03.09.30, Barber, and Bate, trans., The Templars

Main Article Content

Anne Gilmour-Bryson

The Medieval Review baj9928.0309.030


Barber, Malcolm, and Keith Bate, trans.. The Templars. Series: Manchester Medieval Sources. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002. Pp. xviii, 350. ISBN: 0-7190-5109-6.

Reviewed by:
Anne Gilmour-Bryson
University of Melbourne

Until the appearance of this book, it was extremely difficult to teach any undergraduate course on the history of the Templars because of the paucity of primary source texts in English. While the French translations in George Lizerand, Le dossier de l'affaire des templiers (1964), helped greatly by offering many key texts in both Latin and French, most undergraduates do not have an adequate knowledge of French to read it. Some abbreviated French language versions of the French trials are not sufficiently complete or reliable. The Latin version by Jules Michelet of the French trials is readily available (paperback edition of 1987) but accessible to few of today's students. None of the Templar trials appeared in full in English until I published The Trial of the Templars in Cyprus in 1998. The other published trials exist only in Latin, or in short English excerpts published, for example, by Malcolm Barber in The Trial of the Templars (1978). Lists of published trials may be found in Barber, The New Knighthood (1994), notes, 391, and the bibliography; Gilmour-Bryson, The Trial É Cyprus, 18, n.76, and the bibliography. The large though incomplete group of documents relating to the order was occasionally published in European journals over the last hundred years or so. Much recent work has come out in Spanish or Catalan. Most primary sources remain unpublished in European archives in manuscript form only or in Latin in hard to find works such as the Marquis d'Albon's Cartulaire general de l'ordre du Temple, 1119?-1150 (1913). Consult also Gilmour-Bryson, The Trial of the Templars in the Papal State and the Abruzzi (1982), 22-24, and the bibliographies of works mentioned above for the primary sources and relevant journal articles. The collection under review contains an astonishing variety of material, almost all of it completely unavailable to anyone who cannot read Latin with relative ease. Since many of the cited documents appeared in foreign articles, but in the original Latin, a reading knowledge of one or more European languages alone would not be sufficient to consult them there. The editors have not, as far as I have been able to determine, edited and translated any documents extant solely in manuscript form.

The book under discussion is preceded by a very helpful short preface providing a brief overview concerning which documents are extant and which missing, two pages of chronology of the main events in the history of the order, and three maps showing Templar properties mentioned in subsequent documents. The "Historical Introduction, " pp. 1-23, provides a masterful condensed history of the order throughout its almost two hundred years of existence. Given Barber's lengthy experience in researching, studying, and writing on the Order of the Temple, this introduction surpasses, in my view, any other attempt to summarize the order's chequered history.

The rest of the book, which is divided into six sections: Foundation and Privileges; Warfare and Politics; Religious and Charitable Functions: Human and Material Resources; Attitudes toward the Templars; The Trial. These are followed by the bibliography and the index. As expected the section on opinions on the Templars is the shortest, given a fairly recent book on the subject: Helen Nicholson, Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights. Images of the Military Orders, 1128-1291 (1993). Not surprisingly, the trials or hearings into the order occupy the longest section, given the wide differences between testimony in different countries and the fact that it is primarily through the testimony that the modern reader can attempt to gain access to the mentalite of the members of the order. The secondary source bibliography is rather short and mostly restricted to modern works in English. This should not prove a problem since the book is obviously intended for undergraduates or for an educated public. Much longer bibliographies are fairly widely available in M. Dessubre, Bibliographie de l'ordre des Templiers (1928); Heinrich Neu, Bibliographie des Templer-Ordens 1927-1965 (1965); and the flawed but occasionally useful, Laurent Daillez, Bibliographie du Temple (1972). Helen Nicholson in The Knights Templar. A New History (2001) has a useful list of primary sources existing in English.

The arrangement of the six sections may seem somewhat confusing at the outset. In each one, documents appear roughly, but not entirely, chronologically, as the order is thematic. A selection from Walter Map dated 1181-93, precedes the Latin Rule dated to 1129 (documents 3 and 5) Documents dated 1165-1307 appear in the same section "Warfare and Politics," while documents from a much narrower time frame, 1307-16, occur in "The Trial." For the same strategic reason, many excerpts from one author appear across the entire book since the author wrote on a variety of themes: William II, Archbishop of Tyre, 2-3, 7, 9, 11, 14, 25-7, 30, 73-6, 78-82. The excellent index enables the reader to find all selections from any one author.

A close look at the documents reveals that some of them already exist in English or French, sometimes in old and/or out-of-print editions. Looking only at Section I, William of Tyre, for example, can be read in an old translation (editors E.A. Babcock, A.C. Krey, 1943) but this selection, and all others by this author, were translated anew from the Huygens edition (1986). Michael the Syrian is translated from a French edition of the original Syriac. Walter Map might appear to have been cited from the available English translation of 1983, but was, in fact, translated from the Latin by the editors. Barber has assured me by e-mail that other than documents 10, 25, 26, (the French Rule) 76, and 77, (papal bulls) every document was translated by him or by Bate. The short section attributed to Ernoul has been translated from Mas Latrie's French version. The Latin Rule of the order is translated from Cerrini's soon to be published new Latin edition for the Corpus Christianorum. Heretofore, we all had to use the De Curzon edition of 1886. The French Rule appears in the English translation of J. Upton-Ward (1992). The key letter of Hugh 'Peccator' of c.1128 was translated from the Latin appearing in Leclercq's key article of 1957. The even more crucial papal bull Omne datum optimum was translated from Hiestand, Papsturkunden fur Templer und Johanniter as were the two other key early bulls promulgated by Celestine I and Pope Eugene III (unfortunately not identified on the page) in 1144 and 1145. I have read more than 95% of these documents in their original languages, usually Latin, but to do so required almost 25 years of my life, visits to libraries around the world on countless occasions, and at least several thousand dollars in photocopying charges. Regrettably, in many of the libraries, which hold most of this material, it has become increasingly impossible to get permission to photocopy anything from a book more than 50 years old. To expect any student to be able to consult all this material would require not only excellent Latin but presence in one of only a half dozen great university libraries, those who would possess all the printed editions.

Regarding the quality of the translations, I checked several of them and found the translations to be extremely faithful to the text. No two translators would ever agree on every word chosen but I believe that the stated aim to remain faithful to the originals has been carried out. Other translations may appear more elegant, more readable, but these presented here are the closest I have seen to the Latin. . It is now, and only now, thanks to Barber and Bate possible to teach an undergraduate course on any aspect of the Order of the Temple using this book plus Barber's The New Knighthood and other modern secondary sources such as Nicholson's The Knights Templar A New History, and Alan Forey's The Military Orders (1992), at a lower division level; or at an upper division level Alain Dermuger, Vie et mort de l'ordre du Temple (1989) for students reading French, and for upper division or graduate students, many of the essays in the two volumes of The Military Orders edited by Malcolm Barber and Helen Nicholson in 1994 and 1998, plus relevant parts of Barber's, Forey's, and Luttrell's collected essays put together by Variorum.

The hardcover version, which I used for this review, is well, if not handsomely, produced although there appear to be too many words on a page for comfortable reading. The footnotes are at the foot of each page, rare but so much easier to consult than endnotes. Certain documents such as the inquest into Templar lands in Essex, 184-91, are printed in an eye-fatiguing manner since there are no indented lines or any attempt to separate the items into a conventional list in which each person's lands or possessions would begin on a new line, perhaps with a symbol to indicate that this is a new entry.

While very useful notes are given to people and properties mentioned, the addition of a glossary of unfamiliar terms would have been most helpful. It is by no means easy for a student to look up almunia, 133; trecensum, 135; jornales, 136; sesters, 142; modii, 144; jugera, 137; census, 138; monetary terms such as "deniers," "solidi," or "livres parisis" "livres tournois" and "florin"should be explained. Some measures, i.e., "virgate", "messuage" and "carucate" are explained (185-86, 188), but since the words presumably occur elsewhere, their presence in a glossary would be welcomed. It is not entirely successful to define a word on one page and not others since students would presumably be assigned only certain documents, or portions of them, and might never have seen the relevant footnote. I have found that many words presumably familiar to U.K. undergraduates, "boons" and "boonworks" "pannage" are totally unfamiliar to North American or Australian students. While all of us should know that "corn" in British parlance refers to grain not maize, a note is required for non-U.K. students. In assigning similar source documents to my students, I have discovered that adding a glossary is an absolute necessity.

In sum, this document collection is wonderful, the material covers every conceivable aspect of the Order of the Temple throughout its life. Presumably, anyone qualified to teach a course in this area of study could fill in with much wider reading lists and with help on the unfamiliar words. There are some odd omissions: translations from the hearings held at London and York, for example. In fact, little is included on the Templar's history in England. But on the whole this badly needed book will enable students around the world to revisit the life and work of the Order of the Temple from impeccable sources and without any of the incredible assertions on the topic made in the huge number of recent secondary sources on the subject. This is a wonderful book, which could be used in any course on medieval history in any English-speaking country. Every decent library should buy a copy. Its existence in paperback as well as hardcover also makes it accessible to students as a course text.

Article Details

Author Biography

Anne Gilmour-Bryson

University of Melbourne