Reliable Books on the Knights Templar

Books on the Knights Templar are quite common. Reliable books, without sensation and fantastic myths that are based on sound historical research are much less common. TemplarsNow™ is collecting those titles that merit the qualification "Reliable". Simply because they are based on profound scientific research. 

This library will be ever expanding when reliable books are added. Sound scientific sources are most relevant for being selected, as are our own preferences based on experience. The following list is arranged following year of publication, most recent being first. 

This selection will keep growing. Suggestions are welcome.

This list will be supplemented on our Reliable Books Page. There you will also find our list of Reliable Books on the Crusades in general.

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    Templars and the Black Madonnas

    From 1100 A.D. to 1300 A.D., hundreds of Gothic Cathedrals were constructed all over Europe. These great Gothic cathedrals, such as the ones at Chartres, Paris, Salisbury, St.Denis, and Cluny were dedicated to Notre Dame, Our Lady. Our Lady is usually thought to be the Blessed Virgin Mary, but by some Mary Magdalene.

    Most cathedrals were also home to Black Madonnas, of which about 400 to 500 are present in Europe, depending on how they are classified. There are at least 180 Vierges Noires in France, and there are hundreds of non-medieval copies as well.

    Black Virgins have been associated by historians and archaeologists with mother goddesses,  such as Isis, deities sometimes represented as black. Historically, Isis of Egypt was the first recorded appearance of a Black Madonna, other than the Paleolithic Venus figurines.

    As the indigenous goddess worship evolved in Europe, statues of dark skinned Middle Eastern goddesses such as Inanna, Astarte, Artemis and Cybele were introduced to the European continent by Phoenician traders from 1550 BC to about 30 BCE. The Phoenicians came from the coastal regions of modern day Lebanon, Syria and Israel and were highly influential culturally. Indeed their phonetic alphabet is believed to be the forerunner of most modern alphabets.

    The Roman invasion of Gaul (France) and other parts of Europe also encouraged worship of these goddesses. The cult of Isis was the dominant religion of the Mediterranean during late Roman times, and had spread into Roman-occupied lands, including Gaul. The city of Paris was devoted to Isis, as Lyon was to Cybele and Marseilles to Artemis.

    Many of the black Madonnas exist in France, and date from around the time of the crusades, when Bernard of Clairvaux wrote numerous commentaries on the Canticles, comparing the soul to the bride, Our Lady. He was also known to have visited several shrines of the Black Madonna, for example: Chatillon and Affligem.

    Ean Begg, author of The Cult of the Black Virgin, speculates that the genre developed from an esoteric popular religion common among the Templars and Cathars, perhaps as a complement to the impetus from Bernard. He even states that many of the Black Virgins in European cathedrals were brought from the near east by the Knights Templar. Lynn Picknett, author of Mary Magdalene: Christianity's Hidden Goddess, and The Templar Revelation, links the Black madonnas to Magdalene, whom, he thinks, may have come from Ethiopia, a darkskinned, powerful, and wealthy queen.

    Many more Black Madonna myths and tales here.

    Adapted from Wikipedia, Sophia Foundation, and The Templar Papers, Oddvar Olsen, 2006; Illustration: Statue of the Black Madonna, 11th Century, Cathedral Notre-Dame de Moulins, Allier, France, by Mangouste35, source Wikimedia

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    Bernard of Clairvaux and architectural aesthetics

    This video is a reflection on the importance of architectural aesthetics in the work of the great political and religious Cistercian reformer Bernard of Clairvaux. Starting point is his the criticism of the Cluniac Romanesque art in his Apology to William de Saint-Thierry. In this letter to his friend, Bernard exposes the danger that the representation of non-real subjects (monsters and other fantastic creatures) can represent in diverting the monks from the rational search for the divine.

    The Apology is part of a running feud of Bernard with the Benedictine abbey of Cluny and its many dependent houses. Cluniac monasticism tended to be more integrated with society than Cistercian. Its houses extended hospitality to travelers and some Cluniac abbeys were important pilgrimage centers. Thus abbey churches were often large and sumptuously decorated, their services complex and elaborate. Against that Bernard rebelled in his Apology.

    Source, adapted, Schwerpunkt on YouTube and Fordham University.

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    Water power, a Templar tool for industrial development

    This study presents information on the investment by the Militia of the Order of the Temple, towards the middle of the Xlle century, in an agro-industrial sector milling and cloth fabrication.

    The decline of slavery in the medieval world led men to re-discover and spread a very ancient invention: the water mill. It is believed that the first water mills were known, in the countries of the East, in Greece and in the Roman Empire from the 1st century BC to the 9th century. The mills spread quickly in France. 

    The principle of the water mill is relatively simple. The force of the water flowing or falling from above sets a great wheel in motion. Gears transmit this movement to a stone wheel which, by moving on a fixed stone, crushes the cereals to make flour. From this basic principle, ingenious devices allowed to operate mechanisms much more complex.

    The originality of the Douzens templar commandery (founded 1141) results from the desire of the Order to exploit rationally water power. Next to an economy essentially focussed on land use, the Templars have diffused the use of watermills over numerous rivers belonging to their properties. These mills have permitted to spread cloth manufacturing and to set up specific establishments like flour-milling. 

    The source of benefits but also the origin of conflicts, these hydraulic facilities illustrate the economic and demographic dynamism of the Aude land in the XIIth century as well as the initiative of the Militia Friars.

    Translated and adapted from: L'utilisation des ressources hydrauliques par les templiers de la commanderie de Douzens (Aude) Archéologie du Midi Médiéval / Year1994 / 12 / pp. 99-113; illustration Douzens Commandery today, photo TemplarsNow, August 2019
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    Godfrey of Boullion: founder of the proto-Knights Templar?

    Several dates on the formation of the Knights Templar have been mentioned. These usually lie between 1118 and 1120, the latter coinciding with the Council of Nablus. But some dates are significantly earlier and are related to one of the leaders of the First Crusade, Godfrey of Boullion.

    After conquering Jerusalem on June 15, 1099, Godfrey refused to become King of Jerusalem, instead choosing the title of Protector of the Holy Sepulcher. Some sources suggest that Godfrey was at least helpful to the foundation of the Order of the Temple or a precursor of that Order. It seems probable that Godfrey established an early Order in the Holy Land: the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. Apparently he gathered around him twelve knights. These knights were to protect the religious chapter of Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulcher, whcih probably already served, be it not als an Order, at the Sepulcher when Godfrey and his army arrived. It is generally acknowledged that there indeed was already a religious order of Canons of the Holy Sepulcher under the rule of Saint Augustine prior to the conquest of Jerusalem. 

    Godfrey supposedly established his knightly Order of the Holy Sepulcher in 1099, shortly after the conquest of Jerusalem. The present day Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher indicates that according to undocumented tradition its origin can be traced back to the First Crusade, so around 1099. Sometimes the year 1103 is mentioned. The first year falling during the reign of Godfrey, the second being after Godfrey's death and at the time of King Baldwin I.

    Some researchers suggest that the origins of the Temple can be found in the associations that the Knightly Order of the Sepulcher formed with the Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulcher. It seems this group may have been known as the “Milites Christi,” or “Milites Sancti Sepulchri”, later to be known as the Knights Templar.

    The chronicler Bernard the Treasurer emphasized the Templars connection with the Holy Sepulcher. This connection includes the facts that the Templars’ liturgy was that of the Holy Sepulcher, that the “French rule” (dating to 1140) stated that it was “l’ordinaire del Sepulchre,” and that the peculiar, often polygonal, way that Templars built their churches was inspired by the polygonal Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

    source: The Templar Papers, Oddvar Olsen, 2006; Illustration: Godfrey of Bouillon, from a fresco painted by Giacomo Jaquerio in Saluzzo, northern Italy, around 1420, source Wikipedia

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