The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors by Dan Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A great treatment of a truly spectacular legend/horrorshow.
The story of the Templar Knights is gloriously varied, complex, courageous, insane, praiseworthy, mysterious, and tragic. It's primarily a history about the five Crusades and chivalry, but it becomes a harrowing monstrosity by the time King Phillipe enacts his vendetta against the Order.
I simplify. There's two hundred years worth of fascinating and edge-of-the-seat crusader action going on here as well as a farce of a trial that cut the head off of the first International Bank that the Templars had become for the sake of stealing its wealth.
Of course, all the Templars COULD have been telling the truth after years of torture in dungeons extracting confessions that they were kissing bejeweled bearded heads and penises before and after spitting and trampling across the cross. But... Yeah... That's reasonable.
Dan Brown does a damn good job with the narration, adding bright anecdotes wherever he could.
My only complaint is the summary single-line dismissals in the epilogue for ALL "What Happened Afterward" theories. Whole popular books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail: The Secret History of Jesus, the Shocking Legacy of the Grail, The Da Vinci Code, and even Umberto Eco's satire Foucault's Pendulum were given nothing more a few words equivalent to a spit and a trample.
The first was a genuine investigation that might not have panned out with further study, the second was a popular novel that leaves the decision to believe on us, and the third was a funny, sharp-as-nails tongue-in-cheek satire making fun of ALL conspiracies while being erudite at the same time.
Dan Jones could have just kept his history focused on the actual history rather than mentioning, rather dismissively, a rather enormous library of works devoted to the mystery of the Templar Knights and "What Happened Afterward". His opinions in the epilogue are just that. Unsubstantiated opinions. Literally. Single-line dismissals. It mars what was otherwise a fantastic recounting of factual history, even if a lot of the history remains mysterious and missing.
History does require a narrative for us to make sense of it. What Jones left out was the immense amount of learning, from science to history, the exchange of cultures between these two Holy War combatants across the centuries. We are also missing any possible deeper significance to what amounts to the bankrupting of whole nations to retake the Holy Land during a time of plague. It reads like nations preparing for the Olympics or a bloody Football League. WHY would so many resources be thrown at this Search for the Holy Grail?
Oh, wait, see what I did there? I used a metaphor for the whole purpose of the Crusades to illustrate that for a lot of the people there, it was LITERALLY the Search for the Holy Grail.
Narrative. See? Skip the narrative and all you have are a bunch of Monks With Swords aiming to get killed for the Glory of God. Nothing more. It doesn't exactly inspire my imagination. I'm sure the motivations were as varied among the Templars as they would be across any person alive.
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