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VINE VOICEon January 19, 2009
It goes without saying that much of what has been written about the Templars is pure poppy-cock. The Templars have been linked with the Grail legend and Dan Brown's book The DaVinci Code didn't help clarify the mystery surrounding the Templars, and, in fact his novel Angels and Demons probably muddied the waters even more. There are some wonderful works providing valid insight into this historically famous (some would say infamous) band of brother knights, and Barbara Frale's The Templars: The Secret History Revealed has to go to the head of a very short list.
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.
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VINE VOICEon April 28, 2009
If you're looking for a book that venerates the mysteries and conspiracies of the Knights Templar (unimaginable treasures found under the Temple of Solomon, their protection of the Holy Grail, etc.) this is not the book for you. This is a concise and direct history of the Order, almost a "Templars for Dummies" that outlines its formation, its role in the Crusades and defense of the Holy Land, and its muddled dissolution due to conflict between the Pope and the King of France. While it does touch on some of the stranger initiation practices, it does not perpetuate the fantastical rumors of bizarre rituals or heretical acts. It simply addresses the Order's functions, characters, and key players during its tumultuous history, which Frale does in a simplistic and well-researched way. What pleased me the most was the final statement Frale makes in her afterward, which I will let you discover for yourself.
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on September 20, 2009
While nothing as earth-shattering as the cover may indicate, this is nonetheless a stand-out in Templar books for one main reason: It's real history. In fact, using Vatican documents and real scholarly research, Frale clarifies the Templars and dispels myths. Perhaps she should analyze all of wild post-Templar disbandonment theories as well. See also Knights Templar: The Essential History and Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades.
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on November 1, 2012
Professor Frale's book *The Templars: The Secret History Revealed* is a great addition to Templar studies, especially concerning their trial and dissolution. Despite what the title might suggest the book stays well away from the ridiculous pop conspiracy theories, indeed gives them a crushing blow. This book (and Frale's other books) are based on sound scholarship not popular fantasy.

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.
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on January 8, 2014
This book was disappointing. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. With this subtitle: "The Secret History Revealed," you thought it was going to more squarely address the whole spate of Templar myths that have cropped up in the wake of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and the literary abortions of Dan Brown and his ilk. Thing is, aside from some oblique references by Eco in the forward (another reason I bought it), and parts of the last chapter, it was just a beefed-up Wikipediaesque recap of Templar history. Again, not bad, but not what I was expecting. Also, for the woman who discovered the Chinon parchment, you'd expect her to mention it more than just the few references in the last chapter. Eh. Enlightening, however, was her analysis of the controversial initiation ceremonies, which was actually quite sparkling. Also, it'd be nice to have a chronology, or a list of Grand Masters, or the like. One bright spot was the extensive bibliography that was almost a bibliographic essay, though it was lean on English-language works. Could of been brilliant, instead it serves an accessible primer, good, but not great.
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on April 16, 2009
Before you run off to Rennes-le-Chateau in search of ancient Templar myths you might want to pick up a copy of Dr. Barbara Frale's THE TEMPLARS-THE SECRET HISTORY REVEALED.
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!
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on February 4, 2014
I gave the book four stars because I felt the author deserved it. With the best intentions these men were enlisted and volunteered to do good..Unfortunately it turned out to be not so good for any of them after the last Crusades proved detrimental to their existences. This partly at the behest of the Papacy which did a lot more damage in general. I liked this book because it gave me additional knowledge about their history. The existence of orders in today's society in various countries was new to me as I did not know such organizations still functioned. I would recommend the book to educators, and anyone interested in the history of the European continent in the pre/post Holy Roman Empire era.
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on January 4, 2015
What a great book. Nice to read the REAL history from a REAL historian. If you are looking for cheesy fiction that is found in most Templar books then this book will probably not be for you. Its an honest historical account that is extremely well researched. For those of us who like history rooted in fact rather than fantasy this book does not disappoint.
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on September 1, 2013
This book captures the religious details that could reduce religious fights. The significance of this book is precious. Pope John Paul did the right thing in having it written. The world has awaited this basic understanding that has almost escaped our understanding. The Knights Templar were special to two popes and the pope during their 1307 downfall has written that he knows they were not corrupt. Bernard was responsible for getting these Cathar Knights protected by the Catholic Church a decision that acknowledges the two belong together. The Cathar were on a mission that Jesus has specified. Bernard arranges for this protection.
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on July 22, 2015
I bought this book expecting to learn more about the Chinon parchment. I was disappointed in that the book is more a history of the politics in Europe and the Church during this period and very little information about the papal inquiry of the charges of heresy against the Templars. I also found some differences in the history of the Templars from what I have found in other sources. I am not an expert in the history of the period so I won't argue about the differences.
I had just expected to learn more about the Papal inquiry and less political history.
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