If you have never seen The Seventh Seal – then watch it. A tortured medieval knight is played by a very young Max von Sydow, who you may have seen in The Minority Report and other movies. In this scene, he plays a game of chess with Death in order to remain alive. It’s a Swedish movie with subtitles but don’t let that put you off.
I will be appearing as a guest several times in a special edition of Forbidden History devoted to exposing the secrets of the Knights Templar. Presented by Jamie Theakston and broadcast on UKTV/Yesterday TV, Forbidden History asks the questions you have all been dying to know the answers to.
I will be discussing:
- The trial of the Knights Templar in 1307
- Pagan rituals that may have become part of the Templar rites
- How did the Templars become so rich, so quickly?
- Were the Templars influenced by eastern ideas?
- Did they reject church authority?
- Why was such violence used to put down the Templars?
- The way in which the order was wiped out
Here are ten movies with great medieval battles!
The first is the Battle of Montgisard in 1177 where the leper king of Jerusalem Baldwin IV managed to defeat a numerically superior Saracen force. Here’s how the movie Arn portrayed it. An incredible crusader victory!
Ten years later and Saladin turned the tables on the crusaders defeating them at the Horns of Hattin – depicted in the movie Kingdom of Heaven. A miserable crusader defeat!
This is a mythical medieval battle from Game of Thrones but really brings the sights and smells plus unmitigated horror of conflict to your screen. The Battle of the Bastards!
Scotland and England were forever at war with each other in the Middle Ages and some believe the Knights Templar helped the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn. Here’s Mel Gibson and a lot of men in kilts killing the English.
The 13th Warrior is about a Muslim young man forced to live among the Vikings in the Dark Ages. This movie has its fans and detractors in equal measure. I loved it. It’s trashy and confused but I come back to it again and again.
More Vikings – why not? This time from the History Channel.
This takes us 100 years after the Templars were suppressed to the life of Joan of Arc leading her French army to defeat at the hands of the English. She would later be burnt at the stake.
Before Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings was giving us a mythical take on the Middle Ages.
Maleficent – another fantasy set in an imaginary medieval kind of landscape. Didn’t happen of course but the battle scene is interesting nevertheless.
And finally – a battle that really happened between the Russians and the Teutonic Knights – on ice! This is an old black and white movie but a fantastic music score, amazing atmosphere and released shortly before the Russians went to war for real with Nazi Germany. So just imagine how terrified audiences in Moscow felt.
A detective thriller set in a medieval monastery. This genre bending story from the pen of Italian author Umberto Eco had “make me into a movie” written all over it.
And so it came to pass that Sean Connery (the first James Bond) and a very young Christian Slater played the roles of priest and young assistant investigating some murderous goings on among Italian monks. The movie of the book was a runaway success and if you have never seen it, please download it as a top priority.
Umberto Eco was something of a post-modernist, which is not necessarily a good thing in my world view. But he redeemed himself with some gripping tomes. Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum are the most memorable. In the former book, Brother William of Baskerville and his assistant Adso must find out why monks are being bumped off.
But this being Umberto Eco, William is also the embodiment of a new type of thinking that was emerging in the Templar period. He is clearly influenced by Thomas of Aquinas who was, to put it crudely, fusing Christianity with the philosophy of Aristotle. He is a friend of Occam and follower of Bacon, thinkers at this time who took an almost scientific interest in getting to the truth.
The medieval world that Eco reveals is bursting with new thoughts but it’s also corrupt, violent and frankly very sinister. This leads us to William’s antagonist, a Dominican friar and Inquisitor called Bernard Gui – who really existed. He is the face of the official church – intolerant and prepared to resort to any measures to protect its wealth and privilege.
It’s men like Bernard Gui who will destroy the Knights Templar, prepared to torture and burn in the name of the faith. Their only raison d’etre was to defend ecclesiastical power. And they understood the deadly power of ideas that could undermine the church. In real life, Gui had taken on the Cathar heresy in France that had threatened to overthrow papal authority in that kingdom.
I won’t plant any spoilers in this blog post – watch and find out what happens!