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The Templars (review)

From: Parergon
Volume 21, Number 1, January 2004
pp. 157-159 | 10.1353/pgn.2004.0085

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Reviews 157 Parergon 21.1 (2004) reconstructions. The last 5 contributions are on chronology, although J. M. Carrié (pp. 427-442) gives a useful survey of publications on army clothing and supplies in early Byzantine times, and on forts in Palestine. North Africa remains an active battleground for scholars today, and a second volume of reports of this quality will be very welcome. John R. C. Martyn School of Art History, Cinema, Classics and Archaeology University of Melbourne Barber, Malcolm and Keith Bate, eds, The Templars (Manchester Medieval Sources Series), Manchester/New York, Manchester University Press, 2002; paper; pp. xiv, 350; RRP £15.99; ISBN 0 7190 5109 X. The Templars’ gruesome end has tended to overshadow the rest of their 200year history. This excellent sourcebook, which is part of a series designed for undergraduate teaching, goes a long way to redressing this understandable imbalance. Barber and Bate have translated and annotated 79 documents concerning the crusading order, from its foundation in Jerusalem around 1119 to its suppression at the Council of Vienne in 1312, the burning of its Grand Master and the transfer of its property to the Hospitallers. The documents have been arranged in six sections which are themselves further subdivided. This approach permits a logical grouping of what would otherwise be an incoherently disparate array of material and focuses attention on the functioning of the order and the range of its activities. Naturally such an ordering can only take place with some sacrifice of chronology. Thus the first document dates from the early 1100s and the last from 1316 but four of the six sections cover the entire time span. This is a small price to pay for the general structure but it is perhaps regrettable that the principle has been carried so far as to allow the chronology to be further undermined by the subsections and even occasionally by the arrangement of documents within the subsections. The first section, ‘Foundation and Privileges’, goes from the early 1100s to 1145. It includes early accounts of the origin of the Templars, the Latin Rule of 1129 and the papal privileges granted to the Order. ‘Warfare and Politics’ has the French Rule of 1165, battles and grants of castles in Outremer and Iberia, letters from Outremer to the West and the crusading plans of the last Grand Master, James of Molay. ‘Religious and Charitable Functions’ features a Templar 158 Reviews Parergon 21.1 (2004) version of the Vision of St Paul, relics, an obituary list, grants of churches, further excerpts from the French Rule, and some instances of the Templars performing their original function as protectors and later financiers of pilgrims to the Holy Land. ‘Human and Material Resources’ deals with donations and recruitment, the economic activity of the Templars, their role as bankers for the Papacy and royalty and two surveys of their lands, one for Essex in 1185, the other for Normandy in 1307. ‘Attitudes towards the Templars’ comes, not unnaturally, before ‘The Trial’ but spans the entire period. It includes supportive letters from the established monastic orders of the twelfth century, most importantly from Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter the Venerable but also from the prior of the Carthusians. Clearly none of these saintly men shared the doubts referred to in a letter placed at the beginning of the book but from the same period concerning the propriety of a monastic military order. This section also features James of Molay’s refusal to merge the Templars with the Hospitallers and the advice of the Bishop of Angers to the Council of Vienne which suppressed the Order. In addition there is a poem by a Templar from the midthirteenth century complaining about the papacy’s greed, involvement in Italian wars and lack of support for the Holy Land. This miscellany raises again the problem of a thematic versus a chronological approach. It is not clear why the reference to detractors is not grouped with the other twelfth century letters, while the fourteenth century texts only make sense in the context of the trial and the thirteenth century poem is about Templar attitudes, not attitudes to the Templars. Finally we arrive at ‘The Trial’, a mixture of diplomatic...