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De Re Militari | Book Reviews

Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate

The Templars

Manchester Medieval Sources (Manchester University Press, 2003) xviii+350pp. $29.95. ISBN 071905110X.


In the history of the Crusades military orders are certainly one of the most important creations. Among many of those orders the Templars take up the first place as the most significant one. Members of that order were often described as heroes and soldiers of Christ or as villains and sinners.

The order was founded soon after the end of the First crusade in 1119 and it grew to become one of the biggest economical and military powers of the Medieval Europe. With the support of the Church and laity the Templars defended the holy places of the Latin States in Palestine and Syria. Their power grew so much that they became one of the biggest landowners in the West by the end of the thirteenth century. Through their banking services to nobles and king their power almost exceeded the power of the latter. In the year 1307 the persecution of the Templars began in France and it ended with dissolution of the order on the Vienna Council in 1312.

Many historians researched rather short but nonetheless, very interesting history of the Order. One should say that Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate deserve a place among the best of those Medievalists. This sourcebook is a collection of around 80 sources including Latin and parts of French Rule, Papal letters and bulls, donations, chronicles of contemporary writers and eyewitness accounts.

The Sourcebook begins with the Historical introduction from the naissance of the Order in 1119 to its dissolution in 1312.
Prior to the Historical introduction the authors have presented a short Chronology of the Order and three maps – The Kingdom of Jerusalem, The County of Tripoli and the Principality of Antioch and a map of Templar sites mentioned in this Sourcebook.

In the first chapter, called Foundation and Privileges, Barber and Bate brought us the most important sources and chronicles that describe the founding of the Order. Among them one can find accounts of William of Tyre, Michael the Syrian, Walter Map and Ernoul. Also included in this chapter is the Latin Rule of 1129, the Letter of Hugh "Peccator" and Papal bulls Omne Datum Optimum (1139), Milites Templi (1144) and Militia Dei (1145).

The second chapter conveys sources that deal with warfare and politics of the Order. Since the Latin Rule proved to be inadequate for a growing Order additions were written in French. A section from the French Rule serves as an introduction to this chapter and portrays the military conduct of the Templar knights – making a camp, forming a line of March form Squadrons, and Charging and is followed by land and fort donations in the Holy Land and Iberia. Among other sources in this chapter one should point out the documents that describe the construction and rebuilding strategic Templar castles of Athlit and Safad.

The second chapter ends with a most fascinating document – The report of James Molay (1306-7), a response of the last Master of the Temple to the Papal letter about the possibility of a new Crusade in early 14th century. In the following chapter called Religious and charitable functions, the authors present translations of the Visions, clauses from the French rule regulating conventual life and penance for abuse, pilgrimages and Grants to Churches. The chapter ends with the Obituary of the Temple at Reims, which records dates of deaths of those people who donated to the House and for whom the brothers should pray.

The fourth chapter of this Sourcebook scrutinizes Human and Material resources of the Templars. Here we can find a series of sources including wills and grants, donations, acquirement of Irrigation rights (especially in the Holy Land), leasing of a tile factory, etc. Through these sources, with the addition of financial services of the Templars, we can monitor a gradual economical growth of the Order. In this chapter captivating sources like colonization by Moorish settlers, Gathering of the crusading taxes and a list of Templar inventories in England and Normandy must be brought out.

The fifth chapter comprises of letters and writings of Templar contemporaries. Among them we can find a well-known work of Bernard from Clairvaux “Liber ad milites Templi de laude novae militiae” in which the author, through 13 chapters (5 can be found in this Sourcebook), praises the Order and its function in the Holy Land. What is more, this chapter delivers letters of Peter the Venerable, Pope Honorius III and an interesting letter regarding the proposal of Pope Clement V to unite the Orders of the Temple and Hospital.

The final and most ample chapter, The Trial, attests to Barber’s interest in the Templar Trials. The sources collected in this chapter follow the historical outline of the “last days” of the Templars. Beginning with Pope’s letters to king Phillip IV and followed by the order for arrests and Episcopal inquiry at Clermont, it ends with Papal Bulls Vox in excelso and Ad providam. With the execution of the aforementioned Bulls (Council of Vienna in 1311-12) the Order of the Temple seized to exist and their property was transferred to the Hospitallers.

The book ends with a bibliography of primary sources and secondary works for the history of the Templars and a detailed and helpful Index that allows the reader to easily find a person, place or a date in documents scattered throughout the six chapters.

This is a unique collection of translated sources in which, besides a plethora of documents connected to the naissance, escalation and demise of the Order, one can find many sources depicting other aspects of the Order, including its influence on everyday life in XII and XIII century. This book, a collection of sources, is an indispensable read for all medievalists, especially those interested in the history of the Crusades.

Danijel Mondekar

Studia Croatica, Zagreb <mondekar@hrstud.hr>

Page Added: February 2004