Monday, 24 August 2009

Dungeon, Fire and Sword

This book is a history of the Knights Templar, made popular by recent films/books which rather dramatise their existence. It also carries a lot of information about the Crusades, and cannot be described as anything other than a substantial piece of non-fiction. Fascinating, and I desperately wanted to know what happened to the Templars at the end, which it explained well. I don't think it helped that I entered with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about this aspect of history, other than the vague references in Robin Hood. It was very interesting to learn about how the order started. A bunch of knights wanted to dedicate themselves to protecting the pilgrims heading for Jerusalem, in a manner similar to the monastic orders. This was a rather radical step to take: pledging themselves to individual poverty (the order owned all the wealth, and made sure that all their knights were fully equipped--a rather expensive proposition as they needed two horses, armour, etc), chastity and service. It traces the activities of the order through all the intrigues in the Holy Land, right up to the point where, expelled militarily from the land, forced to retire to their own places in various countries, devoid of the purpose for which they had come about, they were brought down. If you've the time to read it, and an interest in finding out what they were really like, I'd really recommend it. Full of intrigue and action, it reads almost like a novel, albeit a rather chunky one. I'm amazed at the wealth of information that the author's been able to assemble to be honest.

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