The Templars: History and Myth: From Solomon’s Temple to the Freemasons, by Michael Haag
The author is one of the many to have previously written a comprehensive debunking of The Da Vinci Code, so that’s already a tick in his favour. He knows his stuff. Now he presents a complete and entire history of the Templars from before they even existed to the present day: starting with the prehistory of Jerusalem; then the construction and destruction of the first temple there; then through the ages to the Crusades (spit) and the need for an elite force of warrior monks to protect the pilgrims, in other words the Templars; then their downfall on trumped-up charges of heresy (trans. the King of France wanted their money); and onwards, via how they became associated with the Freemasons and up to the present day.
The heresy charges included the allegation that as part of their initiation ritual, they spat on a cross and denied Christ. A rather surprised Pope Clement V, interviewing the last Grand Master while he was under arrest, learnt this was in fact true. It was the equivalent of modern interrogation training. Any Templar captured by the Saracens would be compelled to do that and much, much worse; so, they were taught to commit the outward form of action while remaining faithful and true inside.
I knew they were eliminated; I didn’t know that only happened in France, though as France was the base of their operations, this effectively wiped them out. Still, in other countries they were reconstituted into local organisations – for example, St John’s Ambulance is technically a Templar offshoot, though ‘elite warrior monk’ is not the first thought that comes to mind when you see a couple of mildly overweight retirement age volunteers waiting by their ambulance at the village fete.