As far as both fiction and nonfiction publications go, the market for books that touch upon the subject of the Knights Templar is a very crowded one. Apart from periodic ebbs and wanes there is definitely a core of readers who strive to know everything that has to do with the famous medieval order. For a “Templar” book to be successful, its author must offer something to the audience well acquainted with the subject, as well as members of the general public who are swept up by the tide of current trends. In the nonfiction segment, this task has been most recently taken on by Helen Nicholson and Michael Haag. These two authors found their own balance between relating verifiable historic accounts and discussing the rich lore that surrounds the Knights Templar. What was Dan Jones’ approach, you may ask? It was actually quite different.
Jones’ intention was to entirely dismiss anything that does not have a firm footing in historic facts. Legendary and dubious accounts have been assigned zero weight. Of course, any writer on the subject knows that it is precisely the sensational and unverified information about the Order of the Knights Templar that happens to be the most entertaining. As a result, the ever growing body of highly questionable information is usually somehow addressed– even by authors who are decidedly sceptical. This fascinating corpus of Templar miscellany can even be the primary focus of study without being given any credence (e.g. Peter Partner or yours truly). Dan Jones operates on the conviction that history (and especially the history of the Knights Templar) is more entertaining and more captivating that any related legends and myths. Personally, I believe this to be a judgment call. The mere knowledge that a particular event truly happened and involved actual breathing human beings definitely adds gravitas to any story. However, a good story which is only loosely, if at all, connected to reality can still be supremely captivating if it is capable of hitting the right chords within our souls. And it must be noted that pure entertainment only represents the lowest register of what good storytelling is capable of doing. True or false, legends and myths run the entire gamut of human experience which transcends visible and known reality. To stay on course of “telling it like it is” is certainly a worthy endeavor, but this requires a particular kind of voice: authoritative, precise and well… entertaining. Dan Jones has established himself as the author of books on English history, in which he honed this exact narrative and factual approach (The War of the Roses, The Plantagenets, Magna Carta). The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular fall of God’s Holy Warriors is very well written and well researched. Its narrative is nicely paced and the rich details and side accounts introduced to flesh out the story are well balanced. The book’s apparatus is not a hefty encumbrance laced with unexpected gems of knowledge (as it is often the case with academic publications.) Instead the notes simply provide references to primary and secondary sources, making for an uninterrupted read.
Dan Jones’ new book can serve as a good introduction to the history of the Knights Templar. It can also provide a fresh look at familiar events for those who are well versed in the history of the Order. You might only become disappointed in the book if you want to find in it that which Jones categorically and manifestly refuses to talk about: the dubious, the sensationalist and the paranormal. Such a reader will have to be satisfied with the final short chapter on the Holy Grail, the most inescapable Templar-related myth which appears to be relevant to the plot of Knightfall.
As you may have guessed from the title, the book attempts to give a broad overview of the Knights Templar traces in modern France. It contains over 300 pages and is lavishly illustrated. There are detailed maps of every region in France with all (presumably) Templar-related locations marked. Most photographs are original and very well produced.
One possible criticism of the book would address its lack of depth in covering the subject, but it requires many volumes to even approach the topic of the Knights Templar presence in France. If you are simply looking for a guide in your travels or want a starting point in your studies La France des Templiers definitely delivers!
(In these pictures I’m using my trusted paper cutting knife to hold the pages down)
This book has been in the works for the past two years and I am quite pleased with how it turned out. If the novel gets traction I will be writing two sequels to finalize the story, but the book reads very well as a standalone publication.
The monastery of St. Sebastian is safely tucked away from the turmoil of the early 14th century. What dangers could possibly await Conrad, a young novice preparing to join this community of devout monks? A simple act of kindness and duty turns his life upside down. Uprooted and confused, Conrad must risk everything for a cause that has not yet been revealed to him. He can only count on the help from a reclusive hermit, whom everybody else mistrusts and fears. Is Conrad ready to face the challenges of spiritual strife?
Anyone reasonably well versed in medieval history should be able to produce a list of some illustrious (and sometimes ignominious) members of the Knights Templar Order. Sure enough, in popular culture (books, movies, video games) these men are often ascribed deeds and character traits that probably had nothing to do with reality, but they remain actual historic figures no matter what. However, these historic Knights Templar are often outdone is bravery, wisdom and mischief by the Templars who never existed. It is time these characters are cataloged, lest someone assumes them to be real medieval warrior monks.
Arn Magnusson is a Swedish Templar featured in the series of novels by Jan Guilou. Movie adaptations of these novels (2007 and 2008) faithfully depict Guilou’s story of Arn who has since become perhaps the most beloved fictional Templar ever.
Brother John Mark (Jean-Marc) Larmenius of Jerusalem was the supposed author of the document currently known as the Larmenius Charter. The provenance of this document is extremely uncertain and its authenticity is doubted even by the masonic and neo-Templar organizations that use it as a part of their lineage claims. The charter insists that Jacques de Molay made Larmenius his secret successor as the leader of the Order. Thus the Knights Templar managed to survive the persecutions and the undercover Order has been in existence ever since. Some people today believe that even though Larmenius himself never existed, the document hints at what really happened to the Order of the Knights Templar.
Brian de Bois-Guilbert
Brian de Bois-Guilbert is one of the main characters in Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe. Brian is a villain, driven by greed and lust. It can be argued that Walter Scott’s portrayal of this Templar commander has been influenced by the grim and grotesque legends about the Knights Templar which used to be especially popular in Northern France.
In the 2011 film Ironclad, Thomas Marshall is a Templar Knight who joins the struggle of some English nobles against King John. This heroic and somewhat troubled character is very loosely based on William Marshall 2nd Earl of Pembroke whose family had close ties with the Knights Templar.
Martin of Carmaux
In Raymond Khoury’s novel The Last Templar, Martin of Carmaux is a young knight who is charged with the task of protecting the greatest secret of the Order.
It may seem that this list is short. Please suggest any names that are worthy of being included here. At the time of writing, the biggest hope for any Templar fan is that the new History Channel production Knightfall will create some very memorable characters.