BOOK REVIEWS: Secrets of the Warrior Monks; in Search of the Knights Templar, A Guide to Sites in Britain by Simon Brighton, Orion, Pounds 20

The Birmingham Post (England), July 22, 2006 | Go to article overview

BOOK REVIEWS: Secrets of the Warrior Monks; in Search of the Knights Templar, A Guide to Sites in Britain by Simon Brighton, Orion, Pounds 20


Byline: Reviewed by Andrew Martin

The success of Dan Brown's high-profile novel The Da Vinci Code put the ancient order of the the Knights Templar very much in the spotlight.

The Da Vinci Code had the Knights Templar as one of the organisations charged with protecting a secret which would have rocked the religious world to its very foundations.

But Brown's novel - although it upset the higher reaches of the Catholic Church because many readers took the leap from fiction to fact - was just what it purported to be, a novel.

And, although The Da Vinci Code brought the Knights Templar to many people's attention for the first time, the legacy of the warrior monks lives on almost 700 years after the order was brought to a tortured, gruesome and bloody end.

In reality, as amateur historian Simon Brighton explains in his excellent book, the order is best known for its exploits during the crusades and for protecting pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.

During their 200 years dominance as a military and religious brotherhood, the Templars controlled vast estates across Britain and Europe, had the first standing uniformed army since the days of the Roman Empire and, off the battlefield, was probably the first truly multinational organisation.

The knights also introduced banking to Europe, their leaders walked with kings and princes and they enjoyed - until their final years - the favour of successive popes.

Brighton's book - subtitled A guide to the Sites in Britain - is split into two main sections. The first, shorter, section is a brief history of the Templars and the second, main, section is a detailed appraisal of Templar sites in Britain.

Many sites are given pages of detailed narrative right down to some where the minutae of scrawlings could just as well be ancient graffiti rather than Templar carvings.

Templar sites in the Midlands are limited as many appear to be dotted along the east of the country - no doubt to take advantage of ancient trade routes while many more are in the more far-flung Celtic regions where, perhaps, they have withstood the march of time better than in more densely-populated areas.

Hereford Cathedral and Lud-low Castle each have a page in the book but Brighton does include an extensive section on Temple Balsall, where the Templars' church and hall still stand.

Today Temple Balsall is only a few miles from the roaring traffic of the M42 and is just a stone's throw from Knowle and Dorridge on the edge of the Birmingham conurbation. …

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