"In this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith provides an approachable and expert introduction to the two most famous and most active military orders, the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, and their activities in the Levant. It is a first-rate study, energetically and engagingly written by the world's most accomplished historian of the crusades." --Thomas Madden, St. Louis University
"The image of the military orders is mostly dominated by their military, political, or economic role while their spirituality and their religious character are often neglected. This book, from a great authority on crusading and military orders, offers an inspiring new perspective. Its chapters, concise and well-founded studies concentrating on the inner life of Templars and Hospitallers in the Holy Land, will thus contribute to a considerably better understanding of their history." --Juergen Sarnowsky, Universitaet Hamburg
"Jonathan Riley-Smith, Grand Master of Hospitaller studies since the 1960s, offers the first systematic comparison of the two earliest, most famous, and most researched Military Orders--the Temple and the Hospital. Contrasting the Templars' exclusive commitment to warfare with the Hospitaller dedication to the care of the sick and poor as well as to warfare, Riley-Smith persuasively argues that this disparity influenced decisively not only the internal stratification and the governance of the two Orders, but also their chances of survival. The book, which will have a major impact on future studies, amounts also to an act of love for the Hospital." --Benjamin Z. Kedar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
"There is no historian better equipped to define the nature of the two great orders of the Hospital and the Temple than Jonathan Riley-Smith. In this concise analysis he brings to bear his great depth of experience not only to show the similarities and differences between the two orders, but also to place them firmly in their contemporary context." --Malcolm Barber, University of Reading, UK
The Templars and the Hospitallers were the two earliest and most famous of the major Military Orders of the Roman Catholic Church from the early twelfth to the middle of the thirteenth century. In this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith attends to the Templars' and Hospitallers' primary role as religious orders, not as military phenomena or economic powerhouses. In a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue, Riley-Smith discusses the origins of the orders in dedication to the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land (Templars) and to the care of the poor and the sick among them (Hospitallers). He examines their traditions and early history, the organization of their communities, modes of governance, and, in the fourth chapter, important differences between the orders and a brief account of their respective fates in the wake of the Crusades. The Templars were eventually persecuted by the Church and the order suppressed. Riley-Smith speculates that the violent end of the order was caused both by jealousy of its wealth and by internal problems of governance that left it vulnerable to accusations of conducting blasphemous rites. The Hospitallers survived in one form or another to the present day; vestiges of the original order inform the contemporary Knights of Malta.