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First Knights Templar Discovered

Posted April 12, 2006

The first bodies of the Knights Templar, the mysterious religious order at the heart of The Da Vinci Code, have been found by archaeologists near the River Jordan in northern Israel.

Historian Tom Asbridge has discovered the bodies of the first Knights Templar.

LONDON: The first bodies of the Knights Templar, the mysterious religious order at the heart of The Da Vinci Code, have been found by archaeologists near the River Jordan in northern Israel.

British historian Tom Asbridge yesterday hailed the find as the first provable example of actual Knights Templar.

The remains were found beneath the ruined walls of Jacob's Ford, an overthrown castle dating back to the Crusades, which had been lost for centuries.

They can be dated to the exact day -- August 29, 1179 -- that they were killed by Saladin, the feared Muslim leader who captured the fortress.

"Never before has it been possible to trace their remains to such an exact time in history,' Mr Asbridge said. "This discovery is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to archaeologists and historians. It is unparalleled."

Tom Asbridge is also the author of The First Crusade.

The following is an excerpt from his book:

The First CrusadeIn 1095, Pope Urban II called for Western European Christians to wage a holy war to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims. Those who served as "soldiers of Christ," the pope said, would be cleansed of sin. Within several months, 100,000 men and women, from virtually all stations of life (no kings volunteered), answered the call. Their religiously motivated and violent actions set in motion events that radically transformed the relationship between Christians and Muslims; the reverberations are still with us. Thomas Asbridge, a British scholar and Crusade historian, tells the story of the three-year, 3,000-mile journey in his magnificent The First Crusade: A New History.

Working from firsthand accounts and the latest Crusade scholarship, Asbridge skillfully combines religious and military history, challenging long-held views in the process. "The crusade was designed, first and foremost, to meet the needs of the papacy," he writes, "the campaign must be seen as an attempt to consolidate papal empowerment and expand Rome's sphere of influence." The crusaders themselves had many motives for undertaking the journey; Asbridge is convinced that greed was not a primary one. Recent research shows how incredibly expensive—and extremely frightening—the journey was. He does note, however, that "perhaps the most significant insight into the medieval mentality offered by the First Crusade is the unequivocal demonstration that authentic Christian devotion and a heartfelt desire for material wealth were not mutually exclusive impulses in the eleventh century."

The First Crusade reached its nadir in June 1098 at the Great Battle of Antioch. Death, hunger, threat of a Muslim attack and a morale crisis appeared to signal defeat. It was only the discovery of a small shard of metal thought to be part of a Holy Lance—an event interpreted as a "miracle"—that, along with gifted leadership and a lot of luck, inspired the crusaders to achieve a stunning victory against all odds. Asbridge's excellent account of the first Crusade is consistently enlightening.

For more information or to purchase The First Crusade visit amazon.com.




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