The Monks of War
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The Monks of War : The Military Religious Orders

By (author) Desmond Seward

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The Templars, the Hospitallers, the Tuetonic Knights and the Knights of the Spanish and Portuguese orders were 'noblemen vowed to poverty, chastity and obedience, living a monastic life in convents which were at the same time barracks, waging war on the enemies of the Cross'. These military religious orders emerged during the Crusades as Christendom's storm troopers in the savage conflict with Islam. Some of them still exist today, now devoted to charitable works. "The Monks of War" is the first general history of these orders to have appeared since the eighteenth century. Writing in "The Times Literary Supplement", Professor David Knowles described it as, 'Undeniably the work of someone who knows and accepts the standards of critical history, but ...who sees the past also as an epic or a colourful spectacle'.

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  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 20mm | 322.05g
  • 01 Mar 1996
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 16 illustrations, 6 maps, notes, glossary, bibliography, index
  • 0140195017
  • 9780140195019
  • 117,464

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Author Information

Desmond Seward was born in Paris and educated at Cambridge University. He is the author of Richard III: England's Black Legend, The Monks of War, and The War of the Roses.

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Review quote

"Undeniably the work of someone who knows and accepts the standards of critical history, but who sees the past also as an epic or a colourful spectacle" Professor David Knowles in The Times Literary Supplement"His scholarship is great, his theme both interesting and largely unexplored and his judgment sound" Economist"The book is excellent and firmly based on the primary sources of which Seward has a remarkable grasp." New Society"Compulsive reading, attractively written, and retaining one's fascinated interest throughout" Catholic Herald"

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Review text

Founded in the 12th century to fight for Christ against the forces of Islam, the military religious orders were 'the first properly disciplined Western troops since Roman times'. The Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic knights, together with the Knights of the Spanish and Portuguese orders, were noblemen who lived extraordinary lives, at once monastic and martial. From the time of the Crusades to that of Napoleon they stood as the champions of Christendom and self-appointed defenders of the faith. In this highly learned yet eminently readable account, Desmond Seward chronicles the chivalrous history of these knights, rendering in vivid detail episodes such as the great 'Baltic Crusades' of the later Middle Ages, the destruction of the Templars in the early 14th century and the heroic siege of Malta in 1565. The highly-acclaimed first edition of 1972 is here revised and updated to assimilate recent research and to trace the continued survival of some orders into the 1990s. (Kirkus UK)

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Back cover copy

The military religious orders emerged during the Crusades as Christendom's stormtroopers in the savage conflict with Islam. Some of them still exist today, devoted to charitable works. The Monks of War is the first general history of these orders to have appeared since the eighteenth century. The Templars, the Hospitallers (later Knights of Malta), the Teutonic Knights, and the Knights of the Spanish and Portuguese orders were 'noblemen vowed to poverty, chastity and obedience, living a monastic life in convents which were at the same time barracks, waging war on the enemies of the Cross'. The first properly disciplined Western troops since Roman times, they played a major role in defending the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, in the 'Baltic Crusades' which created Prussia, in the long reconquest of Spain from the Moors, and in fighting the 'Infidel' right up to Napoleonic times. This celebrated book tells the whole enthralling story, recreating such epics as the sieges of Rhodes and Malta and the destruction of the Templars by the Inquisition. Acclaimed on publication, it has now been revised and updated, with a concluding chapter to take events into the 1990s.

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