Knights of Jerusalem by David Nicolle

Knights of Jerusalem: The Crusading Order of Hospitallers 1100-1565 by David Nicolle is an excellent overview of this Order of knights. It is 201 pages, including three appendixes, with illustrations and photos interspersed throughout the text.

The book has a brief history of the Order detailing its roots, expansion, and changing mission. Additionally, Nicolle includes a wonderful timeline of the important events in the Order’s history. Following the history, the book is organized into basic topics about the Order – such as organization and command structure; recruitment, discipline, training, and daily life; and the Hospitallers at war.

The chapters organized by topic are the strongest part of the book. Nicolle brings together a wonderful array of knowledge in discussing these topics. For example, he discusses how the recruitment of brethren knights became more selective as time passed to the point where only men of noble birth could become brethren knights.

The illustrations and photographs in the book bring the text to life for the reader. The color photographs of the various Hospitaller castles allows the reader a better understanding of how formidable these castles were in the Holy Land – especially the castles of Margat and Crac de Chevaliers- and of how the Hospitallers were able to defend them against the Muslims for so long. In addition, the various paintings portray the daily life of a Hospitaller knight – both as a fighter and prayer warrior.

I have only one item of contention with the book (and it is a minor one). The history of the Order is a good overview, but I was expecting a little bit more history. I think it would have been stronger if Nicolle had included more on the fighting between the Order and the Muslims in the Holy Land.

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the lives and organization of one of the most famous military orders in history.

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