Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Levant Preceptory in Templar Magazine

Levant Preceptory, Indiana's only period recreation Masonic Knight's Templar group, is featured in the Indiana Supplement of the monthly Knights Templar Magazine for January.

Rosslyn Chapel Bans Photography

Beginning January 2nd, visitors to Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel can just leave their cameras in the car. The Chapel authorities say they are doing this for "health and safety reasons." It seems that videographers are tripping and falling on the uneven floor slabs as they watch their viewfinders instead of their step.

And still cameras? Oh, the flash bulbs cause epileptic seizures.

But don't worry.

The gift shop has plenty of souvenirs to make up for the loss of that keepsake photo you won't be able to take.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stephen Dafoe's Nobly Born

I'm way behind on author review on the new manuscript; last week was a mess that kept us away from home three days longer than anticipated; and I'm neglecting much that needs to be done this week.

That said, the last thing I need to be doing is reading a book that is not research on the current project, since Friday is my drop-dead cutoff for revisions. Nevertheless, my new copy of Stephen Dafoe's Nobly Born: An Illustrated History of the Knights Templar arrived while we were gone, and I haven't been able to stay away from it. So, this is no formal review, but a last-minute bid to recommend it for your Christmas list. (I mean, provided that you have already ordered The Templar Code For Dummies first.)

Stephen (publisher of Templar History magazine) has managed to do something fresh in the Templar book universe, and beginners and those thoroughly versed in Templar lore alike will find much to like about this book. Dreamers and "speculators" take note: this is no "Templars found treasure, sailed to Scotland, saved Robert the Bruce, started Freemasonry and hid their loot at Oak Island" waste of time. What it IS is a concise (deceptively thin-looking), historical examination of what is truly known about the Knights Templar, going back to medieval sources. Their formation, rise, organization, battles, failures and fall — all here, presented with Stephen's skill as a reporter, combined with his flair for making complex concepts easy to understand, and frankly, fun to read. A cursory flip through Nobly Born rewards you with an abundance of illustrations, many of them newly created by Stephen, showing battles, preceptories, troop movements, uniforms, hierarchy and more. All packaged in a truly beautiful edition by Lewis Masonic.

The book also features original artwork from Templar author and artist Gordon Napier and Indiana Masonic artist Stephen McKim.

This is truly unlike any other Templar book on the market, and well worth its £19.99 ($33) cover price.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Richard Leigh RIP

Holy Blood, Holy Grail co-author Richard Leigh died last week at 64 – obituaries said of a heart condition. Many who knew him believe it was ill health brought on by the aftermath of the disasterous lawsuit by him and his writing partner, Freemason Michael Baigent, against Dan Brown. Between the original suit and the appeal, their court costs came to more than £2.3 million (almost US $5 million).

Pridian's blog Codex Celtica does a good job in laying out Leigh's personality, his life and his most recent setbacks in Death of a Genteel Bohemian.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Templars and National Treasure Book of Secrets?

I spotted a YouTube clip shot in a Border's book store in Washington DC of a scene from National Treasure: Book of Secrets, featuring the comedy relief sidekick character of Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) signing his new book, "The Templar Treasure." Apparently the gag is that no one is buying or asking for an autograph.

Jeebus. Is EVERYBODY writing Templar books these days?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Angels & Demons film delayed by strike

Nikki Finke is reporting that the big screen version of Dan Brown's Angels & Demons will delay its shooting date, due to the strike of the Writer's Guild. The prequel to The Da Vinci Code, re-teaming director Ron Howard and Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon still has a projected worldwide release date of May 15, 2009.

Even though DVC's screen writer Akiva Goldsman received an industry record-setting $4 million (for an adaptation of an existing novel!), apparently Tom Hanks is an unhappy camper over the script as it now exists. It had been anticipated to start filming in Europe in March 2008, but that's now been bumped back. The writer's strike is in its third week.

Still no word from Dan Brown or his publisher about the long-awaited Solomon Key.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chinon Parchment translation

W:. Phillipe Garver, Master of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 and Eminent Grand Commander of Raper Commandery No. 1 Knights Templar of Indianapolis just passed along a website link for an English translation of the Chinon Parchment, thereby saving you about $8,000 off of the Vatican edition.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke

Damian Thompson's blog Holy Smoke on the the site has a good piece from Monday, Talking Nonsense About The Templars.

Speaking of Holy Smoke, apparently Polish Catholics have received a vision of Pope John Paul II from beyond the grave. The Vatican News Service is reporting that the vision appeared in a bonfire lit near the late pontiff's Polish birthplace, commemorating his death two years ago.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Update on Vatican Templar Book

More news has been released about the new book being published about Pope Clement V's exoneration of the Knights Templar. According to the Associated Press, "Only 799 copies of the 300-page volume, "Processus Contra Templarios," — Latin for "Trial against the Templars" — are for sale, said Scrinium publishing house, which prints documents from the Vatican's secret archives. Each will cost $8,377."

Reuters describes the edition in more detail:
A reproduction of the minutes of trials against the Templars, "'Processus Contra Templarios -- Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars'" is a massive work and much more than a book -- with a 5,900 euros price tag.

"This is a milestone because it is the first time that these documents are being released by the Vatican, which gives a stamp of authority to the entire project," said Professor Barbara Frale, a medievalist at the Vatican's Secret Archives.

"Nothing before this offered scholars original documents of the trials of the Templars," she told Reuters in a telephone interview ahead of the official presentation of the work on October 25.

The epic comes in a soft leather case that includes a large-format book including scholarly commentary, reproductions of original parchments in Latin, and -- to tantalize Templar buffs -- replicas of the wax seals used by 14th-century inquisitors.

Reuters was given an advance preview of the work, of which only 799 numbered copies have been made.

One parchment measuring about half a meter wide by some two meters long is so detailed that it includes reproductions of stains and imperfections seen on the originals.

I hope their roll of the dice works on this special edition, or the Holy See will have a garage full of them for a long time. I'm afraid I'll have to wait for the paperback edition.

Knights Templar to Mark 700th Anniversary of Arrest, Torture, Executions

(Shelbyville, IN) On October 13, 2007 it will have been 700 years ago that the medieval Knights Templer, the richest and most powerful order of knights in the world, were arrested all across France by King Phillip IV.

Now a group of Indiana Freemasons known as the Knights Templar will commemorate the event in a ceremony on Saturday, October 13, 2007 in Shelbyville, Indiana, dressed in medieval chain mail, helmets and tunics, and brandishing broadswords like their medieval counterparts.

Many claim the arrest of the Templars is why Friday the 13th is considered to be unlucky – a phobia called by the unwieldy name paraskavedekatriaphobia.

Originally formed in Jerusalem at the end of the first Crusade by just nine French knights, within 200 years the Templars rose to become the first international bankers and the most powerful and influential force in Europe and the Holy Land. But on that fateful Friday the 13th in October 1307, the Order was destroyed.

France’s King Phillip IV ordered the Knights to be arrested and tortured into admitting to lurid accusations of heresy, while a weak pope, Clement V, looked on helplessly.

Most historians agree today that Phillip was simply out to steal the Templars’ vast wealth, and invented the charges of heresy as an excuse. That view seems to be shared by the modern-day Vatican.

The Vatican took this anniversary week of the Templars’ arrests to announce they would soon publish a book based on a long lost document that shows Pope Clement V secretly exonerated the order of heresy in 1308.

Renewed awareness of the Knights Templar has come from their mention in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and the 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven, but the Freemasons have had their own group called the Knights Templar since the 1700’s, according to Christopher Hodapp, co-author of The Templar Code For Dummies. Hodapp, who is a member of Levant Preceptory, says that new interest in the Templars and the Masons is growing among younger men. “Fans that have grown up with tales of Lord of the Rings and Jedi Knights are looking for something comparable in real life that is legendary, and mythical. You don’t get much larger than life than the true story of the Templars.”

The greatest mystery of the Templars is the whereabouts of their legendary treasure. Phillip claimed he never found it, and wild speculation has existed for centuries as to its whereabouts. Some say escaping Templars sailed to Scotland and formed what became the Freemasons, burying their treasure underneath legendary Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh. Others believe it may be at the bottom of a deep pit on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. The movie National Treasure claimed it was in a vault hidden beneath a churchyard off Wall Street.

The modern Templars of Levant Preceptory won’t be talking about treasure on this October 13th. “Concepts of chivalry, like faith, hope and charity, never really go out of style,” says Hodapp, “and that’s what we’re really celebrating.”

The event will be at the Messick Masonic Temple, 519 S. Harrison, Shelbyville, IN at 7:00PM. It is open to the public.

Levant Preceptory is a medieval reenactment group within Raper Commandery No. 1 Knights Templar in Indianapolis, and a part of the family of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Indiana.

- For more information about Levant Preceptory, see their website at
- For more about the Knights Templar of Indiana, see
- For more about the Freemasons of Indiana, see
- For more about The Templar Code For Dummies, see

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Vatican To Publish Paper To Clear Templars

The Vatican has announced it will soon publish a book revealing documents from the Vatican Office of Secret Archives that will show Pope Clement V's exoneration of the Order.

On October 25, the Vatican office of the Secret Archives will unveil the book Processus contra Templarios, containing "a previously unpublished and exclusive edition of the complete acts of the original hearing against the Knights Templar," the Vatican has announced. Containing reproductions of the original parchment documents, the book is "the most elaborate and important publication yet undertaken" by the Archives, the Vatican states. The book will be a special collector's edition, with only 799 copies produced.

The material will come from Barbara Frale's research and rediscovery of what is known as the Chinon Parchment, a document known about for centuries, but "mis-filed" in the archives in the 17th century. Frakes found the parchment six years ago, and while it has been summarized in print, it has never been fully published before. It describes an inquisition by Clement V and members of the Inquisition of members of the Templar Order imprisoned at Chinon Castle in France. Based on questions put to the knights, according to reports, the Pope found the knights innocent of wrongdoing (although from my reading of the summary, it is unclear whether he pardoned ALL of the Order, or just those who were questioned). Of course, none of this made any difference, since the Templars were imprisoned by King Phillip IV, and Clement was a timid puppet of the king. The knights were tortured and executed, and Clement's pronouncement of their innocence was kept a secret. His opinion of the case addressed their immortal souls, but did nothing to spring them from Chinon's keep.

See also the BBC story.

An image and explanation of the parchment is available on the Vatican website here, but alas, no translation or even Latin transcription is available yet. That's what will be in those 799 books...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's Talk Like A Pirate Day

Just bein' a reminder.
This be Talk Like A Pirate Day.
Shiver yer timbers.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Raper Commandery #1 Reception for Andy Jackson

I had the extraordinary honor last night to help with Raper Commandery No. 1's reception for Indiana Grand Commander Andrew R. Jackson. Nearly 90 Sir Knights and Ladies were in attendance at the Atheneum. It was a wonderful turnout. Kudos go to Eminent Commander Phil Garver, Standard Bearer (and the evening's sommelier) Tim Brinkmeyer, Senior Warden Carson Smith and especially Junior Warden Jim Dillman (who had a previous engagement with some Canadian fish) for their planning and execution of the evening's festivities. And to our tireless Recorder Wayne Williams for keeping it all straight.

Patty Smith and the ladies of the Beauceant presented Andy's lady Mary with a dozen white roses, and the Commandery presented Andy with a Rosslyn "Bloodline" chalice, inscribed for the occasion, decorated with a Templar cross, and a stem inspired by Rosslyn's Apprentice Pillar.

In light of the honored medieval phrase, to "drink like a Templar," I shamelessly cribbed the Masonic tradition of toasting at the conclusion of the evening, and I spent a couple of days seeking some inspiration for toasts more Templar than Masonic. My favorite of all came from a long-lost source, Prince Valiant.
Sir Knights, be upstanding!
I wish to offer a toast to Chivalry.
May Common Sense ne'er quell our love for high hearted adventure, nor dull expediency prevent our doing brave, splendid, foolish deeds. May we ever serve romance as we ride errant to and fro about a sunlit world. If we be not always wise, God send that we at least be admirable.
With me, Sir Knights, to Chivalry!

Monday, September 3, 2007

BBC Radio 4 "On The Trail Of The Templars"

As we approach October 13th and the 700th anniversary of the arrest of the Templars, there's an increase in media interest in the order. This weekend, there is an excellent BBC Radio 4 Program available on the web, On The Trail Of The Templars.

It requires a Real Player to listen.

There are several pieces to this hour-long program. The show itself is 27 minutes, and there are two extra interviews. The first is with Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith on the development of the Templar order, who gives an excellent explanation of where the Templar wealth REALLY came from (as opposed to digging for treasure). The second is with Rev. Robin Griffiths-Jones, Master of the Temple Church in London (who I've had the pleasure of meeting).

For those of you who have been to the London Temple Church in the past, it appears from photos on the feature page that there has been an unfortunate addition brought on by the Da Vinci Code mania - new steel rails have been erected to keep idiots from kicking the effigies in the floor. *sigh*

The show contains a nice section with Helen Nicholson who cuts through much silliness in no time flat. And there's a bit with a member of the Grand Priory of Knights Templar in England and Wales, which is part of the non-Masonic Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (who apparently took a negative view of joining the Masonic Templars. God love the British. They just can't help taking swipes at Masons).

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Masonic Week 2008 Moves To Alexandria

After two years of conjecture, the official word has come. The Allied Masonic Degrees/Masonic Week held every February in Washington DC is at last leaving its long-standing home in the Hotel Washington. Here is the announcement by William Koon:

DC MASONIC WEEK ~ February 6-9, 2008
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel
It has 480 Rooms and has Shuttle Service to Reagan.
Parking is less than 1/3 what it was at the Hotel Washington.
The $135 rate for 2008 is the same as we paid this year.
Meals have been negotiated at the same level as we paid this year,
and will escalate only at the rate that food rises.
The Hotel is located on I-395 at Exit 4 and is about 3 miles
from the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
Free shuttle service to the Metro Station at the foot of Shooters' Hill
for those who want to take the Subway into the District.
Hotel Rates will be $135, and are available by calling 1-800-HILTONS,
identifying the Hotel as the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center
and the Group Name is "AMD".
Suites are available at a reduced price for Groups needing them.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Levant Preceptory In The news

Levant Preceptory appears in the September 2007 edition of the Knights Templar Magazine, thanks to an article by Grand Commander Andrew Jackson.

Indiana's first period recreation Knight Templar unit will present a special program for the 700th anniversary of the arrest of the Order in France. We will be at Baldwin Commandery No. 2 on Saturday, October 13th in Shelbyville, IN.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sayeth the Knight..

Here's a sentence you don't see every day.

My chainmaille hauberk arrived today. Forsooth.

A beautiful piece of work from Von Sussen Enterprises at a VERY reasonable price. And ample enough to fit over my pot roast.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Indianapolis INTAKE Article

The Indianapolis paper has its own weekly giveaway called Intake, covering local arts, music, theater, food and the offbeat. I guess I qualify somewhere in there.

I led reporter Jim Walker and his friend on a tour around Indiana Freemasons' Hall for three hours about a week ago, and here is the result.

Note to fellow Templars, he seemed most enthused about the items in the KT Asylum. A shame he decided to resort to characterizing it as "creepy" once it got into print. *sigh*

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rosslyn/Templar Chalice

I stumbled into a very nice chalice for Templars and Rosslyn admirers. Features a Templar cross and the Apprentice Pillar as the rather beefy and ornate stem. Sadly, the dollar to pound ratio these days, in a word, stinks. It is £40.84 ($82.60 at this very moment, but changing by the minute).

Available at the very eclectic Argoth website.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

York Rite Video for the Indiana Grand Commandery

Ah, the fun of YouTube.
This is a video I made in 2006 for the Indiana Grand Commandery.

The contemporary logo designs, by the way, are the work of Indiana Mason and artist Steven McKim.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy Friday the 13th - on 93.9 KSSZ-FM, Columbia, Missouri

I'll be speaking this afternoon with radio host Derek Gilbert on The Eagle 93.9 KSSZ-FM in Columbia/Jefferson City, Missouri about the Knights Templar and Freemasonry, and all that stuff about Friday the 13th.

I'll be on after 6PM EST, or 5PM CST (local) time.

Download the podcast HERE.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Saturday 7/7/07 on WMEL-AM 920 - SPACE COAST!

Florida friends on the Space Coast, I'll be on the Matthew Bronson Show on WMEL AM-920 in Melbourne, between 11:30AM and noon, talking about the new book.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Rosslyn Hoax

Robert L. D. Cooper's book The Rosslyn Hoax has just been made available in paperback, and is being sold directly through the George Washington Masonic National Memorial's gift shop. This is great news on a couple of fronts. It's so much cheaper than having the hardback version shipped from the UK. It has a spiffy color cover showing the chapel before it had its corrugated tin roof put up to dry the place out. Lewis Masonic spared no expense in stamping a raised pentagram on the cover, to excite the Wiccans and Anti-Masonic foes alike, along with Da Vinci Code enthusiasts. And, of course, buying it from the Memorial helps to support its ongoing operation.

One other benefit - Amazon is shipping in 4 to 6 weeks.

The Memorial will ship in 4 to 6 hours.

Seriously, I continue to tell everyone I can that Robert's book is perhaps the most important book yet published about Rosslyn Chapel. What makes it so important is that he actually has investigated the many claims made about the enigmatic little church over the centuries, especially the last few decades. I say it's an important book. I didn't say it will make everyone happy. And the reason why is because he slaughters an entire herd of sacred cattle with his investigations of the many claims of Templar involvement in Freemasonry's formation and the building of Rosslyn. Or to put it another way, if you believe Born In Blood, The Temple and the Lodge and Rosslyn: Guardians Of The Grail to be the truth, Robert Cooper is your blasphemer.

Cooper is the curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland's library and museum, which posses much original material that other authors have written about, but never actually gone to look at and study in person. Moreover, Cooper takes claims of Templar sites, burial markers and supposed influence and subjects them to the historical record or compares them to authentic Templar sites. Most important of all, he places the origins of the original claims made (often by 17th and 18th century Scottish Masons) into their proper historical and social context, exploring just why Scottish Freemasons might have desired an older, more glorious heritage for their fraternity than those uppity English Masons down in London who were claiming it as their own. Cooper makes an outstanding case for forgeries, Victorian alterations and a lot of wishful thinking.

Certainly there is a place for mythology in this world, and it would be a pretty barren life indeed if we didn't have our share of story tellers who, with a gleam in their eye and a wink to the knowing, began by speaking the words, "Once upon a time..." Freemasonry is no different. Just as long as we understand what is myth and what is history, and the difference between them.

As I said, if you believe the Knights Templars saved the day at Bannockburn, built Rosslyn Chapel, and then morphed into the Freemasons, you should undoubtedly already be collecting logs and kindling for Robert Cooper's hotfoot. But if you are a seeker of the truth behind this curious and beautiful place, start with The Rosslyn Hoax.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Hamas and the Temple Mount

In case you think history is just some moldy study of long-ago people and places, news reports out of Jerusalem today describe a foiled Hamas plot to take over the former site of the Templars' headquarters, the Temple Mount. Hamas recently paid to enlarge Muslim prayer halls and a library, all located within the so-called Solomon's Stables, that were used by the Templars during their control of the Mount. Renovations, especially in the Stables area, have long been criticized over the hamfisted way that excavations were made, in an attempt to destroy evidence of any pre-Muslim control of the 3,000 year old site.

The Jordanian Wakf that is in charge of the topside of the Mount has long been cuffed around by radical Islamic groups to see that it knuckles under to the "religiously correct" line of thinking, as opposed to preserving and protecting the ancient site. Its director two years ago actually stated that he did not believe the Temple of Solomon or Herod's second version ever stood on the Mount – a public viewpoint guaranteed to assure he kept his job and his head, but patently absurd for a supposed historian and archaeological "expert."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Stephen Dafoe, Nobly Born and Video

My friend and brother, Stephen Dafoe has recently discovered the fun of video, and he has been creating new pieces with greater frequency. His latest is a video review of several books, including Robert Cooper's The Rosslyn Hoax and Rosslyn Revealed by Alan Butler and John Ritchie. Other videos to be found at The include a tour of Washington DC's House of the Temple, an examination of anti-Masonic misquotes of Albert Pike, and a presentation of the artwork of Indiana Mason Stephen McKim.

Some of his earlier videos are also available on the site, including his piece, The Restaurant At The End Of The Masonic Universe, as well as a multi-part version of Laudable Pursuit, read by friend and brother, Jeff Naylor, founding Master of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, here in Indianapolis.

Stephen was kind enough to act as the Technical Editor for The Templar Code For Dummies, and I am indebted to him for much over the years. Unfortunately, Alice believes he is "a genius," and made the error of telling him so. I understand he regularly drags this remark out at home, to the extreme annoyance of his wife.

I am looking forward to his new book, a comprehensive telling of the templar story, Nobly Born, late this October.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Italian Clergy Claims "Da Vinci Code" Is Obscene

Apparently, Opie has made a dirty movie.

As if there's a shortage of things in Italy to investigate, comes now to the bench a group of clergy in the seaside village of Civitavecchia clogging up the court dockets with a new complaint against The Da Vinci Code.

This time it's the movie, and the priests involved claim that it violates Article 528 of Italy's penal code, because it is "obscene" from a religious standpoint. The complaint names 10 people, including Dan Brown and director Ron Howard.

Why the case is being filed now, more than a year after the film opened all over the world, the state prosecutor said he was not sure. "I don't know, maybe they have just seen the film."

Hopefully the Italian courts have at least as firm a grip on the handlebars of jurisprudence when it comes to the clash of art and lawyers as Justice Potter Stewart did. If not, looks like Dan and Ron could be fined about 163 smackers and spend three months in a Neapolitan pokey.

Now I have no idea what "clergy" these guys are from, but if you go poking around the port of Civitavecchia, you'll come across the La Chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Orazione, the Church of St. Mary of the Oration, and home to the "Confraternity of Death."

And you thought Freemasons had peculiar rites and getups.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Templar Code For Dummies Officially Released

I walked in the door Thursday night to discover the UPS man had a surprise for me. It seems that the Wiley folks got a jump on us and released The Templar Code For Dummies about two weeks early, and just in time for me to take to Lodge that night.

It's a huge thrill, even the third time around, to see the whole project put together at last. It takes just long enough from final review to publication that you go from panic and terror to almost forgetting the whole experience when, thump, there it is on the porch packed 20 to a case.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


“You can tell a lunatic by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.”
—Umberto Eco

Welcome, friends, to the blogsite for our new book, The Templar Code For Dummies. The kind folks at Wiley Publishing have stepped up the publication date of the book and, to our great surprise, a great hulking box of the books appeared on the doorstep yesterday.

In October 2006, the two of us received some happy news; after a long process of outlining, cutting, pasting, re-outling, meetings, major changes and more meetings, our editor called to say that victory was ours. This somewhat unusual project had made it into Wiley's book list for 2007. Any author will tell you that this is always a thrill. But the next piece of news was a little unnerving. The official launch date for the project had been set for the following Friday, which happened to be Friday, October 13th.

For one brief moment, a chill of premonition slithered down our backs, like ice cubes at a frathouse party. After a few seconds of silence, we did what many people do when they have an uncomfortable moment of premonition; we both burst out laughing. It did help the shiver.

The chill we felt wasn’t because we’re particularly superstitious, at least, no more so than anyone else. Knock on wood. It was something far more disconcerting than mere superstition. Because for anyone who knows the lore of the Knights Templar, Friday, October 13th, 1307, was the date that the Order was rounded up all across France in one single day, by order of the French king, Phillip IV, to be indicted on various charges of heresy. In fact, this is sort of superstition in reverse, because the reason that Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day, so the legend goes, is because of what happened to the Templars on that fateful date, seven centuries ago. Whistling in the cemetary, we decided it was the perfect launch date for the book.
That particular Friday was the 699th anniversary. By the time this book is on the shelves, it will be precisely 700 years since the Knights Templar were arrested, and seven centuries haven’t dimmed the fascination people have with this mysterious, courageous and singular brotherhood of knights.

What is known for certain about the Knights Templar is a story with a larger-than life aura of myth, that finished in an abrupt and almost unbelievable tragedy. Founded in A.D. 1119 by nine crusading French knights, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (known as the Knights Templar) shot across the political landscape like a meteor, vaulting from obscure guardians of pilgrims in Jerusalem to the most powerful and influential force of their age. They were fierce warriors, devout monks, and international bankers. Within half a century of their birth, they were men who walked with kings and advised popes, brokered treaties, and built castles and preceptories on a massive scale. Then, even more inexplicable than their rise came their fall, a harrowing plunge into arrest, trial, flight and execution that shocked the medieval world, both East and West. The charges against them of heresy and sodomy were equally shocking, and are still debated by historians today.

In fact, theories about the Templars are hotter today than ever before. Historians, researchers, wishful thinkers and dreamers have claimed that the Templars lived on after their destruction, placing them in Portugal, Scotland, Switzerland, Nova Scotia, and Massachusetts. They are alleged to have sailed pirate ships, founded banking dynasties, and given birth to the Freemasons. Their explorations in the Holy Land have led to speculation that they found the Ark of the Covenant, the True Cross of Christ’s crucifixion, the head of John the Baptist, the Spear of Destiny, and the Holy Grail. They have alternately been described as pious guardians of the most sacred secrets of Christianity, and as heretical practitioners of occult and satanic rites. And more than one suicidal doomsday cult has claimed to be descended from the Templars, living in wait for the Intergalactic Grand Master’s mother ship to enter low-earth orbit and beam them aboard.

In 2003, Dan Brown published a modest sequel to a moderately successful mystery entitled Angles & Demons. Little did he know that he was handling fissionable material. The Da Vinci Code has sold more than 60 million copies in 44 languages, and is the eighth most popular book ever published. In it, Brown told the tale of the “true” nature of the legend of the Holy Grail. If you’re one of the seven or eight people left on earth who haven’t read it yet, allow us to spoil the ending for you. According to Brown, the Grail was not some humble cup used by Christ at the Last Supper, or even a golden, jewel-encrusted chalice. It was the bloodline of Jesus, a child born to Mary Magdalene from a union with Christ. The book tells of a mysterious organization that was created to keep the secret, and to protect the offspring of Christ and Mary down through the centuries. And that group, through a succession of plot twists, was — you guessed it — the Knights Templar.

Dan Brown undoubtedly set out to tell a good story, but he couldn’t possibly have known that he was writing what would become a worldwide phenomenon. How could he have known that his book would cause millions of people to reexamine their own beliefs and those of their neighbors, inspiring thousands to make pilgrimages to the sites of his book in France and the United Kingdom, in search of a sign or symbol that would reveal some hidden truth to them? He might not have intended it, but, whether by chance or fate, that’s exactly what happened. And curiously, in spite of what many alarmed religious leaders feared, the result has been a greater interest in the origins of Christianity, and a whole world of readers whose faith seems to have been strengthened by what they’ve found.

Brown, like so many others, looked at the Knights Templar and was intrigued by what he saw. The unanswered mysteries and outlandish legends surrounding them didn’t just spring out of nowhere, or even out of Mr. Brown’s fertile imagination. The Templars have been a pillar of Western mythology for centuries, and there’s no end in sight for the world’s obsession with the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.

We wrote this book to assemble the vast, outlandish, popular and confusing lore of the Knights Templar into one convenient volume. The first four parts of the book strictly tell the Templar story; their rise, their fall, and the forces at work in the world that gave them birth. For all of you who first encountered this stuff in The Da Vinci Code, you can go straight to Part V. The entire section is devoted to the questions raised by the novel, including the bloodline of Christ, the “sacred feminine,” and the mysterious relationship between those concepts and the Templars. It’s a unique approach, but it should give you a great overview of the Templars and their world, as well as a definite leg up at the office holiday party when somebody wants to talk your arm off about the Black Madonna Cult or the Council of Nicaea.

We’re both writers, both history fanatics, and both obsessed with the Knights Templar. While other people may loll about, wasting their vacations broiling on the beaches of Cancun or falling down the ski slopes of Aspen, history cranks like us spend our free time taking off every year for the backcountry of France and Britain, Portugal and Turkey, up at dawn every day to strap on a backpack and go sweat our way up another ruin. We know how to have a good time. Who wants to spend a vacation lolling on the beach with an unbrella drink in his hand?

We’re hoping that in this book, all that sweat paid off. Together we’ve stood in the prison cell of Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, reading the messages scratched onto the walls by the imprisoned knights. And together we’ve stood on the Ile de la Cité in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, where he was burned at the stake for the amusement of the crowd that was, to the vindictive king’s disappointment, sullen rather than boisterous. Generally people in the 14th century enjoyed a good burning or hanging or quartering, but no one was indulging in any satisfaction on that tragic day. The Templars had been the most formidable knights of Europe, brave warriors as well as monks sworn to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. No one gave up more for the sake of his faith than a Knight Templar. Consequently, the Poor Knights, as they were sometimes called, had the respect of the entire Christian world, and even many in the enemy camp. When the brilliant soldier Saladin won back the Holy Land from the Crusaders, the prisoners he took who were to be beheaded at once, without question of ransom or the slave market, were the Templars. As far as Saladin was concerned, they were just too dangerous an enemy to be left alive. And never once did a Templar knight beg for his life. After the disastrous Battle of Hattin, they queued up in their hundreds to be slaughtered, each calmly waiting his turn.

Everyone knew the legends of their almost foolhardy courage, and everyone knew what the Templars had sacrificed in order to secure the Holy Land for the sake of Christian pilgrims, so that the souls of the men and women on this journey could be saved from Purgatory or damnation. In fact, one particular biblical quote from John 15:13 was something of an unofficial motto for the Templars; “Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The general consensus of the somber crowd on that bleak execution day in 1314 has been the general consensus of most people ever since, that the Templars were getting a very raw deal, whether they had fallen victim to some Eastern heresy or not.

For us, ever since that prophetic launch date of October the 13th, we’ve had the feeling that the martyred de Molay could be looking over our shoulders, which made for two very nervous writers. More than anything else, we wanted to get it right.

We hope that we have.

We feel the book is unique, because it combines several elements into one, compact, simple volume. The book centers around the history as well as the legends of the Knights Templar, and we delve into the details of what is known and what is alleged to be known about the Templars. But we also believe that you can't understand the reason for the formation of the Order without first understanding the Crusades and the political, religious and military situation that existed at the time of their formation.

The Templar Code For Dummies was written for a lot of different people. If you know nothing about the Templars, the whole story is here: the Crusades from which they emerged; the Christian society back home in Europe and the strange combination of religions and cultures they were surrounded by in the Holy Land; their skyrocketing fame among the movers and shakers in Rome and the capitals of the world; their lavish wealth and their creation of the banking business; their mysterious reputation as the “Grail knights”; and their abrupt fall and destruction.

If you’ve already studied some about the knights, this book will put it all in perspective for you. It covers the facts and the legends, from the plausible to the downright preposterous.

If you never heard about the Knights until you read The Da Vinci Code, this is the book you need to make sense of Dan Brown’s connections between the Templars, the Priory of Sion, Rosslyn Chapel, the Holy Grail, and the "feminine divine." As good as The Da Vinci Code is, what Brown wrote wasn’t a new theory — it’s been around for a while — and he left a lot out of the whole picture. In this book, we explore what the connections really are and where they might have come from.

If you're a Christian - especially a Catholic - or an interested bystander, we clue you in on the Church’s position on the Templars, Constantine, Opus Dei, celibacy, Mary Magdalene, Black Madonnas, and killer albinos.In fact, the last section of the book is dedicated specifically to some of the most controversial religious elements in The Da Vinci Code, where they came from, and if there's any merit to them.

Finally, if you are a Freemason, this book is an essential. The fraternity of Freemasons has a modern Order of Knights Templar, and though they don’t profess a direct descent from the original 12th-century knights, an awful lot of claims have been made over the years about the Templar origins of the Masons. There’s more to the Templars than what the Masonic version says, and in this book we clear up the confusion.