Templar Glossary

Here is a glossary of terms you might need to enjoy reading Quest for the True Cross which you can download from Amazon in paperback and is available in both hardback and paperback in Europe, published by Bertelsmann. Or you might just want to understand some terms that often apply to the Knights Templar.


What was outremer?  The book starts in Jerusalem and I write about a place called outremer. This was a term used in the crusader period to refer to the collection of Christian states carved out of Muslim territory in the First Crusade.  The oldest but hardest to defend was the sprawling County of Edessa. Then there was the Principality of Antioch, County of Tripoli and Kingdom of Jerusalem. This left the coastline of the Levant in crusader hands for about a century surrounded by the hostile Fatimid caliphate in Egypt and the Seljuk empire centred on Syria and Anatolia. To the north was the Byzantine empire ruled from Constantinople which was Christian but in schism from Rome and so not always a loyal and trustworthy friend to the crusaders.

Turcopoles – My main protagonist, William de Mandeville, is accompanied by his ‘turcopole’ Pathros. A turcopole was an auxiliary soldier in the military orders like the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller. Drawn from either Turkish or Syrian stock, they were ranked below the level of a western serjeant in the orders, something that must have caused an intelligent man like Pathros endless frustration.

Franks – In the first chapter of the book, we see a defeated crusader army returning to Jerusalem. I use the term Franks to describe these westerners and those who have come from Europe to live in the holy city. ‘Frank’ was a term used by the Saracens to refer to all Christian Europeans – or Firanji to be more precise. The original Franks were the barbarians who conquered north eastern Gaul from the Romans and forged medieval France. But to the Arab mind, it was a term that fitted English, Italians, Germans and any other infidel kingdom in the west.

Zengi – He was the Atabeg or ruler of Mosul and Aleppo and a fiersome Seljuk Turkish ruler who laid siege to the crusader city of Edessa and took it in 1144. The first part of the book references this siege and its calamitous result for the Templars.


William de Mandeville – why has his father been killed? – I’ve based William on a real character who was the third Earl of Essex. We start the second part of the book by discovering that his father – Geoffrey de Mandeville – has been slain in a rebellion against King Stephen. This actually happened.  Stephen had taken the throne of England after the death of Henry I claiming that the old monarch had willed it to him on his deathbed. However, Henry’s daughter Matilda disputed this and a civil war broke out in England. These were miserable times for ordinary English folk – a period sometimes referred to as The Anarchy. William’s father switched his loyalties from Stephen to Matilda ending up on the wrong side and the wrong time and being reduced to an outlaw. He is killed by Stephen’s men and when William returns from the Holy Land, it’s to find his father unburied in consecrated ground.

Temple Church in London – the Temple church you now see in London is the second church to be built by the Templars in the English capital. The original building was set back further away from the river Thames under what is now an office block called Southampton Buildings. This lost church is the one I refer to in the book when William de Mandeville meets the English master. The church you see now was built from the 1180s to be closer to the Thames and river Fleet tributary (which now runs through an underground sewer) where water mills could be operated.

Cressing Temple – William is forced to return to Cressing Temple in Essex in the early part of the book. This Templar preceptory existed and incredibly two very large barns have survived. One of the barns is the venue for a key scene in the book.


Al-Andalus – the area of the Iberian peninsula under Muslim control from 711CE. Nearly all of modern Spain and Portugal were part of the Islamic caliphate until Christian kingdoms began to emerge in the north starting with Asturias and later Leon, Castile, Aragon and Navarre. They would eventually overwhelm the Muslim domains to the south.

Al-Kaid – the military governor of a city in Al-Andalus. The term Alcaide continued to exist in Portuguese and Spanish after the Reconquest designating the governor of a fortress. A variation on the word is used to mean ‘mayor’ in Spain.

Dar al-Islam – those lands that have accepted the revealed truth of the Prophet and where Muslims live by their laws

Dar al-Kufr – those lands that have not accepted Islam. A Muslim would rejoice when a land has been converted from Dar al-Kufr to Dar al-Islam

Dhimmi – Jews and Christians, as people of the Abrahamic tradition that Muslims shared, were accorded some legal protection under this status. But it also meant they had to pay the special ‘jizya’ tax. Attitudes to the Dhimmi varied over the centuries according to political conditions.

Jizya – a special poll tax levied on non-Muslims who shared the Abrahamic tradition, namely Jews and Christians.  Conversion to Islam normally meant no longer having to pay this tax.

Medina – the main residential and commercial area of a Moorish city that includes the markets, mosques and streets

Moors – a term used by crusaders in Al-Andalus to refer to the Muslims

Mozarab – Christians living under Moorish rule who largely adopted their Arab customs without converting to Islam. The reverse process happened in Castile and Portugal where Moors living under Christian rule were termed ‘Mudejars’.

Parias – these were payments made by the Moorish rulers called Taifas to the Christian rulers of Aragon, Castile and Portugal to leave them in peace and not make war

Qadi – a Muslim judge; he led Friday prayers in the cities of Al-Andalus

Qasba – the citadel in which the Moorish nobility resided. Sometimes spelt Kasbah. The Portuguese spelling used today is Alcacova.

Qasr – This is the most fortified position within the Qasba in a Moorish city. The Spanish translation is Alcazar and in Portuguese, it is Alcacer.

Siqlabi – these were settlers in Al-Andalus often thought to have originated in Eastern Europe and of very lowly origin, possibly not even free men.

Souk – the Moorish market. This is sometimes spelt ‘suq’ but I have opted for the most familiar anglicising of that word.

Taifa – Al-Andalus was a united caliphate ruled from Cordoba for over three hundred years from 711CE but in the eleventh century split into rival Muslim kingdoms ruled by Taifas. Badajoz was one of these kingdoms. Others included Seville and Valencia.