The Knights of Christ
Author: Terence Wise. Illustrator: Richard Scollins.
Published by Osprey

Book Review.

The topic of the Warrior Monk still arouses fascination and interest as it did when Osprey first published their book on the Knights of Christ, in 1984, two decades ago (and the book on the Armies of the Crusades in 1978), if not even more so, given the abundance of information to be found on the Internet today. The fact that this book is a much read and valued book, especially for the detail and unsurpassed illustrations, finds testimony in the pirated pictures from the book gracing the Internet!

The contents are as follows; The Church Militant;
Military Orders in the Holy Land; The German Orders; Spanish Military Orders; The Italians Orders; The Plates.

The text is highly readable, and begins with the fact that from an essentially pacifist faith in its infancy, following the conversion of Constantine, a doctrine of just war began to emerge within Christianity, initially for the defence of the faith, but pushed a little further to justify forced conversion, to the point that the Church
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had absorbed the warrior codes that existed in Europe. This is by way of an introduction to the emergence during the Crusade of the Warrior Monk, or Miles Christianus (Christian Knight) which in addition to providing the Crusades with standing Armies, fueled the romance literature.
Terence Wise then surveys the various Military Orders, not just the well known ones, but those which are little known. 17 Orders are covered, even those which were short lived, and merged with others or simple vanished.
The Orders are as follows: Knights Templar; Knights Hospitaller; Knights of Lazarus, St Thomas of Canterbury; Teutonic Knights; Brethren of the Sword; Knights of Calatrava; Knights of Santiago; Brethren of Santa Maria; Knights of Avis; Knights of St Julian de Pereiro; Knights of Our Lady of Montjoie; Mercedarians; Knights of St George of Alfama; Knights of Christ; Knights of Our Lady of Montesa, and Knights of San Stefano of Tuscany. Where inter-relationships existed between the Orders, this is explored. The Templars and Hospiatllers overlapped, sometimes to the good but not always, when they could be found killing each other in the Streets of Acre (page 12). The symbolism of the Templar seal is explained (two Knights on a single horse), not just in reference to the "poor knights" as is often given, but to an historic detail that the two founding members had only one horse between them (page 5). It is attention to details such as these that the author gives life to the subject.
Not a single page lacks an illustration (except the index and a page describing the Colour Plates) with 39 black & white/Grey Scale illustrations throughout the book of 40 pages. In addition there are 8 excellent coloured plates. The plates in themselves offer a wealth of historical detail and the fine details are explained at the back of the book. The author portrays a grasp of the subject, and communicates this well to the reader. Sometimes lacking in other books which provide for an introduction to a topic, is not lacking in this book - an Index!

In summary the book is an excellent introduction to the topic of the Military Orders, and is far better value then some of the paperbacks on the topic, by price, information, illustrations, and durability! This well produced Osprey book, which whilst having a paper cover, has stitched pages.

The Reverend Dr Michael Foster.
Rector Chase Benefice, Salisbury Diocese, Church of England.
Historian to the Order of Knights Hospitaller, Russian Grand Priory.

Created 24th May 2004
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