An Illustrated History of the Knights Templar
By Stephen Dafoe
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Lewis Masonic
ISBN - 13: 978-0470127650
Reviewed by James T. Tresner II
The Scottish Rite Journal
There is an amazing amount of information in this little book, and some very fine illustrations as well. The book is the work of a scholar (who also happens to be a very good writer) and avoids sensationalism - and the story is sensational enough by itself. This is not the typical Templar book. In his review of the book, Christopher Hodapp (see his book below) wrote: “[It is] a concise, historical examination of what is truly known about the Knights Templar, going back to medieval sources. Their formation, rise, organizations, battles, failures, and fall.”
He also remarks that it is fun to read, an opinion I strongly second. This is a really good book on the topic. Reading this after reading many of the Templar books out there is like a glass of fresh cold spring water when you have been drinking chocolate syrup.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the chapter that describes the daily life of the Templar in the convent. We forget that the Knights were also monks, subject to a religious rule written by St. Bernard. The description of the day-to-day tasks and activities gives a sense of reality to the Templars which is usually missing. It puts a very human face on those we usually think of simply as warriors.
That chapter contrasts nicely with the chapter that describes the military structure of the Order when in the field. Together, the two give us the image of men who lived a life of extremes, conditioned and modified by the constraints of faith and tradition.
This plays into another advantage in the book. It focuses both on the Knights Templar as people and on the great cultural/historical forces of which they were a part and which ultimately destroyed them. A chapter describes their rise to power economically and also in favor with the Pope; while another chapter describes their downfall after the defeat in the Holy Land. There is an almost horrible sense of the working-out of destiny. That does not mean that the book deals in emotionalism, however. It is scholarly, but a fascinating read.
For a true understanding of the Templars - warts, haloes, and all, this is the best book I know. An excerpt can be found in this issue of the Scottish Rite Journal.