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Knights Templar
History of the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem: From 1118 to 2005

by Chev. Leo Thys, KCTJ


Foreword

By Rear Admiral [Ret.] James J. Carey, GCTJ, GMTJ
Grand Master of the Order

When Author Leo Thys first asked me to read the draft version of his upcoming Templar book, I agreed to do so during a particularly busy time in my life, so I printed it out and put the pages into a folder to read later in  the month at my office.  I must honestly say that my initial reaction was “another Knights Templar book---- what is there to say that hasn’t already been said in the 200+ books that have already been written on the Templar Order over the past 900 years?”.    I now admit this reaction could not have been more wrong.  I read what Leo sent me and have concluded that, whether the subject is ancient Templar history or recent Templar accomplishments, he has captured the ancient history portions, often confused and rambling by others, into concise, short summaries of the more important occurrences in the medieval history of the Order.  And equally if not more so for modern Templar history, he has captured important achievements and accomplishments that I have not seen in any of the other Templar books. 

But probably most important, he takes on the topic of The Knights Templar in our modern day while many of those that have been a part of that history are still alive and can provide that history in their own words from their own memories.  These are people that were actually present at the events as they transpired and as the Order progressed through the mid and late 20th Century and into the new Millennium.  He includes histories and events never before published and he provides documents and narratives never before shared or seen by anyone outside of the Order or, for that matter, by many within the Order.  He documents for all time and in the words and memories of the Templars that attended the events, the history and progress and growth and expansion of the Modern Templar Order, so that all who wish will know the factual accounts and the personal observations of these Templar Knights and Dames while they are still alive on this earth and while their memories have not yet been dimmed by the labors of life and the fading remembrances of age. 

I first met Leo Thys at several of the Knights Templar Order Grand Magistral Council meetings in Europe in the mid-to-late 1990’s.  I found him to be uniquely dedicated to the memory of the Templar Founders of the early 1100’s, and committed to researching and documenting and bringing clarity to the entire history of the Templars.  For many, this has been a history that had become muddied and confused over time through the hundreds of books that have been published, most of which present their author’s opinions and theories more so than actual history and facts.  Leo Thys’ book is different.  He documents the actual writings of the Founding Knights in the 1100’s, the words of the Knights that lead the Order throughout medieval times, the Knights that went through the persecution of Kings and nations-------  and he includes accounts covering the middle period from 1314 until Napoleon’s reconstitution of the Order in the early 1800’s, and on through to the present day and the Order as it presently exists and functions.  He provides a factual account of the 21st Century recognition of the Templar Order by the United Nations and the recent history of the Order’s growth and expansion around the world.   He includes the dramatic increases in interaction and recognition of the Order by all of the Major Christian Churches and their Senior Leadership, as well as the historic and substantive Templar outreach to the Jewish, Islamic, and other Non-Christian World Religions.

I feel that all who have an interest in the Knights Templar Order, be they present-day Knights and Dames of the Order, or religious leaders, or government officials, or academia, clergy, military, or the professions------ all will gain from the facts and the documents which Leo Thys brings to them for the first time through this book.  He brings to all a realization of the history of a knightly order formed almost 900 years ago to make the world a better place, that still today [I write this in the Spring of 2005] has that same focus, to bring aid to the less fortunate and to help the lame, needy, blind, and afflicted.  What he documents through history and memories and pictures helps bring to those who read his book a reminder that, whether it be in the 12th Century or the 21st Century, the absolute and unselfish good that mankind can exhibit if only given the tools of an honorable life and the desire to make ours a better world for everyone, still lives in our time as it did in medieval times.  If this book can show just one single human being what great good can be accomplished on our planet if good men and women will band together in commitment to do so, then Leo Thys’ efforts as an author will have truly been successful and can serve as a living example to others that all can serve mankind, each in his or her own way and each through their own efforts to care for or educate or aid and comfort others. 

I am honored to have been given the opportunity to read this wonderful compilation of the true history of the Templar Order in both ancient and modern times.  I am convinced that it will do much to clarify the goodness and honor of the Knights Templar and their commitment to all mankind of all religions and of all nations and of all languages.  Perhaps if the world can learn the truth about the Knights Templar through accurate history of their accomplishments and achievements of the past --------- and first-person recitations of this history-in-the-making of the present, then more and more will become interested in the true Templar movement and the Templar Order that is carrying on the Templar ideals from the past into the Templar care for others in our own day.  

The world owes Leo Thys a large debt of gratitude for his dedication in seeing through the huge effort of formulating and writing and publishing this book.  Let us hope all who read it will also choose to give back as much to humanity as Leo has now given to our own world and our own time of the 21st Century through this book.

May GOD Bless All Who Read These Words,

Rear Admiral [Ret.] James J. Carey, GCTJ, GMTJ
Grand Master
The Knights Templar
Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani


BOOK REVIEW
by
Chev. William Reed Colby-Newton, KCTJ

of

History of the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem: From 1118 to 2005
by Chev. Leo Thys, KCTJ

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of books published on the subject of the Knights Templar. Renewed interest in the subject may not have started, but was certainly spurred on, by the publication in the early 1980s of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The authors of that book – a team of writers and documentary filmmakers for the BBC -- have since turned the purported mystery of the obscure French village of Rennes-le-Chateau and its supposed connection to the Templars into something of a cottage industry; other authors have eagerly followed suit. Dan Brown, of Da Vinci Code fame, is the latest author to throw his hat in the ring; but he will doubtless not be the last.

As I am a Templar, I have dutifully taken it upon myself to buy copies of as many Templar, or Templar-related, books, as I can find. At the very least, I feel it important to find out what others are saying about us. Unfortunately, what they are saying generally obscures more than it enlightens; and some of the Templars described in these books bear little or no resemblance to the Templars, either of historical record or of the present day.

Chev. Leo Thys’ book is therefore a refreshing and notable exception. Chev. Thys is the OSMTH Grand Archivist, and is uniquely qualified to write about the entire history of the Order, not just from its beginnings but up to the present day.

Unlike most historical books, History of the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem: From 1118 to 2005 is broken down into succinct, numbered sections, each covering a specific topic. Some of these topics are not found in other books on Templar history. For example, the section of the book on Templar architecture includes a discussion of Templar houses and farmhouses in Western Europe, as well as the more expected treatments of Templar churches and fortresses in the Holy Land. The lands the Order owned in Western Europe, and the monetary income derived from them, not to mention the grain, equipment, and, above all, horses, in addition to other gifts and benefices granted to the Order, made the campaigns in Outremer possible. Chev. Thys’ descriptions of these important European holdings, both in text as well as in superb full-color photographs, make them immediately accessible to the reader.

A further service Chev. Thys provides the reader are the several chronologies of important dates in the history of the Order. These chronologies help to fix in the mind of the reader the relative positions in history of the events that shaped the Templars, and serves to put them into the broader historical context. At the very beginning of the book, we learn what the great events were that led to the first Crusade, and, ultimately, to the formation of the Order itself. The Order did not begin in a vacuum, but was an extraordinary response by people of its day to extraordinary circumstances. Chev. Thys’ chronologies help to provide us with a framework through which we can understand both the response and the circumstances that made that response necessary.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is that Chev Leo Thys has managed, in only 115 pages (format A4), to provide a complete and detailed historical account of the Order; and many of these pages are filled with stunning color photographs, maps, and reproductions of art works, which augment the text and grant the reader a sense of immediacy which text alone could not.

Among the many topics covered are the Templars’ role as bankers, a role at which they excelled and which formed the basis for modern banking, and which ultimately brought down upon them the greedy wrath of King Phillippe IV, of France. Chev. Thys’ gives a succinct summation of the possible reasons why the Order was suppressed, which is helpful for any person trying to understand that dark time in the Order’s history.

For the modern Templar, however, perhaps the greatest benefit to be gained from reading Chev. Thys’ book are the insights regarding what happened after the Suppression of the Order. Part Two of the book is aptly named “The Period of Silence.” This is the period from 1315 to 1803, about which relatively little has been written. Chev. Thys’ provides us with a survey of Orders, groups, and geographic locations which may have had a Templar connection. Templar survival has long been a matter of conjecture in Spain, Portugal, and Scotland; however, some places where the Templars possibly survived are a little surprising. Chev. Thys’ research, for example, has unearthed the possibility that the Templar fleet, after vanishing from La Rochelle, found its way to Mexico!

 Part III, “The Birth and Rise of the Modern Order during the last two Centuries: From 1804 to 2004”, fills in the gaps in our knowledge of the Order to the present day. Chev. Thys is aided in this section of the book by the Grand Historian Emeritus of the SMOTJ Grand Priory of the USA, Dr. Chev. Robert J. Kovarik, GCTJ.

The history of the Order during the 18th and 19th Centuries is far from clear. Many competing and often contradictory strands of tradition vie for our attention. Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Strict Observance Freemasonry, the Charter of Larmenius -- Dr. Kovarik does a masterful job in pulling it all together for the reader to form a coherent picture.

The culmination of the book is its discussions of the Order from 1995 to today. In this section of the book, the reader gains valuable insight into what exactly the issues were, and what exactly happened, in the crucial years of 1995 and 1996, when disputes arose between Don Fernando de Sousa Fontes, purported Grand Master of the Order, and the Grand Priors of 16 national Grand Priories. Rather than relying on hearsay, Chev. Thys has documented the proceedings of meetings and events from that time, with references and footnotes, to which the interested reader can refer his- or herself. Indeed, in the interests of fairness, Chev. Thys’ book includes a statement by one Robert Dale Fazzio, who is a supporter of Don Fernando de Sousa Fontes. A decade has passed since these disputes first erupted, and, hence, their relevance has perhaps diminished accordingly. However, in his book, Chev Thys has presented the issues and recorded them for future reference – precisely what a historian would be expected to do.

The book ends with a survey of the activities of the Order in approximately the last decade. The Concluding chapter was partly written by the current Grand Commander of the Order, Brigadier General Chev. Patrick E. Rea, GCTJ, GMTJ. General Chev. Rea states the mission of the modern Order – to “assist Christians at risk” – and shows in several telling examples the great work we as an Order have undertaken and will continue to undertake.

Several pages of pictures from recent events and pertinent appendices round out the work.

Having now read this book several times in its entirety, having found occasion many more times to refer to its pages, and having now purchased additional copies of it to give to potential members, I can say that I recommend this book wholeheartedly and with no reservations whatsoever to anyone who wishes to learn more about the medieval Order of the Temple in an accessible and highly readable way. Further, I say that this book must be on the bookshelf of every Templar, and no opportunity should be missed to make use of it as a tool for educating and instructing current and future Knights and Dames of the SMOTJ.

History of the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem: From 1118 to 2005, by Chev. Leo Thys, KCTJ, ISBN 9-0901-9317-0,  costs €30.60 (Europe) - US$42.70 (America) - 19.40 (U.K.) per copy, sending cost included.

Better rates if more copies are ordered.

For more information or to order copies, Chev. Leo Thys can be reached via email at: thys.leo@telenet.be

or by mail at his recent new address:

Chev. Leo Thys, KCTJ
Vlinderweg 19
B-2360 Oud-Turnhout
Belgium
Phone: +32.14.704.217

Respectfully submitted,

Chev. William Reed Colby-Newton, KCTJ
Priory The Holy Grail, USA


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