Today marks the anniversary of the defeat of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword by Dovmont of Pskov in 1268 at the battle of Rakvere. Sounds like something from Game of Thrones, right? I’ve written it here before, but it’s worth writing again, truth often trumps fiction. Sometime after their defeat, the Livonians were absorbed into the Teutonic Knights, a much more well known military order that also fought for the church. We remember the Teutonic Knights for their successes in battle, but also because of what they built. This history serves as a reminder that at one time, the Roman Catholic Church existed as a political and military entity. Its leaders, the popes and bishops of the time, wielded temporal power every bit as potent as the spiritual authority they claim to this day.
So much amazing writing has been done on this topic that someone needs to point a few Hollywood producers in the direction of CLP’s back stacks! If you have time, and you can make a trip to Main library here in Oakland, do yourself a favor and request our copy of F. C. Woodhouse’s The Military Religious Orders Of The Middle Ages: The Hospitallers, The Templars, The Teutonic Knights, And Others. With An Appendix Of Other Orders Of Knighthood: Legendary, Honorary, And Modern. If you search the catalog under the Library of Congress subject heading “Military Religious Orders” you will hit the jackpot on this topic. To save the less industrious among you the trouble of a click, I’ll cherry-pick a few titles from that search and post them below!
Decoding The Past: The Templar Code. This History Channel DVD provides plenty of juicy details on perhaps the world’s most famous and conspiracy heavy holy military order, the Templars. While it does not pursue the Sasquatch linkage I might have wanted, it does provide some pretty good thrills thinly disguised as a history lesson.
Knights Templar Encyclopedia : The Essential Guide To The People, Places, Events, And Symbols Of The Order Of The Temple by Karen Ralls. This is the last book I will recommend on the Templars, I promise. They remain tough to avoid when discussing this topic. How can you not spill a ton of ink on a group of quasi-mystical medieval bankers burned at the stake in a vicious plot to seize their assets? This is why so many books were written about the 2008 stock market crash, right?
The Monks of War by Desmond Seward. This one provides an excellent entry into the whole business of Military Religious Orders. Yes, you know who are covered, but Seward also supplies plenty of info on the Hospitallers, the Spanish and Portuguese orders, and many others.
Warriors Of The Lord : The Military Orders Of Christendom by Michael J. Walsh. Much like Monks of War, Mr. Walsh offers excellent research and information on the littler known orders and the big names you might expect. Written in 2003, it benefits from the additional years of research into the topic done since Mr. Seward wrote his book.
Once you read a title or two from this list, you will wonder why Ridley Scott, the Weinstein Brothers, and others have not dipped into this fertile ground. I understand period pieces cost lots of money, but so do bad sci-fi productions.
Until such time as the Hollywood cognoscenti wake up to this fact, we’ve got the books, and there’s always the History Channel!