I recently finished The Templars: The History and the Myth – a comprehensive history of the rise, fall, and enigma that is the Order of the Knights Templar – by Michael Haag, and I thought I would post about this fascinating historical read.
Everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has likely heard a conspiracy theory or three concerning the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, better known as the Knights Templar. In essence, and regrettably so, this is what the Templars are best known for today – they are behind everything – hadn’t you heard?
Instead of focusing on the popular topic of continuing Templar existence, Haag approaches the order of warrior-monks from a strictly historical direction in the beginning, and the telling is much better for it. Haag carefully constructs their origins and ideals, which left me with a good understanding of the Templars’ purpose and a strong sense of empathy for their largely unjustified destruction.
The history of the holy land, or Outremer, as the Franks called it, is fascinating, and Haag presents it magnificently. The Templars’ history is inextricably entwined with the holy land, which makes this as much a study of the Crusades as the Templars’ considerable part in them. After Haag’s thorough review of Templar, Crusade, Medieval, and Papal history, he presents us with a guide to surviving Templar locations. This section occasionally got a bit dry, but still proved interesting. It would be an excellent companion to have when traveling to England, France, Israel, Syria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, or any of the areas where the Templars once held castles, lands, and influence.
Eventually, Haag does take us to the conspiracies, but in a way that, having educated the reader, destroys each and every one piecemeal. Dan Brown’s novels get particular attention from Haag’s scathing criticism, and The Da Vinci Code comes out looking like the musings of a bored kindergartener after Haag’s gauntlet of comparison to known historical fact. Perhaps I’m a bit too appreciative of well-worded criticism, but Haag’s witty, cutting insinuations are delightful. Regardless of the debunking flurry, the conspiracy section is fascinating, covering everything from the Freemasons, to the Battle of Bannockburn, to the New World Order, and even to the shadowy fraternity of the Bonesmen. Some people have quite the imagination.
In short, Michael Haag’s discerning book is a delightful mixture of stringent history and popular fable. Those interested in Medieval Christianity’s staunchest defenders, or history of any kind, really, will love The Templars. Four Stars.