creepy is the story of the skull found between the legs of an exhumed noble woman of Sidon which became a Templar talisman in battle and had the power to sink ships at sea, perhaps the origin of the skull and crossbones.

Grishin’s book is a wonderful cabinet of curiosities that will inform and delight anyone eager for fresh and startling material on the Templars.

Michael Haag

Secrets of the Knights Templar by S.J. Hodge (a review)

secretsoftheknightstemplarhodge

Buy Secrets of the Knights Templar at Amazon.com

Buy Secrets of the Knights Templar at Amazon.co.uk

Susie Hodge has previously written on the subject of the Knights Templar, but this newly published book is more substantial and comprehensive. It also follows a signature trait that Hodge, a prolific writer, displays in many of her publications: stunning illustrations. Full color, full page (without margins) images will be for sure the very first thing you will notice. No other book on the subject is as lavishly illustrated.

When the book first came out in the UK and I shared the image of its front cover with my fans it was immediately noted by some that the Templar knight pictured on it is not very accurately portrayed: the armor and the sword apparently do not belong to the right century and the lack of facial hair is in striking disagreement with the standard Templar practice of wearing a beard. Truth be told, I have since seen noticed some beardless Knights Templar in medieval manuscript images, so perhaps one should not be bothered by this so much.

Apart from the engaging visuals that are present in the book, the choice of topics and approaches is fairly standard for any comprehensive book about the Knights Templar. You will find sections on the history of the Order, as well as background information about the Crusades and the Holy land in general. It is important to remember, however, that this book was not meant to be an academic publication. As a result, you will not find references to scholarly works about the history of the Knights Templar. S. J. Hodge is using reliable primary and secondary sources, but the reader will be left in the dark as to how the facts discussed in the book can be verified and where to find additional information. Given the format of the book this may not be a significant issue, but if you are interested in academic-style research you will not be fully satisfied. However, the facts laid out are quite solid and anything outside of the mainstream scholarly opinions is presented with a degree of caution. Combined with great images, this makes “Secrets of the Knights Templar” a good introduction into the history of the Order. It goes without saying, of course, that the title of the book should not be taken too seriously. You will not find any secrets revealed in this book.

A review copy was kindly provided by the publisher (Quercus).

Interview with Michael Haag, author of “The Tragedy of the Templars”

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“I live in London which I love for its beauty, variety and cosmopolitanism. I count myself fortunate to have read anthropology at university; it is a study that gives you an insight into how societies work and combines very well with my historical imagination. Travelling is important; I do a fair amount of it. Travel is like reading books; I do both for the same reasons – discovery and learning.”

Michael Haag has written travel guides to Greece, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, published by Cadogan Books and The American University in Cairo Press.  He has also written Alexandria: City of Memory, about Constantine Cavafy, E M Forster and Lawrence Durrell in Alexandria, which was published by Yale University Press, and “The Templars: The History and the Myth: From Solomon’s Temple to the Freemasons” published in Britain by Profile Books and in America by Harper Collins. Michael recently returned to the inexhaustible topic of the Crusades with ” The Tragedy of the Templars: The Rise and Fall of the Crusader States.” In this special interview for the Knights Templar Vault, Michael Haag shares his perspective on the history of the Middle East and the Crusades.

Q. Michael, thank you for kindly agreeing to be interviewed for the Knights Templar Vault. It is pretty obvious that you have a strong interest in the history of the Middle East and the Crusades. How did this interest develop and at what point did you decide that among dozens of books about the Knights Templar there is room for at least a couple more and you should write them?

A. I love the Mediterranean; the warmth and the fragrance.  I am especially attracted to the Eastern Mediterranean, warmer and more pungent; also it is very old, and I am fascinated by the multiple overlays of history – often expressed in the architecture of temples, churches, synagogues and mosques, sometimes built upon one another or growing out of one another.  Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, all have their Mediterranean aspects and have shared in its history; all have their connections with other Mediterranean countries, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and across North Africa.  All have been part of the Roman Empire, and before that all the Eastern Mediterranean was part of the Hellenistic world.  So for me the Middle East is part of something much larger in time and space.

My specific interest in the crusades was inspired by the young T E Lawrence when he was not yet ‘of Arabia’.  In 1909, during the summer of his twenty-first birthday, he walked 1100 miles through Palestine and Syria, visiting scores of crusader castles.  After reading of his journey and his descriptions of the castles, I decided to follow in his footsteps, or rather I cheated and I drove through much of Syria in a car.

You cannot visit castles like Krak, Safita, Margat and Saone without being amazed at the scale of the endeavour, the magnificence of their design and the beauty of the landscapes they survey.  I knew the ancient sites of Greece and Egypt well; Syria, I discovered, not only has ancient sites but also wonderful castles, and to visit them is to awaken stories of battles and sieges and lonely mountain vigils.  That is how my interest in the crusades began. [click to continue…]

“Processus contra Templarios”: Beautiful and full of typos.

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The Chinon Parchment, the most important document published in Processus Contra Templarios, has now been made available at a much more reasonable cost in this edition (along with other previously untranslated sources):

The Knights Templar Absolution at Amazon.com
The Knights Templar Absolution at Amazon.co.uk
The Knights Templar Absolution at Amazon.fr

When “Processus contra Templarios” was published in 2007 it created quite a splash in the news. It is quite likely that the contents of this two volume set of facsimile documents with transcripts, translations and commentaries were misunderstood. Contrary to what many people at the time thought, it did not present any ground breaking information about the trial of the Knights Templar.  However, some of the documents that were published in this edition had not been easily accessible previously: such as the contents of Register Avignonese 48 where some of the records pertaining to the trial were misfiled.

The gist of this entire collection of documents is that Pope Clement V carried out his own investigation regarding the possible guilt of the Knights Templar. Preliminary results allowed him to grant absolution to many individual members of the Order, including some high ranking officials. The real value of this publication is in providing a conclusive record of papal examinations and presenting all of the existing relevant documents as a whole. Given this objective, a facsimile edition was probably the right thing to do. However, the cost of the two volumes (close to 6,000 euros) made them somewhat inaccessible. The few libraries that own a copy of the set keep it in their special depositories for rare and valuable books. The impact of  “Processus contra Templarios”  on modern scholarship has thus been minimized. It is difficult to say whether that was by design or by choice.
360_knights_templar_1024The actual edition is, of course, very nice. A bit too heavy to handle, it is exquisitely crafted using the best materials Italy has to offer. Facsimiles of medieval parchments have a genuine feel to them. The cost of producing them must have been considerable. I would estimate that the price of manufacturing a single set was over $900. There is, however, one serious flaw, in my opinion, that brought down the entire effort down a notch. The text was not well edited. After spending only an hour working with the edition I discovered 3 typos. Keep in mind that I am not a trained proof reader! Take a look at this phrase from one of the articles that accompany the original documents (the text is by B. Frale, who believes that the accusations against the Knights Templar were based on their actual practices that were implemented as part hazing, part test of loyalty to the Order): “The ritual of the three kisses (on the mouth, on the naval and on the buttocks) epitomised the humiliation the senior brothers felt authorised to inflict on the younger ones.” Did you catch the typo? If you did not, don’t worry. Nobody who was responsible for editing the text did. And word processors are not always reliable.

I am well aware that typos are nearly impossible to avoid. We are all human, after all. However, if you purchase a book for $9,000 would you expect to see somewhat higher standards? Still, if you can swing that much money, go ahead and buy a copy on eBay or some place like that… But I may have to wait for a paperback. Hopefully the typos will be fixed!