The Templars: The Secret History Revealed Paperback – May 1 2011
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About the Author
Dr. Barbara Frale is a historian on staff at the Vatican Secret Archives. An expert in ancient documents, the Templars, and the Crusades, Frale is the author of several books including The Last Battle of the Templars, The Papacy and the Trial of the Templars, and The Templars. She is also the author of the acclaimed The Templars: The Secret History Revealed. Frale earned her PhD at the University of Venice.
Gregory Conti is a professor of modern Italian history at the University of Rochester, a lecturer in English at the University of Perugia, and a freelance translator. He lives in Perugia, Italy.
Umberto Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna and the author of Foucault’s Pendulum, The Name of the Rose, and other international bestsellers. He lives in Milan, Italy.
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I guess you have to read the book yourself.....
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Frale, a Vatican Secret Archives historian has access to a document trove virtually unlike any other in the world. She is a specialist on the Templars and is recognized as a specialist on the crusades and the papacy.
Frale gives us an almost intimate introduction into the beginnings of the Templars. During the Middle ages the Holy Land had become the destination of many pilgrims from Europe. Jerusalem Christians had marked virtually all of the significant sites important to the faith. However, in the seventh century Jerusalem had been overrun by Muslim raiders and would remain in Muslim hands for quite sometime. Initially, the Muslim rulers were relatively tolerant of the Christian citizens of the area as well as the pilgrims. However, in time the pilgrims became easy pickings for raiders and this, in time became the basis of the early Crusades.
After a time, Jerusalem is re-captured from the Muslims and becomes a Christian kingdom. However, Christian pilgrims are still harassed by Muslim bandits. Herein lies the beginning of the Templars. Initially established by Hugh de Payens to protect pilgrims from harassment, sanctioned by Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, the Templars would eventually become a military arm of the Pope, and responsible only to the pope. The order was exempt from taxes, and were not beholding to any secular authority. In many ways, the Templars became a multinational corporation and terribly wealthy in the process. Frale is a master of her topic. Her love of her specialty is clearly obvious from the first page. Best of all, Barbara Frale has discovered new evidence in the case of the Templars; The Chinon Parchment, missing almost since it was written has now seen the light of day thanks to her hard work.
The Templars: The Secret History Revealed is not a long book. At a mere 232 pages (and that includes the Bibliographic Note section and the Index) The Templars will not take a great deal of time to read. However, don't let that mislead you. This is a scholarly work. As Umberto Eco states in the foreword, "There are numerous books on the Templars. The only problem is that in 90 percent of the cases they are pure fantasy. No other subject has ever inspired more hacks from more countries throughout time than the Templars." He goes on " Barbara Frale's stunning discovery of the long-lost Chinon Parchment in the Vatican Secret Archives allows us to see in a new light the church's role in the process against the Templars."
If I had to mention a weakness in The Templars it would have to be the complete lack of maps. Certainly, any work of history that is important is deserving of illustrations that relate to the topography of the area being studied. This is still a five star read, however. As I read the book, I kept a good atlas at my side.
The Templars: The Secret History Revealed is a must read for anyone with a more than passing interest in this historical era.
I highly recommend.
Frale, a staff historian at the Vatican Secret Archives offers up a better fact-based take on the Spartan-like Knights Templar than many of the books on the subject today.
Her discovery of The Chinon Parchment shines new light into the realm of these Holy Warriors, their secret initiations, their hard fought battles, and the political chicanery that deftly demonstrates that not all of their life and death struggles came in defense of the Holy Land or against their Muslim opponents.
This well researched and impressive work details the nearly 200 years and eight Crusades of the Templar's existence from their founder Hugh de Payens in 1120 to the execution of their last Grand Master Jacques de Molay in 1314 at the bloodied hands of France's Phillip the (not always) Fair.
The book is for the serious student or reader that wants to bring the Order of Knights Templar out of the realm of myth and lore and back into a more human focus and reality. Frale's book will often remind you too that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction with a learned nod regarding the bizarre Cadaver Synod and how one King sought to resurrect it.
A brilliant historical book that reads like a good novel!
Citing a heretofore unknown, misdated transcript of a papal inquisition regarding the Templars she discovered by accident several years ago, the "Chinon Parchment," Frale proves, once and for all, that the Templars were innocent of the charges leveled against them by Philip the IV (something everyone in the 14th century knew and all academic historians have since known), as they were absolved by Clement V of all the charges save blasphemy (as a test to prepare them for possible capture by Muslims, Templar novices in their initiation were required to spit on the cross and renounce Christ, as Muslim prisoners were often required to do; Clement understood that this was simply a training exercise, that the Templars weren't really renouncing Christ, nevertheless it still technically counted as blasphemy, which he felt he had to hold them accountable for). Certainly he pronounced them innocent of the other charges of sodomy, heresy and idol worship. Clement was then forced by Philip to dissolve and disband the order against his wishes. However Clement's secret inquisition and the Templars' subsequent absolution is the "lost history" alluded to in the books title.
The book sets out a general history of the order before proceeding to the piece de resistance, the examination of the secret papal inquest at which Clement V absolved the Templars. The book is relatively short and easy to read, yet the final chapters alone make it worth the price.
*The Templars: The Secret History Revealed* should put to rest all the silly conspiracy theories that have surrounded the Templars (if Peter Partner's book *Murdered Magicians: The Knights Templar and their Myth* didn't already do so), but alas, it probably won't, because facts never got in the way of a good conspiracy theory. So I'm afraid the Masonic/Dan Brown/Michael Baigent/Lynn Picknett disciples probably won't be convinced. This isn't the book for people who refuse to acknowledge the facts because they still want to believe the Templars were guardians of the grail (whatever they think that actually was) or murdered magicians.
On the other hand, every serious medievalist and Templar student should have this book in their library next to Barber, Partner and Demurger. One hopes it and its author receive the praise and adulation they deserve. After reading this book one should then get Prof. Frale's *The Templars and the Shroud of Christ,* which, if possible, is even better than this one. Frale's discovery of the Chinon Parchment may be the last word in studies of the Templars' trial and dissolution.