The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders

ISBN: 0140195017
ISBN 13: 9780140195019
By: Desmond Seward

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Reader's Thoughts

Frostik Dar

fell heir to a glorious edition of Seward's "Monks" -- another great classic of the roles of the military religious during the crusades.


Zipped through it.


THE MONKS OF WAR: The Military Orders. (1972). Desmond Seward. ***.This is a history of the organizations of monks established as the military arms of the Catholic Church back starting in the 11th century. Although written for the general reader, it would help to have some knowledge of the period. It was interesting to see the dichotomy of the groups. They were both religious groups and military groups. As orders of the Church, they behaved like your run of the mill monasteries. As military organizations, they resembled modern day armies. Many of the groups are familiar today: the Templars and the Hospitaliers primarily. Others, though less famous, played important roles in maintaining the Church Militant. The period was the acme of conflict between Muslims and Christians. This edition was a new one put out by the Folio Society in 2000.


This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in any of the military religious orders.


A cautionary tale about the fundamental challenge to any religious order, from the Buddhist sangha to the heights of Mount Athos: religious vocation, en masse, requires financial support. Thus, the Templars and Hospitallers, formed during the Crusades, and Teutonic Knights, organized to christianize Latvia, and the various orders of Spain and Portugal that defeated the Moorish kingdoms of Spain and occasionally ventured into North Africa. Unlike most religious orders, the mission of these groups was explicitly to either defend of conquer. To support those holy wars, they needed a huge treasury, a hierarchical organization, and productive land spread from Jerusalem to England for profits and recruiting. Probably, the money, land and power of the Templars brought them to the attention of Philip IV and led to their ruin. The Teutonic Knights survived to the writing of this book, no longer warriors, after creating Prussia and becoming the villains of Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky. The book is easy enough to read, although the reader is lost among the various meisters of an order. It is instructive, though, that the Templars began as the Poor Knights.

Glenn Street

The Monks of War: The Military Orders by Desmond Seward (2001)


Beautifull written, thoroughgoing discussion of the early religious martial orders - the Knights Templar, Hospitallers, and the like. I found it an irresistible tale of some serious, murderous ideologues - when they ran out of shot to rain down on a besieged city, they used the heads of their enemies. The MoW also illustrated how these martial orders needed standard mundane world trappings - structured hierarchies, a source of funding, and land - to maintain their organizations. The maps and illos were helpful in visualizing the time - and the organizations themselves!I love works that illuminate parts of history that I am not familiar with, and that aren't tedious, impossibly dense or otherwise unreadable by anybody who's not already a specialist in those areas. The Monks of War is one of the good ones - scholarly, thorough, but not impossible.

Tim Weakley

A very good historical survey of all of the crusading religious orders, taking them up to fairly modern times. As someone who enjoys reading about the crusades, this book was a very good background piece.

Jouni Virtaharju

A thorough scholarly introduction to the topic.

Tom Underdown

A fascinating insight into the crusader knightly orders, with a wonderful balance between the different areas in which the Orders were active.

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